Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is similar to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in that they’re both disability programs that are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and they both use the same standards to determine if someone meets SSA’s definition of disability.
Although SSI benefits are also available to children with disabilities in low-income households, parents, caregivers and young adults who have been on SSI as children all need to understand what can change when that child comes of age.
Children with disabilities can’t be evaluated by adult standards
Ever since a landmark case in 1990 (Sullivan v. Zebley), SSA has been required to evaluate claims by children differently than claims by adults.
Adult disabilities have to be evaluated based on whether their condition meets or equals something on SSA’s List of Impairments and their capacity to perform substantial gainful activity, while a child’s claim is evaluated based on their ability to function in age-appropriate settings and their development when compared to their peers. That is seen as a relaxed standard that opened the door for more children with special needs to receive benefits.
A mandatory Continuing Disability Review is coming at age 18
If your minor child is receiving Supplemental Security Income and they’re about to turn 18, a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) is inevitable. Unlike any prior CDRs your child has had, however, this one will look at whether or not they qualify for benefits under adult standards of disability.
This makes it very important to make sure that the medical evidence submitted with the CDR is correct and clear. You may want to schedule an appointment for an evaluation shortly before or after your child’s birthday so that there is recent documentation of their condition. Ask your child’s physician to make the appropriate referrals for any additional evaluation your child needs for emotional or intellectual difficulties. That can go a long way toward establishing the fact that they’re still disabled.
Some SSI recipients have their benefits unfairly terminated because SSA says that they no longer qualify as “disabled” under the adult rules. If that happens to you, it’s critically important to promptly exercise your appeal rights and to seek legal guidance accordingly.