Raising a child who is blind or disabled poses challenges for parents. The Supplemental Security Income program administered by Social Security may help to meet some of them by providing monthly payments to families with limited financial resources and income. It also provides much-needed assistance with health care expenses by making the child eligible for Medicaid.
SSI is a needs-based program, which means that the income and assets of the person for whom benefits are sought must be taken into consideration to determine eligibility. When reviewing an application for a child to get SSI, Social Security looks at the income and assets of the parents in addition to those of the child in determining whether the child qualifies for benefits.
The rationale for deeming, which is the term used to describe a process that considers a parent’s financial resources, is that parents have a legal obligation to contribute to the support of their children. A closer look at the qualifying criteria may help parents to gain a better understanding of deeming that can be helpful when discussing the application process with an SSI advocate at London Disability.
SSI program for children
A child, for purposes of qualifying for SSI, must be under 18 years of age. A blind or disabled child who is under 22 years of age may be eligible if regularly attending school.
One reason for the distinction between children and adults, even though blind or disabled adults may also be eligible for SSI benefits, is that Social Security uses a different method to evaluate adult disability than for disability in children.
For purposes of SSI eligibility, a child must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or have impairments that cause marked and severe functional limitations. Impairments must have lasted or be expected to last for a continuous 12-month period, or they must be expected to cause the child to die.
Blindness in a child is defined by Social Security as distance central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye when using a correcting lens. Another measure of blindness is having visual field limitation in the better eye that at the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle that is no greater than 20 degrees. Unlike the definition of “disabled,” blindness in a child need not have lasted or be expected to last for any specific amount of time.
Income and Resource Limits Apply to SSI Applicants
Social Security limits the value of the resources, which are assets that may be used to buy food or shelter, a person may own and be eligible for SSI. Resources include the following:
(1). Cash on hand.
(2). Bank accounts.
(3). Stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.
(4). Real property.
(5). Life insurance.
(6). Motor vehicles.
(7). Personal property.
Total resources available to an adult or child may not exceed $2,000 or $3,000 for a couple. Real property used as a primary residence and a vehicle for personal use are examples of some of the assets that do not affect eligibility for SSI. A disability advocate at London Disability can review the complete list of exempt resources with you.
Income a person receives during the month is taken into consideration in determining eligibility for SSI. Income includes earnings from a job and money received from Social Security, workers’ compensation, and unemployment programs. It also includes money a person receives from friends or relatives.
The income of a parent may be a factor in determining the eligibility of a child to receive SSI benefits through the process of deeming. Deeming attributes some of the resources and income of a parent as available for support of a child.
How much can a parent make?
The deeming process begins by totaling the monthly gross income of a child’s parents, which may include income from stepparents with whom the disabled or blind child lives. A $397 deduction is made from gross income for each child who is not disabled and resides in the household.
Additional deductions are made from the parent’s gross income under a rather complex formula used by Social Security. After allowable deductions have been made, the remaining parental income is divided in half and a further deduction is made for the SSI benefit rate that applies. The federal benefit rate for 2021 is $794 for a child residing with only one parent. It is $1,191 for a child residing with two parents or a parent and stepparent. The result is the income attributable to the child.
Speak with A Disability Advocate
The disability advocates at London Disability have years of experience assisting people with SSI applications and appeals of adverse decisions. Their knowledge of the Social Security laws and regulations and caring advice and guidance can help your child to get SSI and other benefits.