To qualify for benefits through the Supplemental Security Income or SSI program, a child must be disabled or blind and must meet strict income and resource limitations. When applying for benefits on behalf of your child, keep in mind that the Social Security Administration takes your assets and income into account. What you own and earn may be deemed as resources and income available to your child.
An application for benefits filed on behalf of a child may be jeopardized when a parent who is not familiar with federal regulations fails to use allowable exclusions to reduce countable income. Working with a seasoned Social Security disability lawyer at Scully Disability Law ensures you of having a knowledgeable and skilled representative handling your child’s application for SSI benefits.
You may also benefit from having a general understanding of deeming and how a parent’s income affects a child’s application for SSI benefits. The following information along with a consultation with a Scully Disability Law SSI lawyer helps you avoid mistakes that could lead to a denial of the claim.
Benefits for children through SSI
A child must be blind or disabled to qualify for SSI benefits. Social Security uses the same criteria to define blindness in adults as it does for children, but it uses a different definition for “disabled” for children than it uses for adults.
A child must meet all of the following requirements to be “disabled” under federal law for purposes of SSI eligibility:
- Have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or impairments.
- The impairment or impairments must cause marked and severe functional limitations.
- The impairment must be expected to last or have lasted for at least one year or be expected to result in death.
The law is also very specific as to its definition of a “child.” It defines a child as someone with the following characteristics:
- Unmarried and not the head of a household; and
- Younger than 18 years of age; or
- Younger than 22 years of age and regularly attending school.
When a child reaches 18 years of age or, in the case of a child attending school, 22 years of age, SSI benefits cannot continue unless the individual meets the adult definition of disabled, which focuses on the ability to engage in substantial gainful activity rather than on functional limitations. The adult definition of “disabled” also applies to applications filed for SSDI benefits through an SSDI lawyer.
SSI income limitations and deeming of parental income
The primary purpose of the SSI program is to make it possible for a beneficiary to pay for food and shelter. Therefore, other sources of income that a person has available may reduce the amount of the SSD benefits received through SSI.
Social Security considers anything that someone on SSI receives that can be used to pay for food or shelter as income. Income includes the following:
- Wages from a job.
- Income earned through self-employment.
- Interest and dividends.
- Cash gifts from relatives and friends.
- Food and shelter that is provided by friends and relatives without charge or below cost.
Income exclusions allow you to reduce countable income for SSI purposes. For example, a $20 exclusion may be applied toward either earned or unearned income a person receives each month. You may also exclude the first $65 and one-half of the remaining balance of wages and other earned income.
When a disabled or blind child lives with one or both parents or with a parent and stepparent, a portion of the parent’s or stepparent’s income may be deemed available to the eligible child. As an example of how deeming might work in the case of a disabled child residing with one parent, who earns $2,555 in wages each month, and the eligible child’s sibling who is not disabled or blind.
Federal regulations allocate $420 of a parent’s monthly income in 2022 toward the support of each ineligible child living in the household. This would reduce the parent’s income in the example to $2,135.
If the parent has no income other than the wages, the $20 and $65 exclusions apply to reduce the income to $2,050 which is then divided in half to reduce the parent’s income to $1,025. A parent is allowed an additional allocation equal to the federal SSI benefit, which for 2022 is $841, for living expenses. This leaves only $184 of the parent’s monthly wages deemed available to the support of the child receiving SSI.
Getting help with applying for SSD benefits for children
The normal challenges associated with the application approval process become augmented by deeming and other issues that may arise when filing an SSI application on behalf of a child. Instead of trying to do it on your own, rely on the knowledge and experience of an SSD lawyer at Scully Disability Law to handle your SSDI and SSI application or appeal. Contact us today for a free consultation and claim review.