Social Security. Most Americans associate those two words with the elderly or with disabled adults. What few think of are children. Yet, the unfortunate reality is that millions of children have disabilities and millions more have parents with life altering disabilities. The good news is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has programs that help provide support for these children. The program and eligibility requirements depend on whether the parent is disabled or whether the child him or herself is disabled. We'll discuss both options.
Children whose parents have compensable disabilities may be eligible to receive financial benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. For purposes of SSDI benefits for children, it does not matter whether the child himself or herself is disabled. To qualify, the child must have at least one parent who is eligible for Social Security disability or retirement benefits or have a parent who died after working enough qualifying hours. Additionally, the child must typically be unmarried and under 18. Under some circumstances, like where the child remains in high school or is disabled, the age requirement is extended.
There are caps on the amount of benefits that can be received which, like seemingly everything at the Social Security Administration, are calculated using a formula. However, in general the child's benefits will be a percentage of the benefits that the child's parent is or was eligible to receive.
Children with disabilities are not generally eligible to receive benefits for their own disability through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program discussed above. As noted in earlier blog posts, SSDI is an insurance program which workers pay into during their working years, which provides a benefit if they become disabled and unable to work. Children generally have not had enough work history to qualify for SSDI benefits. The alternative is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for children.
SSI provides benefits for low-income children with disabilities. Similar to an adult, to qualify, the child must show that they are both disabled and low income. For SSI purposes, a disabled child is one who has a mental or physical disability, which is expected to last at least a year or result in death, and which severely limits his or her activities. This definition is applied strictly and it is important to have ample evidence of both the disability and its expected duration.
The income requirement takes into account a child's income and resources as well as those of the household in which the child is living. In practical terms, the child must have very little money or property. However, there are rules and programs that allow children receiving SSI, especially those in school, to work without the income counting against them for SSI eligibility purposes.
Whether you are a disabled parent, a parent with a disabled child, or both, the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group can help you uncover and pursue your options. We look forward to hearing from you.