Is my disabled child eligible for Social Security benefits?

In New Jersey and throughout the United States, children with disabilities may be eligible for Social Security benefits. Specifically, disabled children with little or no recourse to income and resources may qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Who qualifies as a child?

An important question New Jersey families may have is how the government defines a child in the context of SSI. While disabled persons of any age may be eligible for some benefits, SSI for children applies only to a specific group. Four necessary conditions, specified by the Social Security Administration, clarify who is part of this group:

  • The person is not married
  • The person is not the head of a household
  • The person is under the age of 18
  • The person is under the age of 22 and is a student regularly attending school

If all four of these conditions are satisfied, the person in question meets the SSA's definition of a child.

How is child disability defined?

The next question, after learning the conditions defining a child, may regard the criteria determining disability. In brief, there are two specific criteria by which the SSA qualifies a condition as a disability for a child. The first is that the child has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in marked and severe functional limitations. The second is that the impairment in question has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months or be expected to result in death. The SSA highlights the fact that a blind child satisfies these criteria.

Will benefits be awarded?

Consistency with the SSA's definition of disabled does not guarantee that benefits will be awarded on that basis. In order to judge whether a disabled child is eligible for SSI, the government considers the income and resources available to him or her. Specifically, the SSA will evaluate the child's income and resources, as well as those of family members living in the child's household. The amount of this pool of income and resources will determine the extent to which SSI may be awarded, if at all. If benefits are warranted, the child may be eligible to receive them as early as the date of birth until no longer meeting the definition of a child.

Filing a claim for SSI can be complicated. Moreover, it is not uncommon for claims to initially be denied, even if benefits may be warranted. For these reasons, New Jersey parents of disabled children may wish to consult with a social security disability attorney.