Social Security Benefits for Children

Your child under age 18 can qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if he or she meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability for children, and if his or her income and resources fall within the eligibility limits. To qualify for SSI, the child must meet all of the following three requirements:

  • The child must not be working and earning more than $980 a month (for 2009). Please note that this earnings amount changes every year.
  • The child must have a physical or mental condition, or a combination of conditions, that limit your child’s activities.
  • The child’s condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 12 months; or must be expected to result in death.

Some of the qualifying conditions include:

  • HIV infection
  • Total blindness
  • Total deafness
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Severe mental retardation (child age 7 or older)
  • Birth weight below two pounds, 10 ounces

When a disabled child turns 18:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits: Different medical and nonmedical rules are used to determine whether an adult qualifies for SSI disability benefits. For example, the income and resources of family members are not included when deciding whether an adult meets the financial limits for SSI.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits: For adults who have a disability that began before they became 22 years old, the SSDI program pays benefits based on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. For a disabled adult to become entitled to this “child” benefit, one of his or her parents must be receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits; or must have died and have worked long enough under Social Security. Your child does not need to have worked to get these benefits, and SSDI disabled adult “child” benefits continue as long as the individual remains disabled.