Securing SSI: Disability Benefits for Children

rear view of man looking at a smiling little girl on a wheelchair

These days, the cost of living can be rather hefty – and having a child to support can make these costs even higher. A report by the Department of Agriculture found that if a child was born to a middle-income family in 2015, the cost to raise him or her until the age of 17 is about $233,610.

For families with a child with a disability, the costs are a lot more. According to Autism Speaks, the average autism-related healthcare and education expenses for every child with autism is $17,000 a year, not including the indirect costs brought by the condition. While overall costs will vary depending on the child’s disabilities, one thing is clear: there is a huge financial responsibility that is on the children’s families.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 1 in every 33 babies (roughly 150,000 babies) is born with a disability every year. Thus, eligibility for social security for a child with a disability is a vital consideration.

Qualifying for Social Security Income

In an effort to help ease the financial burden, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers the Social Security Income (SSI) Disability Program to families caring for children with disabilities. Families hoping to qualify for SSI must be screened by the SSA for eligibility. Factors are broad, but eligibility is often dependent on the following conditions:

  • The child is 18 years old or younger. The SSA does not have a minimum age requirement for children to qualify for SSI.
  • The impairment must be medically determinable and must last for at least a year, or the child's condition could result in death.
  • Physical functions are limited due to the impairment.
  • The child is medically impaired at birth.

Benefits for Children with Disabilities

Once eligibility is determined, monthly SSI payments are released to a payee, often a parent or a guardian. SSI payment amounts vary because of different contributing factors but the federal base rate is $750. Social Security instructs payees to use SSI for the disabled child’s “current maintenance” which includes:

  • Food

Many low-income families rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments to provide food for their disabled children. Unfortunately, the average SNAP allowance of $3 to $5 a day is highly unlikely to meet the child’s nutritional needs. SSI payments can be used to give them better food.

  • Shelter

If families are paying market-rate rent or mortgage and find that housing costs are eating up their budget, then SSI payments can be used to pay for these. This ensures that the child with a disability does not go homeless.

  • Medical Expenses

Most children on SSI can also qualify for Medicaid, though programs can vary per state. SSI can be used for medical expenses not covered by Medicaid. Payees can also use SSI payments for medical or adaptive devices such as wheelchairs and adaptive vehicles.

Setting Up a Dedicated Account

Qualifying for SSI takes time and some families must wait longer than others. According to the SSA, it can take the state agency three to five months to decide on an application.  For families who’ve waited a long time for SSI approval, the child may be entitled for back pay.

Social Security requires these families to set up a separate account, called a “dedicated account”. The account can’t be used for anything else other than back pay. There are also rules that govern the use of the dedicated fund, though most are similar to the uses of SSI payments.

If you have other questions regarding social security disability child eligibility or would like to request assistance, please call us at 1-866-441-DECO (3326).

Pete Ash
Pete is the Vice President of Sales & Client Services at DECO Recovery Management. He covers the Mid Atlantic region and specializes in Medicaid related topics. It is DECO’s Mission to maximize reimbursement to our clients by leveraging innovative technology, processes and compassionate advocates to provide exemplary service.

Categories: Social Security Disability Eligibility

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