By James Grennen | September 18, 2018


Special needs children have a wide range of abilities. Some of those who are of working age can hold on to gainful employment for the majority of their lives. Others struggle with even basic tasks. For some children and their parents, this could cause some concern.

Parents can help provide for the child while they are still around, but what happens once they’re gone? Fortunately, there are three different ways your child can receive Social Security support to help ensure a financially secure future.

Obtaining Social Security support usually comes in the form of either Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. Most disabled children with special needs qualify for one of these three categories, but there are some things you need to know first to maximize your chances.

Adults Disabled Since Childhood

This qualification must be claimed within a relatively short time frame. To be eligible, your child must be over the age of 18 and have a “qualifying disability” that began before turning 22. Social Security defines a “qualifying disability” in their Listing of Impairments. Your child must have one listed or one that is equal to a severity listed.

Another option to qualify is if the individual is unable to perform any substantial paying work because of their impairment. The child’s disability must have been present for at least 12 months with an expectation to last another 12 months.

Applying for this option requires the parent to receive Social Security benefits due to retirement or disability or to be a recipient of survivor’s benefits. Disabled Adult Children benefits are also referred to as Childhood Disability Benefits by the Social Security Administration and must be applied for on a parent’s existing Social Security account.

These benefits will continue for the disabled adult child as long as they are alive and unmarried. Benefits cease if the child is married unless the marriage is to another disabled adult child.

Low-Income Disabled Children

Low-income families that have disabled children may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Social Security Administration created a program called Childhood SSI that helps low-income families get the support for their children they need.

Only children under the age of 18 that are either blind or disabled can qualify. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the child’s disability must be “marked and contain severe functional limitations or can be expected to result in death and has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”. Eligibility for SSI disability benefits starts on the day of birth up until their 18th birthday.

This is a more difficult path to pursue. The SSA will review all income sources for both the child and parents. If the child is living with a stepparent, their income will also be reviewed to determine eligibility.

While the limit on parental assets is fixed ($2,000 for a single parent and $3,000 for married parents), payable amounts can vary. The SSA has provided a chart (you can find that here), but simply calling SSA would be a much better solution.

Another obstacle you’ll have to overcome is actually proving that your child has a disability. The SSA does provide a listing of impairments as mentioned above, but proving that your child meets the definition listed isn’t as easy as you’d think. If your child does manage to get approved, the case will still be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure eligibility is still met. You’ll also have a more in-depth process known as “redetermination” at the age of 18.

Social Security Auxiliary Benefits

The third and final way to access SSI benefits is from Social Security auxiliary benefits. Most disabled parents believe that they are the only ones in their family that are eligible for disability benefits. That’s not entirely true. Benefits can also be paid to their dependent children in the form of auxiliary benefits. While this isn’t nearly as common, I want to make sure you have all the options in front of you.

To be eligible for auxiliary benefits, your child must be unmarried and under the age of 18. Under auxiliary benefits, a child is eligible for up to half of the parent’s monthly benefits. This is subject to a family max but is still an additional way to qualify for benefits.

Don’t Let The Legal Loops Keep You From Getting The Funding You Need

Qualifying for SSI for your loved one isn’t as cut and dry as it sounds. Seeking the help of an experienced financial planner can help speed up the process and get you the funding you need. As a fee-only certified financial planner serving the Long Island, NY metropolitan area, Woodhull Capital Advisors, LLC can simplify the process for you and your loved one with special needs.

Since we are a fee-only financial planning firm, we don’t earn commissions on our services. That means when you meet with us, you can rest assured knowing that we will have both you and your loved one’s best interest in mind. You’ll receive expert guidance from a trusted CFP to make sure that you and your loved one are taken care of.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation today so that we can learn more about you and your needs. We’ll fill you in on how we can help and what your next steps should be to ensure your loved one lives a full and well-funded life after you’re gone.


James Grennen

Written by James Grennen


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