SSI Benefits For Minors—And What Happens When They Turn 18

Disabled children up to age 18 may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits from Social Security if they meet certain disability and financial requirements. Once they turn 18, children receiving SSI are subject to a redetermination of disability according to adult standards. Because Social Security defines “disabled” differently for children and adults, the redetermination period can result in someone who received SSI benefits as a child being denied benefits as an adult.

When Social Security denies an SSI claim, it isn’t necessarily the end of the road. Claims can be appealed at multiple levels, and often, persistence is the key to finally obtaining approval. Graham & Graham’s SSI attorneys can help you with the appeals process.

Social Security’s Child Disability Program

Individuals under the age of 18 who are blind or disabled, and who also have little or no income or resources, may receive SSI benefits. Both the disability criteria and the income/resources criteria are subject to strict definitions.

To be considered disabled, a child must be:

  • Blind; or
  • Have a physical or mental impairment that seriously limits their activities and has lasted (or is expected to last) at least 1 year (or result in death)

In addition, if the child lives at home with his or her parents or stepparents, Social Security looks at the parents’ income and resources to determine if the child meets financial requirements. Only when both the disability and the income/resource requirements are met does a child qualify for SSI.

When a Disabled Child Receiving SSI Benefits Turns 18

SSI benefit criteria for children and adults differ. For a child, a disability is defined as physical or mental impairment that “results in marked and severe functional limitations.” For an adult, the disability must result in “the inability to do any substantial or gainful activity.” Social Security generally defines “substantial gainful activity” as work activity that results in average earnings of $1,350 per month (in 2022). Among the factors considered are whether an applicant:

  • Is working
  • Can do the work they used to do
  • Can do any type of work
  • Has a severe impairment
  • Has an impairment that is equivalent to one on Social Security’s Listing of Impairments
  • Has limited income (including money from work and other sources, such as government benefits and money received from friends or relatives) and limited resources (e.g., cash, bank account funds, stocks, personal property, insurance, and other assets that can be converted to cash)

It typically takes about 3 – 4 months from the date of application for Social Security to decide whether a disabled adult can receive SSI, although some cases qualify for an expedited decision. The agency looks at medical evidence provided with the claim and may also order a medical examination

Denied SSI Claim? What To Do Next

Most initial Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income claims are denied. In fact, around 70% of disability claims are denied overall, with around 75 – 80% being denied at the initial claims level.

A denied claim doesn’t mean you should give up. Social Security appeals go through four levels. Approval is also unlikely at the first appeal level, but if you make it before a judge, your chances of approval go way up. Administrative law judges in Ohio approve about 45% of the SSD and SSI cases they hear.

Unfortunately, getting to that point can take around a year, so it is critical that you move through the appeals process as quickly as possible. There are different ways Graham & Graham attorneys can help you avoid waiting a year or more to get a final decision, such as obtaining a “critical” designation and requesting an on-the-record decision or attorney advisor opinion prior to a disability hearing.

Because appeals at all levels are subject to strict filing deadlines, you should get in touch with our SSI attorneys right away if your claim was denied. To make an appointment, contact Joshua Graham: jrg@grahamlpa.com / 740-454-8585.

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