How are children eligible to receive disability benefits?
The title II Social Security Disability program does not offer disability benefits for children per se. The reason for this is that Social Security Disability is an adult disability program based upon an insured status that is earned through work activity.
However, While the title II Social Security program does not offer disability benefits for children, children may be able to receive disability benefits through the second disability program that is administered by the Social Security Administration.
Supplemental Security Income, or SSI disability, offers disability benefits to children. SSI is a needs based disability program meant to assist those who have not worked, such as children, and workers who have worked in the past but not recently.
Non Medical Criteria for SSI
The SSI disability program has income and resource limits that must be met in order for a child or adult to receive disability benefits through the program.
In the case of children, their parents income and resources will be counted against those limits until they are age eighteen. Children are eligible to receive SSI disability benefits if they are found medically disabled and their parents' income and resources meet the SSI limits.
What is the disability process for SSI children's disability benefits?
Children who apply for disability through the SSI program go through a disability process similar to an adult. They (their parent or guardian) must file an application for disability on the basis of a severe medically verifiable mental or physical condition.
Applications are sent to a state disability agency (DDS) where a disability examiner gathers the claimant's records from the medical and educational sources provided during their disability interview.
Since children have not worked, disability examiners review school records along with parental and third party functional questionnaires to determine how well a child is functioning and the severity of their limitations.
Of course, all functional limitations must be supported by objective medical information gathered from treating physicians, hospitals, school counselors, mental health professionals, speech pathologists, etc. If a child's disabling condition or conditions cause significant restrictions to their functional capacity they may be eligible for disability benefits.
When a disability application for a child is denied
If a child's SSI disability claim is denied, they have the same disability appeal process that adult disability cases have. They can file a reconsideration appeal if their initial disability claim is denied, and a disability hearing request if their reconsideration appeal is denied.
If a child is denied at the disability hearing their claim can be sent to the Appeals Council for a review of the administrative law judge disability decision. After the Appeals Council review, there is only federal district court.
Very few cases go to federal court because it is so expensive and the time it takes for a decision. It is simpler to once again file an SSI disability claim if the administrative law judge hearing is denied.
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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