Minors and Social Security Disability

Mental and physical disabilities in children present unique challenges to both the child and their family. Every member of the family is often heavily emotionally and financially invested in raising and caring for the disabled child.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to ease the financial strain that families often experience when raising and caring for a child with disabilities.

The SSA not only evaluates a child’s medical condition, but also the assets and resources of the household.  A family’s income may be sufficient to provide for the child without the assistance of SSI benefits. This means that if a child is determined to have a qualifying disability, but the family income is over the limit allowed, they may be denied benefits.

For married couples, or combined incomes, this should not be a discouraging factor.  The SSA only counts half of the family’s income when determining a single child’s eligibility. This takes into account that the parent/s may also be supporting other family members other than the disabled child.   For instance, if a parent or guardian has to increase their work, the subsequent increase in income should have a smaller effect on the SSI benefits of the child.

Once a child turns 18, they may qualify for adult SSI benefits regardless of their family’s resources or income.

The SSA also evaluates the effect of a disability on a child’s earning potential.  According to the 2013 income limits, the SSA assumes that if a child can earn more than $1,040.00 a month then their disability is not severely limiting.  If the SSA finds that a child is working and earning more than that amount they will deny a disability claim.

For the medical portion of the claim, Supplemental Security Income is available to minors who have marked or severe limitations in their ability to function.  The SSA measures the child’s mental and physical condition against the functional equivalence criteria for that particular disability to determine if the child qualifies for benefits.  The medical condition must be marked or severe for at least 12 months or expected to result in death.

For certain conditions, the SSA will start making immediate benefit payments before the claim is validated and approved by the Disability Determination Service (DDS).

  • HIV infection
  • Total Blindness
  • Total Deafness
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down Syndrome
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Severe Intellectual Disorder (children 7 or older)
  • Birth weight below 2 pounds, 10 ounces

If the DDS later determines the child’s impairments are not severe enough for SSI, families do not have to pay back the disbursed payments.

The SSA looks at the child’s ability to attend to and complete tasks, acquire and use information, interact with others, manipulate objects, and care for themselves.  The SSA also evaluates the child’s overall health and well being.  Each of these six functional factors is measured against children of the same age who do not have a physical or mental impairment.

An increasing concern among parents is their child’s ability to be mentally present and attend to tasks without the condition impairing their focus on school work.  Mental conditions, such as ADHD make it very difficult for children to not only learn, but to engage in a task to completion.  The pain brought on by physical disabilities such as musculoskeletal or orthopedic conditions can also interfere with a child’s focus.

Applying for Social Security disability benefits can feel like navigating through a maze.  The Law Office of Jeffrey R. Scholnick has been handling Social Security disability claims for almost 30 years.   If you believe that your child may qualify for social security disability benefits please consider the advocacy of an experienced social security attorney to help track your claim through the Social Security Administration.