disabled child with family

When Are Children Eligible for SSD Benefits?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

Having a child with disabilities can cause a family to confront many different challenges and this may be even more true for those families with lower incomes. In such situations, these families are likely curious as to their options for receiving government support, such as Social Security disability benefits. When, however, are children eligible these benefits?

When Are Children Eligible for SSD Benefits?

To start, an important distinction must be made. There are different types of Social Security disability benefits, after all. Children are not eligible, for instance, for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The SSDI benefits program supports only those disabled individuals with a qualifying work history. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, however, does allow children to qualify.

A child, as defined by the SSA, is someone under the age of 18 that is unmarried. Furthermore, the child either lives at home or lives away from home but is still under parental control. The exception to all of this is if a child is over 18 and is still enrolled in high school full-time. In such cases, the child remains eligible for SSI benefits until they graduate school, leave school, or until they turn 22, whichever event happens first.

While the SSI program does permit benefits granted to children, it must be noted that only a relatively small percentage of children actually end up qualifying for SSI benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate two central factors in determining a child’s eligibility to receive SSI benefits. These two factors are financial needs and medical needs.

In order to qualify for SSI, the income and assets of the parent must not exceed the federally prescribed limit. It is more common than not for a child receiving SSI benefits is from a family below or near the federal poverty line. If the child resides with a parent as well as a step-parent, the step-parent’s income is also considered in the benefits qualification equation.

The medical needs of the child are also considered in evaluating eligibility for SSI benefits. The SSA provides that a child may be eligible for benefits if they have “marked and severe functional limitations that have lasted or are expected to last for 12 months or result in death.” Such medical needs must be supported by sound evidence including medical records and school notes, among other things.

While adults are primarily evaluated for disability benefits on whether or not their condition prevents them from engaging in substantially gainful activity, or work, the SSA evaluates children’s eligibility for benefits based on their functionality levels as compared to same-age children. The SSA uses what they refer to as the “six domains of functioning” in order to make such an evaluation. The six domains include the child’s functionality in their ability:

  • Caring for themselves
  • Acquiring and using information
  • Attending to and completing tasks
  • Interacting and relating to others
  • Moving around and manipulating objects
  • Maintaining health and physical well-being

Los Angeles Social Security Disability Attorney

Do you have a child with a disability and a need for financial assistance? Talk to the team at the Disability Advocates about your options to receive Social Security disability benefits. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.