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Obtaining SSI benefits for disabled children

Many disabled adults in Georgia receive financial assistance under the Social Security Disability Insurance benefits program. Many Georgians wonder whether similar benefits are available for children who are disabled from birth or at a very young age. The technical answer is "no" because SSDI benefits are not paid to children. Nevertheless, children can receive benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program which, for all practical purposes, is the same as SSDI benefits.

The following rules define disability for children. The child, if not blind, must be younger than 18 and either not working or not earning more than $1,220 per month in 2019. The income limit is raised to $2,040 for blind children. The child must suffer from a medical condition or combination of conditions that cause "marked and severe functional limitations." The condition must seriously restrict the child's activities. Moreover, the disabling condition must be expected to last more than 12 months or to result in the child's death.

A decision on an SSI application for a child may take as long as five months for a final decision. Some conditions may qualify for an accelerated decision. Included in this list are total blindness, total deafness, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, severe intellectual disability (for children four or older), symptomatic HIV infection or an initial birth weight of less than 2 lbs. 10 oz. If SSI benefits are granted, the SSA will review the child's condition every three years.

Some disabled children receive SSDI benefits if one parent is receiving retirement benefits or is deceased. When the child turns 18, they will be evaluated according to the rules that govern SSDI benefits for adults. Anyone with questions about receiving disability benefits for children may wish to consult a lawyer who is knowledgeable about special needs planning and the various federal programs administered by the SSA.

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