Children under 18 are not eligible for benefits through the normal Social Security disability (SSD) program, but they may be eligible for payments through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
If your child meets Social Security’s definition of disability for children and if his or her income and resources are under a certain limit, he or she may qualify for Supplemental Security Income. In 2011, this earning limit is $1,000 per month. If your child is working and earning this much, the Social Security Administration will find that he or she is not disabled.
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Your child must have a physical or mental disability that results in “marked and severe functional limitations.” His or her condition must also last (or be expected to last) for 12 months or be expected to result in death.
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What the Social Security Administration Needs
When applying for Supplemental Security Income benefits for your child, you will be asked for detailed information about how your child’s medical condition affects his or her daily activities. Bring any relevant medical or school records that demonstrate your child’s medical condition or the impact it has on his or her school performance.
The Social Security Administration will want to get in contact with doctors, teachers, and therapists who can talk about your child’s limitations and his or her medical diagnosis. You will need to provide permission for them to speak to the SSA.
If the Social Security Administration can’t tell whether your child is disabled on the basis of medical and school records, he or she may be asked to attend a medical examination, which will be paid for by the Social Security Administration.
The whole process takes between three and five months, but if your child has certain conditions such as HIV, total blindness or deafness, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, or severe mental retardation, he or she may start receiving payments right away while the claim is being considered.
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Will Payments Stop When My Child Turns 18?
When your child turns 18, the Social Security Administration will decide whether he or she is eligible to continue receiving payments under the SSI program as an adult. Because the disability rules for adults are different than those for children, this may result in your child no longer receiving payments. On the other hand, a child who was not previously eligible for the Supplemental Security Income program may become eligible as an adult. (This sometimes happens if you and your spouse earned too much or had too many resources for your child to qualify.)