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Social Security Disability Benefits for Children

If a child is determined to be eligible for disability under the Social Security Administration's rules for childhood disability, the child may receive Supplemental Security Income, also known as "SSI." The Social Security Administration evaluates the child's medical condition and considers the child's income and resources. Additionally, the Social Security Administration considers the income and assets of the family living with the child. Even if the child is determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration, and therefore medically qualified for SSI, the child will not receive disability benefits if the income and assets of the family members living with the child are over the limit allowed.

To be determined disabled by the Social Security Administration, a child, who has not reached 18 years of age, must have a physical or mental condition, or a combination of conditions which cause the child to have "marked" and/or "severe" limitations in the ability to function. This means the condition must meet or equal the Social Security Administration's criteria for that condition. Alternatively, if a child is found to be "functionally equal" to the Social Security Administration's criteria (also known as functional equivalence), the child may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income. The SSA will consider functional equivalence unless the SSA can make a "fully favorable decision" based on the child meeting all the qualifications for the condition(s) claimed. 

The condition(s) for which the child seeks disability benefits must have been, or be expected to be, at a "marked" or "severe" level for at least 12 months, or expected to result in death. 

The Social Security Administration pays SSI right away, (rather than delay a claim for months while the claim is evaluated by the Disability Determination Service, a State Agency), if the child has one of the following conditions: (1) HIV infection, (2) Total Blindness, (3) Total Deafness, (4) Cerebral Palsy, (5) Down Syndrome, (6) Muscular Dystrophy, (7) Severe Intellectual Disorder (children 7 or older), or (8) Birth weight below 2 pounds, 10 ounces. But, if the State Agency (DDS) later decides the child's impairments are not severe enough for SSI, the parent(s)/rep payee would have to pay back the money. Therefore, Levian Legal strongly recommends parents or guardians ensure the Social Security Administration has every medical report available which supports the claim.

The Social Security Administration evaluates the child's activities and whether the child functions appropriately, effectively, and independently compared to children of the same age who do have any physical or mental impairments. Activities are everything a child does at home, school, and in the community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Evaluated are what activities the child cannot do, has difficulty doing, needs help doing, or is restricted from doing because of the impairment. 

The SSA evaluates children in six areas of functioning: (1)Attending and Completing Tasks, (2)Acquiring and Using Information, (3) Interacting and Relating To Others, (4) Moving About and Manipulating Objects, (5) Caring For Self, and (6) Health and Physical Well-Being. At Levian Legal, a significant number of inquiries related to childhood disability benefits are received from parents or guardians with regard to impairments or conditions which affect a child's ability to attend and complete tasks.

From infancy to adolescence, the ability to attend (be mentally present, focus, apply oneself), and complete activities and tasks develops. Infants respond to light, sound, and movement. Toddlers attend to activities which interest them, for example, listening to stories. Preschool age children play for periods of time and work on projects such as puzzles. Grade school children focus while in class, stay on task with classwork, and complete homework. Adolescents maintain attention and focus and complete academic requirements in a timely fashion. Some adolescents may also work part-time and focus on work-related tasks which must be completed in a timely fashion.

The Social Security Administration when evaluating the area of "Attending and Completing Tasks," considers how your child stacks up to other children of the same age who do not have conditions which cause impairments or limitations in functioning. Children with mental or psychiatric conditions such as AD/HD, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, may have difficulty focusing and staying on task. They may make careless mistakes on schoolwork, not because of an intellectual deficit, but because they do not sustain attention long enough to attend to details and check their work. Children with AD/HD may also shy away from assignments related to long term projects because they are challenged to maintain focus from the planning stage through to completion. 

There are physical conditions which may also affect a child's ability to focus and attend to tasks. Pain interferes with a child's ability to concentrate. A child with a musculoskeletal, orthopedic, or other conditions which cause pain may have difficulty focusing. Furthermore, children with conditions such as seizure disorders may be prescribed medications which affect the ability to focus and complete activities. Ironically, children with attention deficit disorder may appear hyper-focused on activities which interest them such as social networking (Facebook), video games, and texting, while unable to focus on other tasks. This phenomenon is seen in children with AD/HD, as well as children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), who may be significantly distracted by everyday sounds, and other stimuli which non-impaired children are able to ignore while focusing on the activity or task at hand.

If your child has a physical or mental condition which has been diagnosed and documented by a medical provider, and your child is severely limited compared to other children the same age, your child may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, if you and your child also meet the Social Security Administration's financial qualifications. 

For a free case evaluation contact Levian Legal (410) 433-4040.