What benefits are available for a disabled child?

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What benefits are available to my disabled child?


Having a disabled child can be difficult. The challenges can be emotional, physical and financial. Fortunately, there are several programs offered by the federal government that may help qualifying families get the support they need to properly care for their child and defray some of the expenses of care.

Supplemental Security Income and Disability Benefits for Children

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are offered by the federal government and administered through the Social Security Administration (SSA). These benefits are available to individuals with limited income and resources who are disabled, aged, or blind and cannot work, including children.

Children may qualify for SSI benefits if they have a physical or mental health condition, or a combination of conditions that the SSA considers disabling, and if their income or the income of their family is below the limit established by the SSA.

Common conditions that might qualify for SSI benefits include total blindness, total deafness, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, HIV infection and low birth weight.

What are the requirements for SSI benefits?

Not all disabled children will qualify for SSI benefits. The SSA offers this program exclusively to families that have very limited income and resources, with the assumption that families with higher incomes would have the ability to pay for their child’s healthcare needs. Requirements for SSI include the following:

  • The disabled child cannot be working or earning more than $1,130 a month
  • The child’s mental or physical health conditions must cause “marked and severe functional limitations”
  • The child’s condition must be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months

Note: The SSA will consider the resources of the family or in-kind support that the child receives from others when determining whether they meet the income and resource limitations.

How do I apply for SSI benefits for my child?

To apply for SSI benefits, you may contact the SSA either by visiting their website at www.ssa.gov or by calling them at 1-800-772-1213. The SSA will require detailed information about your child’s health condition, limitations that they experience in their daily activities, and medical information. The SSA may also contact other individuals, such as teachers and therapists, who have continuous contact with your child.

Social Security Disability Insurance and Benefits for Children

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is offered by the federal government to workers who have been determined disabled, who are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months, and who have enough work credits to be considered insured for SSDI.

Disabled children of disabled workers who are currently receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, or who have died and had enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits (prior to the death), may be entitled to benefits that the SSA refers to as SSDI “child’s benefit.” Children who qualify for a SSDI child’s benefit will receive the benefits based on their parent’s Social Security earning’s record, not their own.

To qualify for a child’s SSDI benefit, the child must become disabled prior to the age of 22 with benefits continuing for that “adult” child until they are determined no longer disabled by the SSA or until they return to work.

Medicaid and Disabled Children’s Benefits

Another benefit offered to disabled children with limited income and resources is healthcare services through Medicaid. Although monthly SSI disability payments may be helpful, with the increasing cost of health care, free healthcare benefits may become even more important.

Whether or not your child will qualify for Medicaid if they are receiving SSI benefits will depend on the state. Some states allow SSI recipients to automatically receive Medicaid benefits at the time that they are approved for SSI. Other states, however, will require you to complete a separate Medicaid application.

Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Disabled Children’s Benefits

Passed in 1990, the Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides certain types of educational training and access to appropriate public education. The Act was passed with the intention of improving “employment opportunities for people with disabilities and improving access to housing, community support, and independent living arrangements.”

Under the Act, children with disabilities have been “mainstreamed” with non-disabled students at schools, with the schools offering more substantial special education services to address the unique needs of students with disabilities. Services can include physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

Services are available to disabled children from ages three through 21 years of age. Children must be evaluated and have evidence that their condition affects their educational performance to qualify.

Common conditions that might qualify a child for services can include autism, hearing impairments, multiple disabilities, mental retardation, emotional disturbances, and speech or language impairment.

Bottom line: If you have a disabled child, there are services offered at the federal level, which can provide support for you and your family. You do not have to struggle alone and you can find the help you need to ensure that your child thrives.

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