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Social Security disability benefits for children

Many people believe that Social Security benefits are available primarily for older Americans or adults with injuries or disabilities. However, California families with low incomes and few resources may qualify for Social Security Income for a child afflicted with a serious illness or disability.

When individuals are receiving retirement or disability benefits, their children may be eligible for Social Security disability insurance. Children may also qualify for survival benefits if one of their parents is deceased and the parent worked long enough for benefits.

Benefits may continue after a child turns 18 if the child is classified as a disabled adult child. Social Security disability benefits for illness may also be available for adults who became disable before they reached age 22. For parents to receive SSI or disability insurance benefits for their children, the child's condition must be expected to last at least one year or to result in death.

To qualify for benefits, the child's condition must meet the SSA's definition of disability for children and the child cannot be working. Income and resources for children and family members living with the child must also fall within eligibility limits. SSI payment amounts vary from state to state because some states augment SSI payments.

Applicants must provide detailed information and records about their children's medical condition to their state's Disability Determination Services office. The review process may take three to five months before benefits are provided. However, SSI payments may begin immediately for certain disabilities such as HIV infection, total blindness, total deafness, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, severe intellectual disability for a child who is at least seven years old and children with a birth weight below two pounds, ten ounces.

The application process is lengthy. Applicants must comply with many legal requirements and submit numerous documents and health care records. The SSA, as required by law, periodically reviews recipients' medical conditions. An experienced disability benefits lawyer can help assure that qualified applicants receive the benefits to which they are entitled.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Benefits for children with disabilities" and Doug Walker, SSA Deputy Commissioner for Communications, "Social Security helps children struck by cancer and other illnesses," Accessed Jan. 23, 2016

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