For most parents with special needs kids, dealing with endless medical bills, insurance, doctor’s appointments, and medical supplies and equipment has become a part of everyday life.
Along with that is a constant need for a little extra help in the money department. Actually, a lot of help! And at some point most parents start looking for outside assistance.
You may have heard something about filing for SSI disability for your child. But what does that even mean?
Looking for answers from the government isn’t always the easiest or the fastest. And who has time to talk with an attorney?
Let’s take a look at your options as a parent with a disabled child. Hopefully, with your new knowledge you can make an informed decision about whether you should start the process of getting your child on SSI disability.
What’s the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI Disability?
You may not even realize that there are two programs for disability within Social Security. Social Security disability (SSDI) is the program that you pay into when you work. I’m sure you’ve noticed the Social Security tax deduction from your paycheck. It is the same program that your retirement benefit comes from. It is also the same program that pays survivor benefits after you pass away.
To be eligible for Social Security disability, you have to have worked and paid into the program. Each year Congress sets the money amount required that you have to earn in order to receive “credit.” Once you have earned the required credit for the quarter, then you are considered insured for that time period.
So, obviously, a child cannot qualify for Social Security disability since they cannot work. And despite what you may have heard, a child under the age of 18 cannot receive disability benefits from a parent’s record.
If the parent is receiving benefits under their own record such as retirement or disability, and they have a minor child, then that child could receive what is called auxiliary benefits. This means the child would be receiving a benefit because they are a minor child of the parent, not because they are disabled.
So, how does a minor child receive disability benefits? Supplemental Security Income (also known as SSI) is a needs-based program for disabled minor children, the blind, those age 65 and older, and for disabled adults who have not worked and earned enough credits to qualify for Social Security disability.
SSI is not based on work credits. SSI is based on your monthly income and monthly resources. Most of the time a child will have neither income or resources. Some children do receive state assistance or child support which is counted as income for the child. A resource for a child would be a bank account (such as a savings account), or trust accounts.
SSI also looks at the parents’ income and resources when a minor child is applying for benefits. The parents’ income and resources have to be below a certain limit for the minor child to potential qualify for SSI.
What Are the SSI Eligibility Requirements for a Child?
First, your child has to meet the non-medical requirements. This means not exceeding the income and resource limits for the child and the parents.
Note: The parents’ income and resources are counted if they are living with the child. If there is only one parent in the household, then only that parent’s income and resources would apply. A step-parent’s income and resources are counted if they are living with the child.
The resource limit for a child is $2000. The resource limit for the parents is $3000.
This means that if the child has a savings account with more than $2000, the child would not qualify for SSI until the bank account fell below the limit.
Also, the total amount of the parents’ resources must be below $3000. This includes things like bank accounts, the value of all automobiles (one vehicle is excluded from the limit), property owned but not residing on, life insurance, and other items that could be converted to cash.
As stated before, income for a child could be things like child support, state government assistance, and any other monies received on a monthly basis.
Income for parents include wages, self employment, money from Social Security benefits, unemployment, workers compensation, and money from friends or relatives.
The income limits are a little more complicated than the resource limits. Just know that most income whether it’s earned or unearned, will be used in determining eligibility.
Once the non-medical factors have been met, a medical determination can then be made.
After it is determined that your family is below the income and resource limits, then a Social Security representative will collect all the medical information about your child. They will want to know what the condition is, which doctors and hospitals your child has been to, daily limitations, and other organizations that have seen your child for their condition.
Once the information is collected and you have authorized the release of the medical records, that information is sent to the State Disability Determinations office. Once your case is there, they will collect the medical information and make a decision on whether your child meets the criteria outlined under the disability rules and regulations set forth under the Social Security laws.
Do I Need An Attorney to File for SSI Disability?
The short answer is no. When you first file for SSI disability for your child, you will receive an initial determination. Having an attorney does not speed up the initial decision process. In fact, it could actually slow the process down. But it is your right to be represented each step of the way. If having an attorney on your case makes you feel more confident with the process, then go for it.
In my personal opinion though, having worked in this field for almost 13 years, it’s a waste of your time and money to have an attorney at the initial level. Only you know how to answer the questions about your child’s disability. Only you know what your income and resources are. It is best that you be the one to give that information to the Social Security representative so they have the right information the first time.
I’ve seen so many errors and omissions come through on an application because the attorney did not know the answer. I’ve also encountered numerous times where the attorney had the client talk to the representative to give them the needed information. At that point, you are paying the attorney while you do all the work.
Again, this is just my opinion, looking at it from the inside of a Social Security office.
If the initial decision made by Disability Determinations is a denial, the next step would be to file an appeal. At that point it may be in your best interest to have an attorney on your case.
What is Included in SSI Benefits?
SSI is a monthly benefit paid on behalf of the child to the person who has physical custody. That person, who is normally a parent, is called a representative payee. They are responsible for using the money for the child’s needs. They are also responsible for reporting any changes in resources or income that could affect the amount of SSI or eligibility.
The monthly benefit amount is set by Congress every year. For the year 2019, the full monthly benefit amount is $771. This amount could be reduced based on your living arrangements and household income.
What About Medical Insurance?
Normally, a child that is eligible for SSI will also be eligible for Medicaid from their State.
Even if the child does not qualify for SSI, the child could still be eligible for Medicaid since Medicaid is a State program and each State has their own rules.
To find out more information about Medicaid contact your State Medicaid office.
Note: A minor disabled child will not be eligible for Medicare, which is a federal government program.
Okay, My Child was Approved for SSI Disability, Now What?
Once your child starts receiving monthly payments, it’s important to let your local Social Security office know if there are any changes in the family’s living arrangements, income or resources.
Also, if you or your spouse are working, you will need to report that income on a monthly basis.
My recommendation is that you have proof of when you report any changes to the Social Security office. Proof could be a copy of a dated letter that you mailed. Be sure to write down each time you visit the office with changes and what changes you reported on that date.
You can also report your changes by phone, but it’s a good idea to make a note of the dates you called and what you reported on that date.
Having good records of when you reported any changes will keep you from being liable for any overpayment as long as you reported the changes in a timely manner.
Social Security is required to do periodic updates of your living arrangements, income and resources. Make sure you follow-up with them in a timely manner to answer their questions. By not doing so, your child’s benefits could be suspended until you give them the information they need.
They also do medical reviews of your child. It is hard to say how often medical reviews will be done. It depends on the severity of your child’s condition as to when the review will take place.
Before your child turns age 18, a medical review will need to be done. This review is to determine if the child meets the requirements for being disabled under the adult criteria.
At that point a Social Security representative will also determine if your child will still need a representative payee since your child will legally be an adult at 18. The representative will likely need to speak with your child in person to make that determination.
At age 18, SSI considers your child an adult so the information about living arrangements, income and resources will change. SSI will no longer consider the parents’ income and resources. The program will only consider the income and resources of your child and their living arrangements. Living arrangements just means where your child resides, with whom, and who pays for your child’s food and shelter costs.
Note: There is another program for children age 18 and older. This program is called Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB). There are a lot of factors to consider in determining the eligibility of these benefits but it may be another option to keep in mind. This is a benefit available to a child of a person that is receiving retirement or disability benefits, and the child is determined to be disabled under the adult criteria before the age of 22. If the parent is deceased, the child could still be potentially eligible.
I can’t think of anything worse as a time suck than filling out paperwork. And when it involves the government, reading and understanding their forms can make your head spin. I hope this has cleared up the confusion around Social Security disability, SSI, and what SSI is all about.
If you think you are ready to start the task of filing for SSI disability, you can go here to start the process.
There is not a SSI application online that you can fill out for a disabled minor child. You will need to call the Social Security Administration to make an appointment. The application process can be done by phone or in person but you first have to make an appointment.
You can complete the Child Disability Report form online which will help speed up the interview process. Again the link for that is found here.
To get even more detailed information about the SSI program, please refer to this publication.
What are your thoughts/feelings about filing for SSI? Are you intimidated by the process? What other information do you feel you need in order to make the decision on whether to file for SSI or not? I would love to hear from you!