Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to children with a qualifying disability and whose family meets the financial requirements. The benefits are helpful for many families struggling with the challenges of caring for a child with a disability or chronic illness, but understanding how the program works is not always easy.
To qualify, the child must be both disabled and meet the financial requirements.
SSI is designed for low-income persons and families. The first step in determining if your child is eligible for SSI is to contact Social Security to see if you meet the financial requirements. They will review your family income and resources to determine if you meet their financial guidelines. Contact Social Security at 800-772-1213.
In general, to meet the disability requirement, a child must have a physical or mental condition that seriously limits his or her activities, and that condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least one year or result in death. Social Security staff determines if your child meets the disability criteria.
Medical records from your doctor(s) are an important factor when Social Security evaluates your child. Before applying for SSI, be sure to tell your doctor that you intend to apply. It is important that your child’s medical records include a:
- How the diagnosis affects your child’s daily functioning
There is also a list of what are called Compassionate Allowances. These are severe medical conditions that meet Social Security’s definition of disability. A child with a condition on the Compassionate Allowance list will have their SSI application expedited.
If your child is in school, his or her teacher may also be asked to complete a form outlining how the child functions day to day in a classroom.
SSI benefits vary based on the individual receiving them, but currently the maximum benefit anyone can receive is $721/month. The benefit is considerably less during periods a child is hospitalized. You will have to provide information to Social Security about how those benefits were spent. Eligible expenses include a home, vehicle, and other living and medical expenses. SSI benefits are periodically reviewed to ensure the person still meets the income and disability requirements. When your child reaches the age of 18 years old, his or her ability to continue receiving SSI benefits as an adult will also be re-evaluated.
Take the next steps:
- Contact Social Security at 800-772-1213.
- Complete a Child Disability Report.
- View the list of Compassionate Allowances Conditions.
- Learn more about how the Mott Children’s Hospital social work team can support your family during your child’s treatment.
Lorrie Carbone, MSW, is a clinical social worker at University of Michigan Health System. Lorrie specifically works with patients with complex medical conditions and their families at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Lorrie is also the Research Lead in the Department of Social Work, supporting social workers to evaluate their programs and practices and work in ways that are shown to work well for patients and families.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.