disabled child learning sign language

When Are Children Eligible for SSI Benefits?

A child can be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in Michigan when he or she meets the disabling medical condition as well as the relevant financial tests of the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, the SSA has strict rules about income and assets, which means many applicants get denied on their initial request for SSI benefits even if they do have a qualifying medical condition(s). If you are applying for SSI benefits for your child, a Michigan SSI benefits attorney can help you go after the benefits your child deserves.

SSI Requirements About Disability

Your child must have a medical condition or multiple conditions that combine to meet the SSA’s definition of disability for children. This definition has three components:

  1. Earnings. For SSI purposes, the SSA measures a person’s disability not by medical severity, but by how much money the individual makes. In the cases involving children, however, the individual whose income is counted would be the child’s parents or guardians. No matter how severe the child’s medical condition, if the parents earn more than the threshold (which for 2021 is around $1,310 a month gross income, or $2,190 a month if legally blind), the SSA will say that the child is not disabled and not eligible for SSI benefits. While these are the income limits for 2021, however, the numbers can change every year.
  2. Functional limitations. If your child has learned ways to function like other children of similar age despite their medical condition, they may not qualify for SSI based on their medical condition not being considered “severe” enough. The SSA takes a strict approach when evaluating a child’s functional limitations. The medical conditions must cause the child to have significant functional limitations that severely restrict the child’s activities.
  3. Length of the impairment. A child cannot get SSI benefits for a short-term medical condition. The child’s disability must have existed for at least 12 months, or the doctors expect the condition to last at least 12 months or be fatal.

Your child must meet all three of these elements for the SSA to consider the child as disabled for the purposes of receiving SSI benefits.

Additional Financial Requirements for SSI Benefits

The SSA will not pay SSI benefits if the parents’ income or resources exceed the limit. The SSA also explores the income and assets of everyone who lives in the same household as the child, and could deny the application based on the income or assets of those household members. If the child does not live at home, the income and resources rules can still apply to the household if the child comes home periodically and you exercise control over the child. 

While SSA does not treat every resource or asset as income, the parents’ countable income may still reduce the amount of the SSI benefit or preclude eligibility altogether. Earnings from work, money from friends and relatives, free food and shelter, and some other benefits programs can count as income for SSI eligibility.

The current resource limits are $2,000 for a child or adult individual and $3,000 total for a couple, but this could change with time. The SSA does not count all assets toward these limits. However, cash, bank accounts, investments, and many other things can also count toward the resource limit.

Exceptions to the Rules – Immediate Payments

It typically takes several months for Michigan’s agency that evaluates applications for SSI benefits to determine whether a child applicant qualifies for SSI payments. If your child has one of these conditions, however, the agency might start distributing benefits right away while they process the application:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Extremely low birth weight – less than 2 pounds, 10 ounces
  • Complete blindness
  • Complete deafness
  • Severe intellectual impairment in children over the age of 3
  • Symptomatic HIV infection

This is not an all-inclusive list, and any condition could potentially qualify a child for SSI. A Michigan SSI benefits attorney can let you know if your child’s condition qualifies for SSI, and possibly even immediate payments. A Michigan disability attorney can help you navigate the SSI application and appeal process from the start. Contact us today