Children and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Claims
Like with adults who apply for Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration has strict rules for finding a child disabled.
- The child must have a physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limits his or her activities; and
- The condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year or result in death.
The disability evaluation process is similar to that of an adult’s, with a few exceptions.
Disability evaluation process for children
First, Social Security must verify if the child is working. Obviously younger individuals probably are not, but it might be an issue for a teenaged claimant. If the child is not working, Social Security must also check the income and resources of the child’s parents or guardians. Too much household income may disqualify a child from receiving SSI benefits.
Second, it must be determined as to whether a child medically meets or equals one of Social Security’s Medical Listings. These determinations must be met either separately or in combination. You can read about Child Disability Medical Listings here: http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/ChildhoodListings.htm .
Along with the medical records, school records are also very important in a child’s case, as they are essentially the child’s work record. Social Security wants to see how the child performs in school with the disabilities alleged. Not only do schools give grade reports and administer tests that evaluate the child’s functioning and cognitive abilities, but they are also a valuable source of information as far as how a child functions socially.
Social Security looks at incident reports, detentions, and notations of phone calls home that are often included in school records. Even if a child changes schools, the records always follow the child to the new school. However, it is important to remember that items provided to the parent by the school, such as notes home or teacher’s notes on a test on which the child did poorly, are not always included in the school records. It is then the parent’s responsibility to provide these documents.
Third, if the child’s condition does not meet or medically equal a listed impairment, Social Security must determine whether the child has at least two marked or one extreme limitation among the six functional domains in order to consider the child disabled under their rules. “Marked” refers to a limitation that may arise when several activities or functions are impaired. Or even if one is impaired, as long as the degree of limitation is such as to interfere severely with the ability to function independently, appropriately, and effectively on a sustained basis. “Extreme” refers to the worst limitations and means that the impairment interferes very seriously with the child’s ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.
Functional equivalence for children
The domains Social Security uses are: acquiring and using information, attending and completing tasks, interacting and relating with others, moving about and manipulating objects, caring for self and health and physical well-being. Please visit: http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/416/416-0926a.htm for more details regarding these domains.
Proving disability in a child can be a daunting task. It is possible to prove as long as parents and representatives are diligent. By making sure Social Security has all of the pertinent information regarding the child and his or her disability, they can see the “whole picture” and make a decision accordingly.