What is the definition of disability used by Social Security for children?

The social security administration uses a specific definition of disability for adults and the definition hinges on A. duration (a disabling condition must exist for 12 months or be projected to last that long) and B. the inability of an applicant for Social Security Disability benefits to engage in work activity that provides earnings that are at least equal to the SGA, or substantial gainful activity, amount.

The definition of disability used by the social security administration for children's cases is different. The durational requirement is the same. To be found disabled, a child must have a disabling condition (a severe impairment, physical or mental in nature, or several impairments, physical or mental in nature) that has lasted for a year or longer or can be expected to last that long.

However, whether or not a child claimant's condition is disabling is determined by the existence of marked and severe functional limitations.

How are the functional limitations for a child disability case determined (child cases, it should be mentioned are not Social Security Disability cases, but, rather, SSI disability cases)?

They are determined in the same manner as the limitations for an adult. That is, the claimant's records are gathered, read, and evaluated. In the case of a child, however, the records that are gathered are not limited to medical records, but often include (particularly if the alleged impairment is of a mental nature) school grade reports, IQ and achievement testing reports, IEPs, and questionaires that have been completed by a child's teachers.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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