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SSI Benefits for Young Adults

  • Published: 2011-01-30 : Author: Richard A Sly, Attorney at Law
  • Synopsis: Disability benefits for children are different than disability benefits for adults who have been disabled since childhood.

Main Document

When a child who receives SSI benefits turns 18, he or she isn't automatically eligible to continue receiving benefits. For those approaching adulthood, it is important to understand the differences.

When a child who has been receiving Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) benefits turns 18, he or she is not automatically eligible to continue receiving disability benefits. Disability benefits for children are different than disability benefits for adults who have been disabled since childhood, and the federal government uses different standards for evaluating disability in children and adults.

Accordingly, it is important that children receiving SSI payments who are on the verge of adulthood and their caretakers understand these distinctions and can properly prepare for this milestone.

To qualify for SSI payments an individual must have a qualifying disability and must meet the income and assets requirements, regardless of age. However, the Social Security Administration evaluates these matters differently for children and adults.

Qualifying Disabilities for Children and Adults

To determine whether an individual under the age of 18 is disabled, the government considers whether the person has a "medically determinable physical or mental impairment" which "results in marked and severe functional limitations" and can be expected to last for at least 12 month or result in death.

For adults, the government relies upon a functional evaluation of an individual's ability to work. An individual over the age of 18 is disabled if he or she has a "medically determinable physical impairment" which "results in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity." As with children, this disability must be expected to at last at least 12 months or result in death.

An individual with "marked and severe functional limitations" that qualify him or her for SSI payments as a child may still be able to find substantial gainful activity - and may desire to do so. If the child will not be able to secure and maintain employment though, it is important to ensure that benefits continue.

Assets and Incomes Requirements for Children and Adults

SSI benefits are only available to those who have limited income and resources. When considering the income and resources for a child seeking benefits, the Social Security Administration considers the income and assets of the child's parents.

Once an individual turns 18, though, only that person's income and assets are considered when determining eligibility. Accordingly, some disabled individuals who did not qualify for SSI benefits based upon their parents income or resources may become eligible at age 18.

Protecting SSI Benefits: The Role of Parents

What can parents do to help ensure a child continues to receiving SSI payments after his or her 18th birthday

First, as the date approaches, schedule an appointment for a review with the state's Disability Determination Service (DDS) office to review the child's benefits and eligibility. This review is an essential step for determining future access to benefits.

Second, work with the child's physician and relevant specialists. The review board will seek the opinion of the treating physician, who will not be able to provide an accurate assessment if it has been years since the last appointment. The doctor's assessment of the child is a critical component of the benefits application, so it is important that the doctor has up-to-date information.

Finally, speak with a knowledgeable disability benefits attorney, who understands how to effectively navigate the system. This is a critical time and the advice of someone with experience handling the process can prove invaluable.

Article provided by Richard A Sly, Attorney at Law - Visit us at


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