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What Happens to Disability Benefits When My Child Turns 18?

Many disability beneficiaries are children and teenagers — about 4.4 million, according to the Social Security Administration.  But what happens when your disabled child reaches age 18?  Does Supplemental Security Income go away, or continue?  Do you need to reapply?  Our disability lawyers explore the SSI rules and regulations that take effect when a beneficiary turns 18.

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Do Disability Benefits Go Away at Age 18?

Age 18 is a milestone in life, opening up all sorts of new responsibilities and opportunities. Many things change when a teenager finally turns 18, and disability benefits are no exception.

By SSA policies, childhood benefits are meant for claimants under the age of 18 — even as young as toddlers and infants.  In other words, when a beneficiary reaches this crucial threshold, childhood SSI comes to an end.  If you need SSI to continue, your child will have to undergo an age-18 redetermination, unless he or she is a full-time elementary school student.

Continuing Benefits for Students

If a childhood disability claimant is a full-time student, benefits continue as normal, rendering an age-18 redetermination unnecessary.  In order to meet this requirement, the claimant must be enrolled full-time at a secondary or elementary school.  If he or she is younger than 19 and is still attending secondary school, the SSA must receive notification in the form of a completed statement of attendance, which must be approved by a school official.  At that point, SSI will continue until the student either graduates or reaches age 19 — whichever happens first.

However, if your child does not fall into this category, then he or she must go through the age-18 redetermination process.

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Age-18 Redetermination

To quote the SSA, “Youth who initially become eligible for Supplemental Security Income under the definition of disability for children must have their eligibility redetermined upon attaining age 18, using the definition of disability for adults.”

There are two major difference between childhood and adult disability determinations:

  • Medical differences.  Developing children and teenagers often do not exhibit or respond to illness the same way as their adult counterparts, hence the need for pediatricians, children’s hospitals, and so forth.  For this reason, the SSA maintains a separate Listing of Impairments for adults (Part A) and children (Part B). While there is some overlap, the specific criteria tend to be significantly different between these two Listings.  Furthermore, the Childhood Listing contains several conditions which are not on the Adult Listing, such as growth impairment.
  • Definition differences.   Obviously, children are not expected to be employed.  For this reason, the SSA’s definition of what constitutes disability for children is different than it is for adults.  Whereas impairment in adults means the claimant cannot work, impairment in children means the claimant has “marked and severe functional limitations.”  Under § 416.926a, “functional limitations” are divided into six categories:  learning and thinking, task completion, social interaction, self-care, moving around and manipulating objects, and overall health and well-being.

The process is generally broken down into five steps:

  1. Your local social security office, or field office, will send you a notification letter.
  2. You and your child go to the field office for an eligibility interview.
  3. The claimant’s technical and medical information is reviewed by the Bureau of Disability Determination.  The claimant’s future potential to independently earn income is also considered.
  4. In some cases, the claimant may be told to make a doctor’s appointment to ensure that medical information is updated and current.
  5. You will receive a letter informing you of the SSA’s decision.

Section 301 Eligibility

If your claim is denied, you can appeal the decision.  Fortunately, the SSA states, “The majority of redeterminations result in initial continuances,” which means you have a good chance of being approved.

However, if your child is denied, you should know that he or she may be eligible for continuing payments under Section 301.  To be considered eligible for Section 301 benefits, the claimant must meet all of the following criteria:

  • He or she must be participating in either employment services, support services, or VR (Vocational Rehabilitation) services.
  • He or she must have started the program before the month his or her disability ended.
  • He or she must participate in the program for two months.
  • The SSA must determine that completing the program will decrease the likelihood of the claimant returning to disability (or blindness) benefits.

Section 301 payments will continue until the claimant either completes or stops participating in the program, or until the SSA determines that continuing participation is no longer decreasing the likelihood that he or she will return to disability.

If your teenager is about to turn 18 and you’re concerned about continuing SSI, an experienced social security attorney can help.  For a free and confidential case evaluation, call Young, Marr & Associates at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania today. 


Before coming to Young, Marr & Associates, our SSD attorneys worked for the SSA which gives us an advantage over attorneys who have never dealt directly with the internal SSA system. We know the process is difficult – your job is to get better, and our job is to make sure you get the disability you deserve.

Chances are you are preoccupied dealing with a painful illness. You are concerned about your financial future, about how you will get by without a steady source of income.

Read what our clients have to say about us.


“I have already recommended Paul Young numerous times. He was honest, explained endlessly in terms that were understandable. Paul Young guided me through the process from beginning consultation to the end of case. Highly satisfied and grateful for his expertise.”


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