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Tips on Applying for Disability Benefits for a Child

If you have a child with a disability or special needs, you may need to apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits to get the additional financial support your child needs to pay for everyday needs, special education requirements, or daily supportive care requirements.

The following tips can help you understand the disability program and learn how to navigate it:

Tip 1: Make sure that you qualify for the SSI program.

SSD benefits that are available to children are most often paid through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which is a need-based program available only to children with a qualifying medical disability and with very limited income and other financial resources to pay for their daily needs and ongoing care. Learn more about the financial limitations set by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for SSI benefits here.

Tip 2: Make sure that your child medically qualifies for disability benefits.

In order for a child to medically qualify for disability benefits, he or she must have the following:

• A medically determinable impairment, which simply means a definitive diagnosis from a licensed physician
• A condition that has been or will be present for at least 12 months
• A medical impairment that severely disrupts the achievement of developmental milestones or that severely interrupts the participation in normal, age-appropriate activities

In addition to these factors, your child’s medical condition will be compared with listings in the SSA’s Blue Book, which is a manual of disabling conditions and the medical evidence necessary to qualify with each impairment. You can find the Blue Book here.

If your child’s disability is not listed in the Blue Book, it is still possible to qualify for benefits. The only way to know for sure if your child will qualify is to apply for benefits.

Tip 3: Gather the necessary financial and medical documentation.

The SSA will need to see thorough medical records for your child along with the following:
• Results of any standardized tests your child has undergone
• Documentation from your child’s school, if appropriate
• Records of your child’s and your own financial status

For a full list of the information you will need, see the Child Starter Kit.

Tip 4: Be sure to fill out the application thoroughly and submit all required evidence.

When you apply for benefits for a child, you must do so in person at your local SSA office. An SSA representative will interview you, and during that interview, will complete the application.

To fill out the application thoroughly, you will need all of the information referenced above. Be sure to collect all of the records needed before your application appointment. Also be certain that you take copies of your child’s pertinent records and submit those copies along with your application.

Tip 5: Appeal if the claim is denied.

It can take several months for your child’s application to proceed through the first review. If you receive a denial after that review, you will need to appeal the decision within 60 days from the date of the denial letter you receive.

The first appeal is usually a request for a “reconsideration” or second review of your child’s application. Be sure to submit any new medical records and other documentation along with the request for the second review.

It is possible your child’s application will be denied a second time. If so, file a request for an appeal hearing to continue trying for benefits. Again, submit any new evidence prior to the appeal hearing.