Social Security Disability Benefits for Children

Adult Holding Child's Hand

Most people think of Social Security as a system that pays benefits to seniors after they retire. There also are Social Security Disability benefits for children with disabilities and for adults whose disabilities began in childhood, if they meet program eligibility requirements.

In northeastern North Carolina, our Social Security Disability attorneys at The Twiford Law Firm are dedicated to helping our clients understand these programs and receive benefits when they are entitled to them.

Children with Disabilities May Be Eligible for Supplemental Security Income Benefits

Social Security has a program named Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that provides monthly benefits to individuals with low income and limited resources who are age 65 or older or blind or who have a disability. A child under age 18 who has a disability may be able to collect benefits under the SSI program if the child’s family has limited income and resources.

The criteria used to determine whether a child has a disability for SSI purposes are different from those used for adults. For a child to be eligible for SSI, the child must have a physical or mental impairment that results in “marked and severe functional limitations.” In other words, the condition must seriously limit the child’s activities. The impairment also must: 1) have lasted or be expected to last for at least a year, or 2) be expected to result in death of the child.

In addition to meeting the disability requirement, a child must meet specific financial eligibility criteria. If the child works, he or she cannot earn more than $1,170 per month in 2017. The income and resources of family members living with the child are also taken into account in determining whether the child meets the financial eligibility requirements.

When a child in the SSI program reaches age 18 and becomes an adult, the child’s situation is re-evaluated based on the rules for determining SSI eligibility for adults. A different disability standard is applied. Income and resources of family members are no longer included in making the financial eligibility evaluation. For that reason, sometimes a child who was not eligible for SSI before his or her 18th birthday on account of family income and resources may become eligible after turning 18, when only his or her own income and resources are taken into account.

An Adult with a Disability that Began in Childhood May Be Entitled to Social Security Disability Payments Based on a Parent’s Earnings

In addition to the benefits provided for children with disabilities under the SSI program, an adult with a disability that began in childhood may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments. The program pays benefits based on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. For that reason, Social Security refers to the benefit as a “child’s” benefit.

To be eligible, the adult child must be unmarried, age 18 or older, and have a disability that began before age 22. The adult child is eligible for SSDI based on a parent’s earnings if one of the following requirements is met:

  • One of the child’s parents receives Social Security retirement or disability benefits, OR
  • One of the child’s parents is deceased and worked enough to qualify for Social Security.

The determination of disability is based on the rules for adults, which requires that the person be “unable to engage in substantial gainful activity.” If an adult child meets all the requirements and receives benefits, the SSDI “child” benefits continue for as long as the person has the disability.

Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income in North Carolina

In North Carolina, the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs are administered by Disability Determination Services (DDS), a state agency funded by the federal government’s Social Security Administration (SSA). DDS is part of the North Carolina Department of Human Services.

The application process and eligibility rules for SSDI and SSI are complex. Our Social Security Disability attorneys at The Twiford Law Firm have substantial experience helping clients at all levels of the often cumbersome process. Whether you are filing an initial application for yourself or your child, or you are pursuing an appeal from a denial, we can help.

Call us at 252-338-4151 (Elizabeth City) or 252-435-2811 (Moyock) or complete our online form to schedule a consultation.