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Can Children Collect Social Security Disability Benefits?

Families with children who become disabled prior to age 18 with severe mental and physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, autism, or mental retardation, may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) and/or Social Security Income Benefits (SSI) on behalf of that child. To qualify for disability benefits, your child’s disability must be so severe that he or she suffers “marked and severe” functional limitations.

SSDI Benefits

A child over the age of 18 who becomes disabled is evaluated under the same standards as an adult; that is, in addition to severity, his or her disability must last or be expected to last at least 12 months or must be expected to result in the child's death and the child cannot be able to do any substantial work.

You may know that if you retire, become disabled, or die, all of your children who are under age 18 are eligible for Social Security benefits until they reach age 18. However, it is also true that if one of your children became disabled before the age of 22, he or she would continue to qualify for SSDI benefits as long as he or she was unable to work. A disabled adult who became disabled prior to age 22 receives a “child’s” benefit because these benefits are paid based on his or her parents’ earning record.

For your disabled child to be eligible for SSDI benefits, your child must meet the test for disability with regard to his or her condition. Your child’s condition will be evaluated in the same manner that an adult’s disability is evaluated. Additionally, either you or your spouse must be receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, or your spouse must have died and have worked long enough under Social Security to qualify for benefits. If your adult child satisfies these requirements, he or she does not need to have worked to be eligible for SSDI benefits.

SSI Benefits

SSI benefits are based on need rather than your work record. If you have a disabled child and your resources and income are limited, you may apply for assistance under SSI as well. Once approved, SSI payments will continue as long as your child is disabled and has limited means. It is possible to receive aid from both SSDI and from SSI. However, your SSI benefit, being based on need, decreases depending on the amount of your other benefits.

In order to obtain SSI benefits for a disabled child, the Social Security Administration (SSA) asks you to complete both an Application for Supplemental Security Income and a Child Disability Report. Although you can complete the Child Disability Report online, the SSA requires that you schedule an appointment to complete the SSI application. It is a good idea to contact the SSA to find out whether you and your family meet the income and resources test to receive SSI benefits. If you qualify, then further information regarding your application and a worksheet that details the type of information that will be requested by the SSA can be found in the “Child Disability Starter Kit” available from the SSA.


my son is on my social security because of disability from birth . how will his benefit be affected when both parents decease?

I was told by the nurse at the hospital that my son would qualify for SSI or SSDI due to his premature age and birth weight and the fact that he will be well below the learning levels of children his age. he was born at 31 weeks and weighed 2 pounds 13 oz 15 1/2 inches long. he has been evaluated by his pediatrician and he states he is developing slowly, motor skills, eyes, etc can you tell me if this is true about him qualifying due to his premature birth and his weight? thank you

My daughter failed her newborn hearing screening and I had to have her evaluated by an audiologist who found that she has moderate hearing loss in both ears. He goes to Arnold Palmer and Nemours Hospital for check ups and she also has a speech therapist that comes to our home once a week. Upon being evaluated by CMS (Children's Medical Services), I was told that I need to file for SSI for her. She will be nine months April 29. I wanted to know if she qualifies for SSI before I try to apply. She was not premature (6lbs 5), but her pediatrician says that she is quite small for her age at 9 months. She will be getting both of her hearing aids in 10 days. Does she qualify?

Hello Naldiene, Thank you for your comment. It seems that your daughter would have to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To see whether she meets the income and physical restrictions, it is best to contact a Social Security lawyer or disability advocate.

i just found out my son has mild autism. he was born at 32 wekks. is he eligible for any benefits?

Although the SSA has very strict criteria for determining whether an individual qualifies for disability benefits through there programs, there is a chance that your son might be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

I would encourage you to visit our SSI information page for more information on applying for benefits through this program.



yes if your son has mild autism he is eligable. but it also depends what state your in..... in california i receive ssi for my 6 yr old son with mild autism and i have to report my work earnings to them on a monthly basis. also i cannot exceed $1,473.00 in gross per month other wise i will end up owing social security money back for "over payment". its a good thing to have it cause when you have a child with autism you really cant work full time so this income helps so that you can take your son to his medical appointments. Good luck friend.


I am a 22 yr old single mother/student of a 3 1/2 year old and I dont kno where to start.. professional or experienced advice is needed. I am seeing alot of comments about premature children able to get SSI, Although, My daughter born at 28 weeks 2lbs 12oz who had a heart murmur, was sent home on a heart monitor due to a high level of bradycardias for 9 months after coming home (in total 11 months), she was also in need of a nebulizer due to asthma, and she had a slight problem with her retna growth, was still denied once I applied. this discouraged me and I never sought to reapply. now my daughter will be four years in january and is still in need of a nebulizer anywhere from one to four times a day and is high risk for pneumonia, bronchitis, etc. and her heart murmur is still present. also my daughter is slightly cross eyed. she was prescribed glasses, and now the optomitrist wants to perform eye surgury within the next two months. did and does she qualify? and if so how do you suggest I go about applying? would you recommend a lawyer? and also, her father recieved SSI for his disability and before he put her on his "claim" he past away in march 2011 due to luekimia. Is she intitled to a check on his behalf? and if so, how do I handle that situation? all your advice would be more than helpful. thank you for your time, Aunica

You should have filed an appeal because they tend to deny alot of disabled people the first time go around. Yes he or she should be eligible for both ssi and ssdi

My 9 yo daughter is receivng SSI due to her diabililty..i am divorced from her father and we share custody. My questions. Since she stay majority of her time with him he applied SSI for her now I was told that is a good possible chance that my daughter is collecting SSI under my SSA benefits without my knowledge. Is that true, can they touch my SSA without my knowledge and would that decrease my benefits when i retire like in 20 years?

Hi Jackie, the SSI program does not offer any auxiliary benefits-- meaning your daughter can't be earning SSI under your record. She can only be earning it on her own record. If she has already qualified, the SSA will have evaluated your income and her father's income to determine if she falls within the income limits.

My child was diagnosed with optic nevre hyplasia at the age of four but has never been able to see out of his right eye is he eligible for social security

Hi Melissa,

If your son is disabled he may qualify for SSI benefits. If you think he could qualify, I would recommend filling our our Free Disability Evaluation to get in touch with an attorney to help you with your case.

My son was born at 36 weeks because he was failure to thrive and had fluid on the kidney and was told he was gonna be a dwarfism child well now my son is 15 months old and he has still doing a lot of testing because he's still failure to thrive he only weights 11 pounds and has been in and out of genetics well they then told me he had the Russell silver syndrome but then the test came back and it wasn't that we know he's a dwarfism baby but what kind we still don't know and now my baby has a special education teacher that comes to work with him he was assets and fail in alot of area's my baby can not walk or talk and he act like a little new baby he is now getting ready for his feeding tube on November 14 2014 do he qualify

I want to know if my son could recieve ssdi.. at his 18 month check up his doctor expressed some concern about his development and his speech.. he was refered to a cented that specialize in autistic children and he was evaluated and they diagnosed him slightly autistic.. he had speech and developmental therapy twice a week but once he met their "goal" they stopped his therapy.. but right after his 2nd birthday the daycare he attends had a therapist come visit and they contacted me and said my son was below the range of his age group and we should consider therapy once again.. so now he is back attending therapy twice a week.. will he qualify??

Hi Meka,

I am sorry to hear about your son's hardship. Autism can be a qualifying disability for children who need SSI benefits. If you think your son needs the benefits and wish to speak with an attorney, I'd recommend filling out our Free Disability Evaluation.

My daughter is 20 years old and has been total disabled since birth. She gets SSI but not SSDI is that something she should be receiving. If so what other programs might she qualify for.

Hi Robyn, If your daughter has been disabled since birth and has never worked, she will only qualify for SSI. SSDI is only for those who've earned work credits throughout their lives, while SSI is for those who haven't worked but are in need. I hope that helps.

You can apply for SSDI for "adult disabled child", but I think she could only get it if parent is receiving social security retirement or social security disability or is deceased. She also maybe able to get Medicare at age 20 if she has been on social security for at least two years. Please see www or call 1 (800) 772-1213

Hi Dianne,
That is true, she may qualify as an adult child if one of her parents becomes disabled. These benefits will only become effective after the child turns 18, because any dependent minor child receives a portion of his or her parent's disability payment.

I have heard that a infant or child who is hospitalized for an extended period of time such as a baby with a severe immune condition can be eligible for SSI. Is that because the parent's income isn't counted because they are living out of the home (in the hospital for over 45 days now)? Could my friend's baby get SSI coverage (which would allow her to have Medicaid coverage to pay huge hospital costs not covered by private insurance)?

Hi Nancy, If your friend's child qualifies for SSI and your friend's income is low enough (it can be much higher for a disabled child to qualify than a disabled adult), then the infant can both get SSI coverage and qualify for Medicaid. In many states, the SSI application is considered a Medicaid application. You should tell your friend to contact her local SSA office to discuss her options and whether or not her state will qualify the baby for Medicaid.

Sorry just one more point of question. As I understand it thier income it a bit too high for SSI but the baby's condition qualifies medically. The social worker told them that because the baby had never been home (been in the hospital since birth) that their income would not be counted and there for would get on SSI and then be eligible for Medicaid which they need since insurance isn't covering very well. Does that sound right? Is that something SSI does for children who are in the hospital for long periods of time - to no longer consider the parent's income?

Hi Nancy, I have actually never heard of that before. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me--if someone who is 40 years old and is very sick and has to spend months in the hospital, the SSA would still look at his family's income before approving him for SSI, right? If he had a wife who was a doctor, he would not be approved, even if he was not spending a lot of time at home. There may be an exception with infants that I do not know about. Her best bet would be to go to her local SSA office. Sorry I cannot be more help Nancy!

My daughter is now 20 she has the size of a seven year olds kindeys and randomly passes out and has some sort of seizure after she passes out would she be eligible for anything

I have a 7 month old boy who was born with one kidney. I am having to take off work to take him to his appointments. I was just wondering if there is a way that he would be able to benifits.

Hi Tanya, I'm so sorry to hear about your son's illness. I know it must be very hard for you to continue to take off time from work, but the SSA will evaluate him on how the kidney affects his ability to function in everyday life, not necessarily how often he needs to have doctors' appointments. I would call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to see if you can schedule an appointment to potentially receive disability benefits on his behalf.