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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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