Basics of Benefits for Disabled Children

Children who are born with disabilities, or who become disabled during their childhood years, may be eligible to receive payments through the government's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The requirements for children to receive SSI are strict and are based on the nature of the disability and the family's total income. However, if eligible, the payments can be a helpful supplement to other household income and contribute to the care and well-being of disabled children, which can be medically intensive and costly.

Income Requirements

One goal of SSI payments is to help people with lower incomes support their disabled children. To determine if a disabled child qualifies for these benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews both the child's income, if any, and the income of any family members who are currently living within the same household. If any of the incomes exceed the amount allowed for SSI payments, the SSA will turn down the disabled child's request for benefits. This will occur even if the child is considered disabled under SSI requirements.

Eligibility

To be eligible for SSI payments, children must meet all three prerequisites. There must be evidence of a mental or physical condition that impacts the child's activities through "marked and severe functional limitations." In addition, disabled children cannot work and earn more than a set monthly amount, which is currently $1,000 for 2011. The child's limiting condition must also last for 12 months straight or be diagnosed as terminal. If the child does not meet one of these requirements, the child will not be eligible for SSI benefits.

General Benefits

SSI payments may differ from state to state, because some states supplement this federal benefit. Local Social Security offices can clarify what a state's SSI payments will total. SSI payments for children currently residing in medical facilities and receiving medical insurance assistance will be limited, however. State agencies can take anywhere from three to five months to determine eligibility, but some children with medical conditions, such as total blindness or deafness, HIV, or Cerebral Palsy may receive payments upon application.

Taking the First Step

While applying for SSI benefits for your disabled child seems like a difficult process, it is an important first step for the whole family. If you or someone you know has a child who may qualify for SSI payments, you can call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 or visit your state's Social Security office. You must have your child's Social Security number and birth certificate to apply. If you find this process overwhelming, contact a local Social Security Disability benefits attorney for legal advice about this or another SSA benefits process.