Can My Child Qualify for Disability Benefits with a Growth Impairment?

It’s a stubborn misconception that social security programs are strictly “for the elderly.”  In reality, children and young people actually make up a significant portion of who receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other benefits.  In fact, according to “SSI Monthly Statistics, October 2012,” over 1.3 million disabled children (under age 18) received benefits, representing nearly 2% of all children in the United States.  If your child is disabled due to a growth impairment, he or she could also qualify for monthly benefits. But how does the Social Security Administration evaluate growth impairment claims?

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General Disability Requirements for Children

Before we can talk about how the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates claims for growth impairments, it’s important to go over the more general requirements which apply to all children regardless of which health condition is involved.  (There are some exceptions for very serious or rare medical issues, which can qualify for expedited processing as part of the Compassionate Allowances or CAL Initiative.)

Your child must meet the following criteria:

  1. His or her illness must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months, or to end in death.
  2. His or her illness must be very severe.  Mild and easily manageable conditions will not qualify for benefits.
  3. If he or she is working, monthly earnings should not exceed the FBR (Federal Benefit Rate) for SSI, which is $721 in 2014.
  4. He or she must either be under age 18, or be a student under age 22.  (Once your child reaches age 18, he or she must be evaluated against the medical criteria for adults rather than children.)

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How the SSA Evaluates Growth Impairments

If your child meets the general requirements listed above, he or she will then evaluated based on their specific illness or injury.  This condition-specific evaluation is done to help ensure that the health issue is, in fact, severely disabling and merits financial assistance as a result.

SSA disability examiners lean heavily on the “Blue Book,” or Listing of Impairments, to make their medical assessments.  (That said, even if the Listing’s conditions are not exactly met, it may still be possible for a child to qualify if he or she functionally equals the listings.)  Children have their own Listing separate from adults, with growth impairments found under Section 100.00.

Under Section 100.00, growth impairments are divided into two broad categories:

  1. Those which are “considered to be related to an additional specific medically determinable impairment.”
  2. Those which are “not identified as being related to an additional, specific medically determinable impairment.”

In either case, whether or not the impairment can be connected to another condition, it is possible to qualify for benefits.  But how?  What factors does the SSA consider?

If your child falls into the first category (connected to another impairment), they will need to demonstrate one of the following:

  • “Fall of greater than 15 percentiles in height.”
  • “Fall to, or persistence of, height below the third percentile.”

If your child falls into the second category (not connected to another impairment), they will need to demonstrate both of the following:

  • “Fall of greater than 25 percentiles in height.”
  • “Bone age greater than two standard deviations (2 SD) below the mean for chronological age.”

“Bone age” is precisely what it sounds like: a measure of the maturity of a child’s bones. The SSA disability examiners may look at scans of the left hand and wrist, or, depending on his or her age, imaging of the knee and ankle.   The SSA considers all of the following pieces of evidence to be “medically acceptable imaging”:

  • CAT Scans (Computerized Axial Tomography)
  • MRI Scans (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • X-Rays

Your child’s height should be measured without shoes.  The SSA will want to know the heights of your child’s close relatives, including yourself, the other parent, and any siblings he or she might have.  This is important in order to “identify those children whose short stature represents a familial characteristic rather than a result of disease.”  The child’s length at birth will also be considered, though the SSA will want no fewer than “at least three previous determinations” related to physical size (one of which can be the birth measurement).  The SSA uses the National Center for Health Statistics’ NCHS Growth Charts as a basis.

You can read more about social security benefits for children with disabilities here.

If your claim was denied by the SSA, or if you’d simply like to learn more about how our experienced legal team can help your child, call the law offices of Young, Marr & Associates right away at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania to arrange for a free and confidential legal consultation with a disability lawyer.  You can also contact us online.

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