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Supplemental Security Income: Is Your Child Eligible?

The following article was written by Molly Clark, who is a writer for the Social Security Disability Help Blog, where she works to promote disability awareness and assist individuals throughout the application process. Molly is an invited contributor. To contact Molly directly regarding this article, please email her at

Supplemental Security Income: Is Your Child Eligible?

Raising a child with special needs can be very expensive. Although medical bills often make up the majority of a child’s expenses, the cost of specialty care, educational support, and assistive devices can quickly add up and become overwhelming. The resulting loss of income can be financially devastating.

If you are facing similar circumstances, your child may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. These benefits can make it easier for you, as a parent, to ensure that your child leads a healthy and happy life.

Although it can be difficult to qualify for disability benefits, many parents of children with disabilities find that monthly disability payments are worth the complicated application process. The following article will help you prepare for the process and get your family the assistance you need.


The Social Security Administration (SSA) governs and distributes benefits from two separate programs—SSDI and SSI. Because qualifying for SSDI requires employment history and tax contributions, children will not typically qualify for SSDI benefits. For this reason, we will focus solely on applying and qualifying for SSI, or Supplemental Security Income.

Supplemental Security Income

SSI is a needs-based program that offers financial benefits to individuals with disabilities, regardless of their age. Children can qualify for this program because there are no work-related requirements.

Eligibility for SSI is based on strict financial limitations. The SSA will evaluate an applicant’s income and financial resources to determine if he or she qualifies. In the case of a child applicant, the SSA will likely assess the entire household’s income. The process of allocating a parent’s income to a child is called deeming. Deeming will occur if your child still lives at home, is under the age of 18, and is not married. As part of the deeming process, the SSA will consider the following:

  • The earned income of parents and step-parents;
  • The unearned income of parents and step-parents; and
  • The resources of parents and step-parents.

It is important to note that not all income will be counted. To learn more about parental deeming and SSI financial requirements, go to

Childhood Disability Medical Requirements

Children with disabilities have varying degrees of symptoms and limitations. As a parent, you may not even consider your child to have a disability. Because the term is so subjective, the SSA has established the following definition:

A child is considered to have a disability if he or she meets these criteria:

  • He or she is not working a job that is considered to be substantial work.
  • He or she has a physical or mental condition that seriously limits his or her day-to-day activities.
  • His or her condition has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or result in death.

If your child meets this basic definition, he or she will then be evaluated based on criteria specific to his or her condition. These medical requirements can be found in the SSA’s Blue Book. The Blue Book is an official list of conditions and symptoms that can qualify a person for disability benefits.

The Blue Book covers the following types of conditions:

100.00- Growth Impairment

101.00- Musculoskeletal System

102.00- Special Senses and Speech

103.00- Respiratory System

104.00- Cardiovascular System

105.00- Digestive System

106.00- Genitourinary Impairments

107.00- Hematological Disorders

108.00- Skin Disorders

109.00- Endocrine Disorders

110.00- Multiple Body System Disorders

111.00- Neurological Conditions

112.00- Mental Disorders

113.00- Malignant Neoplastic Disorders

114.00- Immune System Disorders 

To qualify for SSI, your child will have to meet the criteria of the Blue Book listing associated with his or her condition. You can access all of these listings and the conditions that they cover at

If your child has a condition that is not listed in the Blue Book but meets the SSA’s definition of disability, he or she may still qualify if you can provide sufficient medical proof of your child’s limitations.

Preparing for the Application Process

Because the application for SSI can be long and complicated, it is important that you are thoroughly prepared. Any missing information or inconsistencies can result in the denial of your child’s claim.

Start by collecting all pertinent medical records. These may include clinical histories from your child's treating physicians, lab results, treatment histories, imaging test results, and written statements from your child's physicians.

Keep in mind that the SSA will be considering the following questions:

  • What kinds of activities is your child not able to do?
  • What kinds of limitations does your child experience?
  • How much extra assistance does your child need to complete age-appropriate tasks?
  • What types of special accommodations does your child require?
  • Do treatments interfere with your child’s daily activities?

You should also collect records that relate to your income and expenses. These may include rental receipts, mortgage documents, utility bills, and bank statements.

Supplemental Security Income and Children Over 18

If your child is over the age of 18, the process of applying for benefits will be a bit different. Your child will be evaluated as an adult rather than a child. Therefore, he or she will need to meet the adult Blue Book listings, rather than the child listings. It is important to note that a child over the age of 18 will not be subject to the deeming process. Instead, he or she will be evaluated based on his or her own finances.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

The actual application for SSI consists of two forms and a mandatory interview with an SSA representative. Although a portion of the application can be completed online, many parents prefer to complete the necessary paperwork in person at their scheduled interview. It is important that you call the SSA to schedule your interview as soon as possible, as there may be a long wait before the next available appointment.

You should expect to receive the SSA’s decision within three to six months of submitting your child’s application. If you are denied, do not panic. You have 60 days in which to appeal the SSA’s decision. Many applicants who are initially denied end up being approved during the appeal process. 

For more information about Supplemental Security Income, visit

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