Children's Disability Benefits
Does Your Child Qualify?
Parents and caregivers of minor children who have been medically proven to be permanently disabled or to have a disability that will last for longer than year are encouraged to contact Harris & Riviere as soon as possible. Our firm can use our extensive experience and knowledge of the Social Security system to help determine your child's eligibility to receive disability payments. If your child is younger than 18 and meets all federal and state qualifications for Social Security, benefits may be available to him or her.
You will also need to follow specific rules and regulations to establish your child's eligibility for Social Security disability benefits, including:
- Your child must not be working.
- Your child must have a condition that is significantly disabling.
- The child's physical or mental condition must be medically determined to have been disabling or be expected to be disabling for at least a year or must be expected to result in death.
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First, understand benefits for children under the age of 18 are called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. These are essentially welfare benefits, so Social Security will consider the parent(s) income and assets in determining eligibility. Parent’s income is imputed, or “deemed” to their children. So if parent(s) earn too much money, have significant assets, receive large support payments for the child, or the child receives payments from Social Security on the earning record of a deceased, disabled or retired parent, the child may not qualify for benefits under the SSI program, regardless of medical condition.
Also, be aware that the program was originally intended to help only the parents of seriously ill children. Children who were so ill, their parents ability to work outside the home was impacted by the child’s health condition. It has since expanded to cover less severe conditions, and therefore has been exploited by a few parents who end up reliant on their children’s SSI benefits to pay household expenses.
The Administration looks for deliberate abuse very closely now, and has cracked down on how lump sum awards can be spent. It is now not only more difficult to obtain SSI benefits from a procedural standpoint, the Administration is reviewing and suspending benefits for children whose condition is believed to have improved over time.
Regardless of whether you are filing for the first time, or benefits have been suspended, here is what we look for in an SSI claim. First and foremost is a medical condition that seriously interferes with the child’s development. In adults, Social Security evaluates how an individual’s medical condition impacts their ability to work. Since children typically don’t have jobs, children are evaluated peer to peer. The issue will be whether the child is progressing normally for his or her age group.
If the condition is severely debilitating, the child may be of “listing level severity.” Conditions which may be of listing level severity are outlined in what is known as the Blue Book. You can click on the link to review the listings here. Social Security will also look to see if the condition has or is expected to last for 12 months or more, as that is a requirement for receipt of SSI.
More often than not, we are not dealing with listing level severity, in which case we look at your child’s progress in 6 “Domains of Function.” These domains are broad areas of function, like “Acquiring and Using Information” and “Attending and Completing Tasks” which measures academic and independent functioning in a child. You can read about these 6 domains here.
It is critical that parents understand these domains. Social Security requires a child be markedly impaired in two domains or extremely impaired in one domain to be considered disabled. In order to assess your child’s progress in each domain, we look at 3 basic sources of information. Medical records, school records and input from family and friends.
In many cases, parents are compelled to apply or SSI because their child is struggling academically. Sometimes there is a medical reason for the poor school performance, like ADHD. Occasionally, we will get a call from a parent whose child is performing poorly with no apparent medical problem.
In the case of academic problems, we look for a 504 plan or Individual Education Plan (IEP) to see if additional efforts are being made to bring the child up to grade level. We look at standardized testing, disciplinary records and attendance records to help explain performance. If your child is performing well below state standards, that may be enough to qualify the child for disability without a specific medical problem. But in those cases, we absolutely require documentation from the school or testing facility. Social security will make effort’s to contact your child’s teacher for input about academic and behavioral issues. Those records will be in your child’s file without you ever having seen the record.
Be aware Social Security does not award benefits just because a child has a medical condition like ADHD or asthma. The condition must have a severe impact on the child’s functioning, such that he or she is markedly falling behind their peers. In instances where medication is available to help the problem, like with ADHD or asthma, the problem must continue to be severe even with the use of medication. If your child’s condition is greatly improved with medication, SSI may not be available.
If you have questions about your child’s eligibility for SSI give our office a call to discuss your situation. Each claim is unique and the earlier we can offer advice, the better the outcome.
At our firm, we stand ready to assist families in overcoming this challenging time in their lives. We know that the legal system can be daunting. When you retain the guidance of our firm, we will thoroughly review your situation, determine whether your child is eligible to obtain benefits, and provide you with information on how to qualify.
If necessary, we can help appeal a wrongful denial and diligently pursue justice on behalf of your child. Learn how Harris & Riviere can help you.
Call us at (813) 669-2080 and schedule a free case evaluation now.
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