One of the hardest things a parent may ever deal with is the disability or severe illness of their child. It can be a heavyweight on your emotions when your child is hurting and you can’t take it away. Unfortunately, many disabilities or illnesses affecting children can also cause great financial strain on the family.

If your child has a disability or severe illness, he or she could qualify for disability benefits that could help ease the financial burden. To receive benefits, your child must meet Social Security Administration’s (SSA) medical requirements for children with disabilities.

Disabled Child Medical Requirements

Before the SSA determines if your child’s conditions meet their requirements, you must medically show that your child’s condition has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months or expected to lead to death. Some exceptions apply to this rule, such as children born with low birth weights could qualify before they reached the age of 6 months. Once the SSA determines your child meets the length requirement, they have two ways in which they determine if your child’s condition meets their disability requirements.

First, they compare your child’s condition to their Listing of Impairments (Blue Book) to see if your child’s condition meets the requirements of the listed conditions. You will need to provide medical evidence showing how your child meets every element of the listing. The listings are systems within the body in which different impairments can occur. Below are the listings.

  1. Growth Impairment
  2. Musculoskeletal System
  3. Special Senses and Speech
  4. Respiratory System
  5. Cardiovascular System
  6. Digestive System
  7. Genitourinary
  8. Hematological Disorders
  9. Skin Disorders
  10. Endocrine Disorders
  11. Impairments that Affect Multiple Body Systems
  12. Neurological
  13. Mental Disorders
  14. Malignant Neoplastic Diseases
  15. Immune System

If your child’s condition does not exactly meet the requirements of a listing, their condition may also qualify if medically proven to “equal” a listing.

If your child’s condition does not meet or equal the requirements of a disability listing, they could still be considered disabled. They could receive benefits if medical records and assessments show that their functional limitations are considered “marked and severe” by the SSA. “Marked and severe” limitations seriously interfere with your child’s ability to function in 2 of 6 functional categories described by the SSA. Below are the 6 functional categories the SSA uses.

  • How your child acquires and uses information.
  • How your child attends to and completes tasks
  • How your child interacts with and relates to others
  • How your child moves and manipulates objects
  • How your child manages self-care
  • How is your child’s overall health and physical well-being

There are 3 ways in which your child could receive disability benefits if their condition meets the SSA requirements.

SSI for Children with Disabilities

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) offers financial assistance to children (and adults) who meet the SSA disability requirements but also have limited income and resources. The SSA will evaluate the income and resources of the parent(s) the child lives with (including a stepparent) or the parent legally in charge of a child who does not live at home. For your child to qualify for benefits, your income must fall below a certain level. Look here for a general guideline of income levels.

The SSA will make the following deductions from your income to determine your adjusted monthly income level.

  • first $20 of most income received in a month;
  • first $65 of earnings and one–half of earnings over $65 received in a month
  • nondisabled children’s allocations ($397 in 2021)
  • parents’ living allowance ($794 for a single parent; $1191 for two parents)

If your child qualifies for SSI benefits, they should also begin receiving health insurance coverage through Medicaid.

After your child turns 18, they will need to qualify for SSI as an adult. This means they will have to meet the SSA’s adult definition of disability but the income level will be based on any of their earnings, not parental earnings. However, if they still receive assistance from you for food and shelter, it could lower their SSI benefits.

Dependent Benefits

A child (under 18), disabled or not, could receive Social Security Dependents Benefits if their parent, stepparent, adoptive parent, or legal guardian is currently receiving Social Security retirement or Social Security disability (SSDI) or would have received these benefits if they are deceased. Disabled children receiving these benefits may also receive healthcare coverage through Medicare and/or Medicaid.

Disabled Adult Child Benefits

Adult Child Benefits are basically the same as the dependent’s benefits discussed above except the benefits only continue for the beneficiary who is disabled when they turned 18 or who becomes disabled before turning 22. The beneficiary receiving these benefits must meet the SSA’s adult definition of disability. In some cases, the beneficiary may start receiving the benefits when they are older than 18 or 22. This can happen when the disabled adult child’s parent doesn’t start collecting Social Security benefits themselves until a disability or retirement occurs or when they become deceased. Those receiving these benefits may also receive healthcare coverage through Medicare and/or Medicaid.

Get Help Filing Child Disability Benefits

Filing for disability benefits for your child is an important thing to do not only to benefit your child but your family. But, it can be a complex process. You would need to make sure you had the proper medical records and assessments and financial documents. You would also need to understand which type of benefits you should apply for. Don’t worry though. An experienced disability attorney can help take some of the stress off of you and guide you through the process.

Brock & Stout’s disability attorneys have over 25 years of experience helping families get the benefits they need. Contact us for a free evaluation to see if we can help you and your family