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Social Security Benefits – Applying for Your Child

How a Child May Qualify for Social Security Benefits with Autism

If you have a child with autism and his or her medical condition causes extreme limitations, then he or she may be eligible to receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA has two disability programs. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is one program, and because it is needs-based and doesn't require a work history, children can be approved for benefits. Medical requirements and medical criteria must both be met for a child to qualify.

If your child has autism, and his or her condition meets the criteria of the Blue book listing for autism so they qualify as disabled per the SSA guidelines, they could start receiving monthly benefits if the financial criteria are also met. Children with autism require additional medical care, may have unique educational needs, and may require extensive therapy. All these additional costs could significantly affect your family's financial situation. SSI benefits could help you with those added costs.

How to Medically Qualify for SSI Benefits

There are different medical criteria for children younger than age 18 than there are for adults. The SSA uses a medical guide, which is referred to as the Blue Book, to determine whether someone is disabled. There are separate children's listings. To meet the criteria in the Blue Book, the child must have both social behavior and communication delays for their comparable age group. The listing for autism in children is found in Section 112.10 of the Blue Book.

To be approved for disability benefits based on autism, the child must display the following:

  • A symptom of impaired social interaction, which shows the difficulty of or inability to connect with other people in either verbal or non-verbal ways. This might be the inability to properly respond to others' emotions or the inability to imitate others.
  • A symptom of a communication impairment, such as difficulty responding to speech or difficulty producing normal speech.
  • Display at least one symptom of repetitive and/or restrictive behaviors. This might include preoccupation with a single activity, rearranging objects repeatedly, or the need for a well-structured, unchanging environment to properly function.

In addition to the autism symptoms, the child must exhibit restrictions or symptoms that apply to his or her age. As an example, toddlers ages 1 to 3 shouldn't exhibit more than half the appropriate functioning for their age in two of the three areas below, and no more than two-thirds of the appropriate functioning level in all three of these areas:

  • Cognitive or Communicative functions
  • Gross or fine motor development
  • Social function

Claimants ages 3 to 18 must have a restriction that is age appropriate in two of these four areas:

  • Social functioning
  • Personal functioning
  • Cognitive or communicative functioning
  • Maintaining persistence, concentration, or pace

Meeting the Financial Criteria

A process called deeming is used for minor children. The SSA will assume that a portion of the parents' income and assets would be available for use by the child. If the medical criteria are met, the child must still fall within the financial requirements and have a low income with limited resources.

Next Steps to Take

In order to apply for SSI benefits on behalf of a child with autism, you will need to do so at your local SSA office. You are unable to apply for SSI benefits online. Your child does not need to be there in person when you apply on their behalf. It will usually take between 3 and 5 months to hear back from the SSA regarding tour child's claim and you have the option to appeal the decision if your child is denied SSI benefits. If you have any further questions regarding the criteria or application process, you can call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213 to speak with a SSA representative.

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Article submitted by Eric Minghella, guest writer,

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I, [name], of [city, state ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to SARRC [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose." 

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to SARRC or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to SARRC as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to SARRC as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and SARRC where you agree to make a gift to SARRC and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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