You need as much financial support as you can if you have a disabled child. The cost of treatment and medicine can be high, as well as the cost of childcare. If you work fewer hours in order to care for your child, you may find it difficult to afford these costs while still providing your child with all the opportunities life has to offer.
In 2021, the Social Security Administration paid approximately $2.8 billion in benefits per month to four million children whose parents retired, died, or were disabled. Benefits provide necessities for eligible family members and allow children to complete school. In the case of a disability or the death of a parent, Social Security benefits help stabilize the family’s financial situation.
The attorneys at Bross & Frankel, PA, help parents throughout New Jersey obtain the Social Security benefits they need. As a law firm with decades of experience and a deep understanding of the SSD system, we can assist you in determining whether your child may qualify for benefits, and if so, help you complete the initial application and submit the required Child Disability Report.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Children
SSI provides monthly benefits to help meet the basic needs of children who are blind and/or have a physical or mental disability. Children and teenagers with disabilities may qualify for SSI if their families have limited income and savings.
SSI Eligibility for Children
If a child is disabled and lives in a low-income family, they may be eligible for SSI. The Social Security Administration disability qualifications are as follows:
- A serious limitation of one’s activities, caused by a physical or mental condition
- This condition must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or end in death
An unmarried child may be eligible for benefits if they are:
- Under 18 years old
- Between the ages of 18 and 19 and enrolled full-time in an elementary or secondary school
- Aged 18 or older with a disability that started before the age of 22
Applying for SSI Benefits For Your Child
When applying for benefits online or through the closest Social Security office, you’ll need the child’s birth certificate or other proof of birth or adoption, as well as their Social Security number. It is important to note that there are income restrictions imposed on child applicants as well as adults: children who are not blind must not earn more than $1,350 a month in 2022. Those who are blind must not be working or earning more than $2,260.
You’ll need to provide detailed information about their medical condition, as well as how it affects their ability to perform daily activities. You also will need to give permission for your child’s doctors, teachers, therapists, and other professionals to send information about his or her condition to the SSA, and participate in a disability interview with an SSA representative. For more information about what to expect when you apply, the SSA has a Child Disability Starter Kit available online.
SSI Benefits After Age 18
When a child reaches the age of 18, they become adults under the SSI program. This means that benefits cease unless the child is a student or has a disability.
Those younger than 19 who are still in elementary or secondary school must complete a statement of attendance certified by a school official. Children in school typically receive benefits until they graduate or turn 19, whichever comes first. In the event that your child has an ongoing disability, benefits are payable beyond the age of 18 if the disability began before he or she turned 22.
When determining if an adult child meets the SSI financial limits, the Social Security Administration uses adult disability standards and does not count the income and resources of family members, except for current spouses. The child may become eligible for SSI at 18 even if he or she was not eligible for SSI before because you, your spouse, or both had too much income or too many resources.
How Much Can a Child Receive in SSI Benefits?
In general, payment amounts differ from state to state because some states contribute to the benefits payment. In New Jersey in 2022, those who qualify for SSI may get up to $872.25 in monthly benefits in addition to Medicaid coverage. It is important to note, however, that if your child is in a medical facility and health insurance covers their care, the monthly SSI payment is limited to $30.
What Happens After You Apply for SSI Benefits?
When you apply for SSI benefits, the SSA sends your information to the closest Disability Determination Services office. A doctor and other qualified personnel at the state agency will review the information. The state agency may ask you to take your child for a medical examination or test if they can’t make a determination based only on medical information, school records, and other facts.
The SSA may take three to five months to make a disability determination decision. In some cases, however, it makes monthly payments right away, for up to six months, while the state agency determines whether your child has a qualifying disability. The following conditions may qualify:
- Birth weight below 2 pounds, 10 ounces
- Cerebral palsy
- Complete blindness
- Down syndrome
- Muscular dystrophy
- Total deafness
- Severe intellectual disability (for children under age four)
- HIV infection with developed symptoms
You won’t have to repay these immediate SSI benefit payments if the state agency ultimately decides your child’s disability is not debilitating enough to qualify for benefits.
SSI Disability Reviews
As long as your child receives SSI, the SSA is required to periodically review your child’s medical condition to make sure that they still meet the criteria. SSA must perform this review at the following intervals:
- A minimum of every three years for children younger than 18 whose conditions are expected to improve.
- By age 1 for babies receiving SSI payments because of their low birth weight.
During a review, you must provide evidence that your child’s disability still limits their daily activities. Additionally, you must demonstrate that your child has received medically necessary treatment.
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits for Children
Disabled children under 18 are not eligible for regular Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is a federal disability income program aimed at working adults. However, they can qualify for ‘dependent’ or ‘auxiliary’ benefits if a biological parent, step-parent, or adoptive parent is receiving Social Security retirement benefits or disability payments.
A child may receive up to 50% of the parent’s monthly benefit, up to a family maximum. They may continue to receive dependent benefits until they turn 18 (or 19, if they are full-time high school students). However, dependent benefits will cease if the child marries.
Social Security benefits are computed based on the maximum family payment, which can be anywhere between 150% and 180% of the parent’s full benefit amount. The SSA reduces each child’s benefit proportionately if the total benefits for all family members exceed this limit.
Social Security Survivors Benefits for Children
Survivor benefits may be available to children of parents who received Social Security retirement or disability benefits before they died. Depending on the family size, a child may receive up to 75% of the deceased parent’s monthly benefit until they reach the age of 18 (or 19 in the case of a full-time high school student) or marry.
SSDI Benefits for Disabled Adult Children
Adult disability benefits are an extension of the dependent benefits discussed above. Young adults who are already disabled as of their 18th birthday, or who become disabled before they turn 22, can continue to receive Social Security dependents’ benefits as long as they remain disabled.
Like SSI, the following definition of disability applies to all applicants:
- The child must be suffering from a medical condition or combination of conditions that significantly limit their activities.
- The condition must have lasted for at least 12 months, be predicted to last at least a year, or end in death.
It is possible for young adults who become disabled after age 22 to collect SSDI on the strength of their own earning record. While young adults with disabilities have to have some work history to be eligible for SSDI, they require fewer credits to qualify.
What to Expect After Completing a Child’s Application for SSDI Benefits
Once you have completed the application and provided all necessary medical documentation, your child’s disability claim is sent to a Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. In this respect, the disability application process is the same as applying for SSI benefits.
The agency verifies all medical documentation you submit with your child’s application for disability benefits. SSA medical personnel will also review the information you submitted. It should take you three months to learn whether your child’s claim was denied or approved unless they have a disability that qualifies for immediate consideration.
What If Your Child’s Claim is Denied?
Although disability benefits are often a lifeline, the rejection rate is high. If your claim is denied, you will receive a letter outlining the SSA’s reasons for the denial and instructions on how to proceed with an appeal.
Common reasons for denial include:
- You did not submit the correct application.
- Based on earnings records, your child and family members do not meet the federal program’s income guidelines.
- Your child’s medical records were not received by the SSA in time for a determination to be made.
- The medical documents you provided do not adequately describe how the disability affects his or her physical and mental functioning or the extent of the disability.
Before filing your appeal, however, it’s best to retain the services of a disability attorney. The appeal process can be long and complex, even more so than the initial application, and retaining legal counsel will give your child’s claim the best chance of success.
Applying for Social Security Benefits for Your Child? Get a Free Consultation from a New Jersey Children’s Disability Attorney
The challenges of parenting a disabled child can be tremendous. Children with disabilities require special medical care and education, and their care can be expensive. Unfortunately, the needs of some disabled children far outweigh their parents’ financial resources.
If you need assistance applying for a child’s Social Security benefits for the first time or appealing a denial, the disability lawyers at Bross & Frankel, PA are ready to help. With years of experience, a firm understanding of Social Security Disability law, and a record of strong results, we will give your child’s claim the attention it deserves, and you only owe us money if we recover the benefits he or she needs. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review, call us today at 856-210-3345 or contact us online.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.