How to Apply for Disability Benefits for a Child in Pennsylvania

Children typically cannot qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) based on their own income – if they have any. However, they may qualify for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provided that any income or resources they have are less than those limits determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA). While potential sources of disability benefits are dependent on your personal circumstances, they can include Social Security, Medicaid, and state-based Children’s Health Insurance Program like Pennsylvania CHIP. Our Pennsylvania long term disability lawyer are ready to assist you with that.

The Social Security Administration offers monthly disability benefits called SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, to qualified people who cannot work because of a serious health problem.  But did you know that if your child is disabled, he or she could also qualify?

Wherever you are in the process of applying, our Pennsylvania social security attorneys can help.  To set up a free and confidential case evaluation, call Young, Marr & Associates at (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania today.
child disability benefits lawyer

What is Supplemental Security Income?

Both SSI and SSDI (Social Security Disability insurance) are SSA programs meant to assist disabled individuals who struggle with employment.  But while SSDI is geared toward those who have already built up work credits through past employment, SSI is geared toward people with a greater degree of financial need.
Many people have a misconception that social security benefits are meant exclusively for seniors. On the contrary, millions of disabled teenagers, children, and even toddlers and infants are eligible for SSI benefits.  These benefits can help cover many different expenses, such as bills, groceries, and medical costs.

What Are the SSA’s Disability Eligibility Requirements in Pennsylvania and New Jersey?

Before you file for SSI, it’s worth making sure your child meets the basic eligibility criteria. To qualify, your child should:

  • Have a severe disability.  To determine whether a disability is severe, the SSA refers to a document called the “Blue Book” or Listing of Impairments, which describes severity-measuring standards for a wide range of medical conditions.  If your child can match or equal the listing for their condition, he or she could be a good candidate for benefits.  Even if your child’s condition is not on the listing, don’t panic: he or she may still be able to qualify.  An attorney can help you explore your family’s options.
  • Have a long-term condition.  This means the condition has either already lasted for at least one year, or is expected to last for at least one year.
  • Not be earning too much money.  If you have a teenager who is working, he or she should not be earning more than the 2015 SSI income limit of $733 per month. However, not all income is counted toward this limit, so it’s possible to be earning more than $733 per month and still be eligible.

Essentially, the SSA is trying to determine the extent to which the claimant’s SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity) is limited.  In adults, the main measure of SGA is performing work.  But since most minors are too young to work, child SGA instead looks at physical and mental functions like picking up objects, learning information, completing tasks, self-care abilities, and other basic daily activities.

What is the Process the Social Security Administration Utilizes for Children?

Unlike the 5-step process the SSA utilizes for adults, the Social Security Administration utilizes a 3-step process for children. The process is reduced to a three step process because children typically do not have a work history. Without a work history Step 4, which is concerned about whether the person can do past work, and Step 5, which is concerned with if the person can do any work, fall away. The 3-step process for children is often extremely focused on the third step of the process and particularly so on each of the six domains.

The current 3-step process for childhood disability as applied by the SSA consists of:

  1. Are you financially eligible? – Financial eligibility for children can be particularly complex. If the child is engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA) they are likely to be deemed ineligible. If the child passes the financial examination by the field office they are referred to the state Disability Determination Service.
  2. Is the impairment severe? – It is then determined if the condition is severe meaning that it causes significant limitation to the things you are able to do. Additionally the condition must meet the duration requirements. That is, the condition must be expected to last or has lasted for at least 12 months or the condition is expected to result in the death of the child.
  3. Is the impairment a listed condition or causing impairment at home, school, or in the community? — If the child has a condition that is listed or medically equivalent to a listed condition, the SSA considers them disabled. However, a child with one or more severe impairments that do not equal the medical listings can still qualify. The SSA will determine the things that the child is able to do. It then determines the extent of limitations in each of six domains: attending and completing tasks, acquiring and using information, moving about and manipulating items, maintaining health and physical well-being, and caring for himself or herself.

How to File for Disability Benefits for Your Child

If you think your child meets the requirements above, it’s time to start the application process.

Since you’ll be applying for somebody younger than 18 years old, you’ll need to authorize sharing the child’s information with the SSA by completing something called a Child Disability Report. You can complete and submit the Child Disability Report online through the SSA’s website.

If you need assistance, you call the SSA’s helpline at (215) 701-6519 for live assistance Monday through Friday between the hours of 7:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M.  If you have difficulty hearing, call (800) 325-0778 instead.  Finally, you also have the option to complete the Child Disability Report in person at your nearest local SSA field office.

Whichever method you choose, you must submit the Child Disability Report before you can actually file for SSI.  The Report is not complete until you sign a form granting your child’s physician permission to share medical information with the SSA.  The SSA cannot evaluate your child’s claim without this special permission.

Unlike SSDI, you cannot currently apply for SSI online.  In order to file an SSI claim on your child’s behalf, you must contact the SSA to set up an appointment.  You can contact the SSA in three ways:

  • Call the phone numbers listed above.
  • Visit your local SSA office in person by using this field office locator.
  • Email the SSA.
  • Send the SSA a letter at the following address:

Social Security Administration
Office of Public Inquiries
1100 West High Rise
6401 Security Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21235

Our Pennsylvania Disability Attorneys Can Help Your Child Get Benefits

The disability lawyers of Young, Marr & Associates have more than two decades of experience getting SSI for children and representing denied parents in the appeals process.  To set up a completely free and confidential case evaluation, call our law offices at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania today.

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