How does a child qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

Children who are severely disabled may be eligible for monthly benefits under one or more of the programs we administer. Both the Social Security program and the SSI program provide a monthly income for people with severe disabilities. However, the eligibility requirements for the two programs are different.

The Social Security program pays benefits to disabled or retired workers and their families and to the families of deceased workers. Child`s benefits generally may be paid to a dependent unmarried child under age 18, to a child age 18 or older who became disabled before age 22, and to a full-time elementary or secondary school student under age 19. If the parent is alive, he or she must be entitled to retirement or disability benefits. If deceased, the parent must have worked long enough under Social Security for survivor`s benefits to be paid on the record.

A child age 18 or older may be entitled to Social Security benefits based on his or her disability when a parent who has worked long enough under the program is entitled or dies. The criteria used to evaluate the disability are the same as those used to evaluate disability in adults. The child must be unable to do any substantial work because of a medical condition that has lasted or is expected either to last at least 12 months or to result in death. (Usually a job that pays $700 or more per month is considered substantial.) The child`s disability must have begun before age 22.

The SSI program provides monthly income to people who are age 65 or older, or are blind or disabled, and have limited income and financial resources. Children can qualify if they meet the definition of disability and if the household income of the parents and the child are within the allowed limits.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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