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Art By: Janet Schuldt


Transitions Planning

What is Supplemental Security Income?

Any child, even those younger than age 18, can qualify for SSI if he or she meets Social Security's definition of a child with a disability, and if the family's income and resources fall within the eligibility limits. SSI makes monthly payments to people with low income and limited resources who are 65 or older, or blind or disabled.

Why do I need SSI?

In order to qualify for SSI, you must suffer from a permanent condition that prevents you from working. In other words, your disability must have lasted, or be expected to last, a minimum of twelve months and you must be unable to earn an income greater than $1000 per month, which is defined by SSI as Substantial Gainful Activity.

How Do I Get SSI?

Your child must meet all of the following requirements to be considered disabled and therefore eligible for SSI:

  • The child must not be working and earning more than $1,000 a month in 2010. (This earnings amount changes every year.) If he or she is working and earning that much money, they will find that your child is not disabled.
  • The child must also have LESS THAN $2,000 in assets.
  • The child must have a physical or mental condition, or a combination of conditions, which results in "marked and severe functional limitations." (See the criteria in the SSI Toolbox for details.) This means that the condition(s) must very seriously limit your child's activities.
  • The child's condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 12 months; or must be expected to result in death.

If your child's condition(s) results in "marked and severe functional limitations" for at least 12 continuous months, your child will be found to be disabled. But if it does not result in those limitations, or does not last for at least 12 months, your child is found not to be disabled.

For disability purposes in the SSI program, a child becomes an adult at age 18, and SSI uses different medical and nonmedical rules when deciding if an adult can get SSI disability payments. For example, SSI does not count the income and resources of family members when deciding whether an adult/child meets the financial limits for SSI. They count only the adult's or child's income and resources. SSI also uses the disability rules for adults when deciding whether an adult is disabled.

  • If your child is already receiving SSI payments, they must review the child's medical condition when he or she turns age 18. They usually do this review during the one- 3 year period that begins on your child's 18th birthday. They will use the adult disability rules to decide whether your 18-year-old is disabled.
  • If your child was not eligible for SSI before his or her 18th birthday because you and your spouse had too much income or resources, he or she may become eligible for SSI at age 18.

SSI Toolbox

Helpful Hints

  1. Working with a financial planner or establishing a Special Needs Trust for a child can play an important role in adhering to the strict income requirements of SSI.
  2. Maintaining good documentation, like current IEP's, recent physicals exam and updated psychological testing will be helpful in documenting a child's disability.
  3. Arc of Westchester's Navigation Department can help guide you in the SSI requirements.

Need More Help?

Arc of Westchester's Navigation Team is here for you. For more information on how Arc of Westchester can work with you on these many Transitions Issues, contact Carol Gearing of the Arc of Westchester at (914) 495-4620 or by email at [email protected].