Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
The Social Security Administration administers one disability program for children under the age of 18: The Supplemental Security Income (“SSI” or “Title 16”) program.
To qualify for SSI benefits a child’s household must have income and resources below established levels (i.e., they must demonstrate financial need). Further, the child must be found disabled under Social Security’s definition. Disability is a legal definition. A child’s doctor or psychologist cannot determine if the child is “disabled” under SSA’ definition; only SSA can make that determination.
Social Security determines whether a child is disabled by undertaking a 3-step sequential evaluation.
Substantial gainful activity (“SGA”) is a threshold for monthly earnings. SGA for 2020 is $1,260.00 ($2,110.00 for blind individuals) in gross (pre-tax) monthly earnings. If a child currently earns over SGA its claim will be denied. If the child has no earnings or if its earnings are under SGA its claim will proceed to step 2.
SSA will determine that a child’s medical impairment (SSA’s term for a diagnosis) is “medically determinable” if there are medical/mental health records to support the diagnosis/impairment.
If SSA determines the child has a medically determinable impairment the claim will proceed to step 3. If not, the claim will be denied.
This inquiry is first undertaken in relation to the Listings of Impairment.
The Listings of Impairment is a text describing certain criteria for different impairments. You can view the childhood Listings here: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/ChildhoodListings.htm.
At this step in the evaluation SSA determines whether the child’s medical impairment “meets” all the criteria of any Listing. It may also determine that a child does not have an impairment that meets every element of the Listing, but that the child’s impairment nonetheless “equals” a Listing if it is of such a severity as to be equal to the criteria of a listed impairment.
If it is determined that the child’s impairment does not meet or medically equal a Listing, SSA then determines if the impairment results in limitations that “functionally equal” the Listings. In this analysis SSA must determine whether the child’s impairments result in “marked” limitations in two domains of functioning or an “extreme” limitation in one domain. The domains considered include: acquiring and using information, attending and completing tasks, interacting and relating with others, moving about and manipulating objects, caring for oneself, and health and physical well-being.
If the child’s impairment functionally equals the Listings the claim will be approved. If it is determined that the child’s impairment does not functionally equal the Listings then the claim will be denied.
Duration: the child’s disability must last or be expected to last 12 or more months or result in death.
If you believe your child has a medical or mental health impairment that causes marked/severe functional limitation, you may file an application for SSI benefits on their behalf with your local Social Security office. You may file the application by going to your local SSA office, by calling your local SSA office (to find your local SSA office, follow this link: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp), or by applying online at this web address: https://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/.
We encourage claimants to apply on their own. If your child’s claim is denied, we encourage you to contact our office and speak with one of our SSDI/SSI attorneys.