Saturday, November 15, 2014

Children with disabilities and Social Security: How do you qualify?

Q: Does the federal government provide benefits to children with disabilities?
A: Yes. The parents or legal guardians of the child must apply to Social Security in order to get these benefits.

Below age 18, the child qualifies -- or doesn't qualify -- based on the income level of the parents. If the income level is below a designated limit, the disability of the child is then looked at to be sure that the child is disabled.

Depending on the income level of the parents involved, and the level of disability of the child, a child may begin receiving a benefit before the qualification process is complete. (In other words, the benefit gets paid during the process, and even if the child is ultimately not qualified, that benefit will not need to be paid back).

After age 18, the child can qualify based on his own income levels (so the parent's income level is no longer looked at). 

Q: How do I start the process? 
A: Go to  the Social Security website to read their brochures on disability benefits for children. Also see this page, which describes the process in better detail. It's best if, after reading the information, you call the SSA to schedule an appointment. This reduces the time you will need to wait in line at the SSA offices. Bring any needed documentation with you to the scheduled interview.

At the interview, the parents' income levels will be checked, and a brief series of questions will be asked. At that point, the SSA interviewer will determine if more needs to be done to qualify the child or not. The SSA will eventually send a letter to the parents to tell them the result of the interview, although the parents will likely also be told at the interview whether the child qualifies. 

Q: Are there other state-specific benefits that may be available? A: Yes. In Michigan, the state provides a benefit - the Family Support Subsidy -- to families with children who have a qualifying disability, are enrolled in a Michigan school district, and whose income is below a certain level. The child must re-qualify for the benefit each year. This is administered through a local agency, such as DA Blodgett.

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