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Social Security Disability for children and how it works

Written by Ankin Law Office

Parents who are raising a disabled child in Illinois may struggle to provide for the child’s care and special expenses. Many parents wonder about the availability of outside support, such as Social Security Disability benefits. A person must be at least 18 to qualify for his or her own SSD benefits. However, different benefits, including dependent benefits and adult child’s benefits, may be available to disabled children if they meet certain criteria.

Dependent benefits

If a minor child has a parent who is eligible for SSD benefits, the child can receive dependent benefits. These benefits are available regardless of the child’s health and the family’s financial standing.

A child’s dependent benefit may be as high as 50 percent of the benefit amount the parent receives. However, the amount may be reduced if multiple children in the same family collect dependent benefits. The SSA does not allow total dependent benefits to exceed 150 to 180 percent of the original benefit amount.

The children of SSD benefit recipients may collect dependent benefits until age 18. Then, the SSA evaluates whether these children qualify for continued benefits. A child who remains enrolled in full-time secondary school may collect dependent benefits until he or she graduates or turns 19, whichever occurs first. A disabled child may also continue collecting benefits after turning 18. However, these are no longer considered dependent benefits.

Adult child’s benefits

The SSA establishes distinct policies for adult children and Social Security Disability benefits. A disabled adult child may receive a “child’s benefit” or a regular benefit. A child’s benefit is based off the earnings record of a parent who qualifies for SSD benefits. This benefit is only available to adult children with disabilities that began before age 22. A regular benefit is based off of the child’s own earnings record, provided he or she has worked enough to qualify for benefits.

There is no set time at which a disabled child automatically loses eligibility for benefits. However, the child must keep meeting the SSA’s disability criteria to continue receiving benefits. Starting from when the child turns 18, the SSA evaluates disability on the basis of three criteria:

  • The child cannot perform any work he or she performed before.
  • The child is not able to adjust to any other type of work due to his or her physical or mental conditions.
  • The disability must have lasted one year. Alternately, the disability could be expected to last one year or result in death.

After the initial disability evaluation at age 18, a disabled adult child faces Continuing Disability Reviews. The prognosis of the disabling condition determines how frequently these reviews occur. Reviews typically are scheduled every three or seven years. However, conditions with a high likelihood of improvement may be evaluated more frequently.

Certain events may also trigger a disability review. These events include changes in the medical condition, failure to follow a treatment plan or the development of new treatments for the condition. If the child is still found disabled during the review, he or she may continue collecting child’s benefits or regular benefits.

Qualifying for benefits

The SSA has a few different means of evaluating disability. There are three basic ways that an SSD applicant may establish medical eligibility for disability benefits.

First, the applicant may suffer from a condition listed in the book Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. This book contains various conditions the SSA considers disabling, along with associated symptoms or functional limitations. If an SSD applicant proves he or she suffers from these symptoms or limitations, the condition is automatically considered disabling.

Second, the SSA may find that an applicant’s condition and its effects are equal in severity to a listed impairment. When an applicant “equals” a listing, the SSA considers the applicant’s condition disabling without further review.

Third, an applicant may receive a medical-vocational allowance for a condition that is not automatically considered disabling. The SSA evaluates the condition’s specific effects, along with the individual’s skills as an employee. The SSA may consider age, education and work history. Then, the SSA determines whether the condition prevents the individual from performing work he or she is reasonably capable of doing.

Qualifying for disability benefits through a medical-vocational allowance can be difficult, due to the close level of scrutiny. To meet the SSA’s medical criteria, disabled adult children must provide substantial documentation to support their claims.

Documenting the disability

The SSA outlines permissible evidence in Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. First, an accepted medical source must document the disabling condition. Accepted medical sources include licensed physicians, psychologists, optometrists and podiatrists. Speech-language pathologists with sufficient professional qualifications are also acceptable.

The SSA prefers medical evidence from professionals with a history of treating the adult child and condition. The SSA will consider objective evidence, such as medical images or laboratory test results, from non-accepted medical sources. Other acceptable evidence includes clinical findings, treatment plans and descriptions of the effects of treatment.

The SSA also accepts statements from medical professionals that describe the adult child’s Residual Functional Capacity. RFC indicates what kind of work-related tasks the individual can perform. An RFC evaluation can be highly detailed. For example, it might note how long the person can stand or how many times the person can lift a certain amount of weight. This evidence can be useful for people seeking medical-vocational allowances.

The SSA also accepts personal statements from people who know the applicant. Co-workers, family members and friends may all attest to the disability and its effects on daily life. This evidence is not conclusive on its own. However, it can bolster a disabled adult child’s disability claim.

Categories: Social Security