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Filing an Supplemental Security Income Disability Claim for a Child

Many parents are surprised to hear that their disabled child may qualify for federal disability benefits. Disability benefits are offered to children through a program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

In general, SSI benefits are awarded to individuals who are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months and who are blind, disabled or aged (65 years or older). Children may also qualify for benefits. SSI is a “needs based” program and is only offered to claimants who have VERY limited resources and income.

Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), SSI does not require claimants to have worked or paid taxes.

Does my child qualify for SSI?

The Social Security Administration has very specific requirements to qualify for SSI. According to the SSA website (, children will only qualify if:

• They are not working and making more than $1,000 (in 2011). Children who are working or performing “substantial gainful activity” are considered not disabled.

• They have a health condition which “markedly and severely” limits them functionally. The Social Security Administration will evaluate your child’s abilities compared to other children of the same age.

• Their condition must be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months

How do I apply for SSI for my child?

If you would like to apply for SSI benefits for your child you can start the process by visiting the SSA website Go to the Disability section and choose the link entitled “Applying for Disability Benefits for Children”.

According to the SSA, you will need to complete the Application for Supplemental Security Income and the Child Disability report. Only the Child Disability Report can be done online. To complete the SSI application you will have to contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 and talk to an SSA representative.

Steps to Apply for SSI benefits for a Child:

1. Fill out the Child Disability Starter Kit. This kit will answer all of the most common questions that parents have about applying for SSI benefits. This kit also contains a user friendly worksheet which will help you gather and document information about your child.

2. Contact the Social Security Administration by calling 1-800-772-1213. The SSA needs to evaluate your family’s income and resources to determine if you meet the nonmedical requirements of the SSI program. If our resources and income are too high, your child will be denied benefits, regardless of the severity of their condition.

3. Fill out the online Child Disability Report. This report gathers important information about your child, but it also gives the SSA permission to contact your child’s doctors so they can request medical records for your child.

There are certain conditions where the SSA will start SSI benefits until they have a chance to review the claim. If your family meets the income and resource requirements and your child has one of these conditions, you may receive benefits immediately while the SSA reviews your child’s claim. Common conditions that may be found
automatically disabling can include:

• HIV infection
• Total blindness
• Total deafness
• Cerebral palsy
• Down syndrome
• Muscular dystrophy
• Severe mental retardation (child age 7 or older)
• Birth weight below 2 pounds, 10 ounces

The Social Security Disability Administration may determine after reviewing your child’s Supplemental Security Income claim that their condition is not severe enough to continue awarding SSI benefits and will stop payments. You will not have to repay the benefits you have received up until this point.