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Understanding SSI Supplemental Security Income for Children

When most people think about social security benefits, they likely think about elderly or disabled adults. However, there are benefits available through the SSI supplemental security income program for the parents or caretakers of disabled children, as well, due to the financial demands the disability generally places on parents or caretakers.

For the purposes of the supplemental security income program, a child is defined as someone younger than the age of 18. Because it is expected that a child will generally live in the household of a parent or caretaker, the income and resources of family members living in the child's household are considered, along with the child's own income and resources, to determine whether or not the child qualifies for SSI benefits. The income and resources of family members are considered for the child's eligibility as long as the child lives at home and even during times the child is away at school if he or she returns periodically and remains under a parent's control.

The eligibility requirements for children dictate that the child must not be earning more than $1,070 from work and must have a condition(s) that very seriously limits the child's activities. The specific standard is described as "marked and severe functional limitations." In addition, the condition must result in the disabling limitations for a period of 12 months, or be expected to cause the child's death, in order to qualify for SSI benefits.

Parents or caretakers applying for SSI benefits on behalf of a disabled child will have to provide a range of information about the child and his or her condition. The applicant must explain the medical condition in detail and describe the resulting limitations and effects on the child's ability to function and carry out normal activities. The applicant will also have to provide permission for doctors and other related professionals to release information about the child's condition to the SSI program. After reviewing the initial information submitting, the SSI program may request other records or require the child to complete a medical examination or test. In some cases the SSI program will begin making payments to the child even during the determination process, while in other cases it may take up to five months to receive benefits.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Benefits for Children With Disabilities," 2014.

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