Obtaining Disability Benefits for a Child with Special Needs

By Ram Meyyappan, Social Security Disability Help

Parents of children with special needs are well aware of how costly it can be to provide the best care for their loved one. Fortunately, disability benefits are available to provide financial assistance.

Conditions that May Qualify

Children can medically qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for a wide range of disabilities, though a child’s condition must meet a pronounced severity level in order to be eligible.

Just a few of the medical conditions that can qualify a child for disability benefits are:

  • Growth impairments and muscular, skeletal, joint and neurological disorders.
  • Vision, hearing, and speech impairments.
  • Systemic conditions that affect multiple body areas, such as Down syndrome.
  • Genetic conditions and congenital impairments of the organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and digestive tract.
  • Childhood cancers, immune system disorders, disorders of the endocrine system, like diabetes.
  • Mental and behavioral disorders, including intellectual and developmental disabilities like ADHD, Autism, and personality, anxiety and mood disorders.

Severity Level Determinations

To determine if the effects of the condition are severe enough to result in disability, the SSA closely evaluates the child’s medical records, school information and details provided about his or her daily activities and abilities.

With adult disability applicants, the SSA looks at whether or not a medical impairment prevents employment. With children, however, they review whether an impairment causes delays in development– whether physical, mental or emotional- or in social functioning and interpersonal interactions.

Applying for Benefits

To apply for benefits on behalf of a child with special needs, parents must complete an interview with an SSA representative. That interview must be scheduled in advance and generally takes place at a local SSA office.

The following documentation and evidence are required in order to complete an application:

  • Medical records, including doctor’s notes, diagnostic test results, medication records and records regarding hospital stays or other treatments required.
  • School records, if applicable, including information on academic and intellectual assessments, disciplinary documents and other performance records.
  • Information concerning the child, income, assets and other financial resources.

What to Expect

Children will only qualify for disability benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) since SSI is the only program that does not require any work history. This program is need-based and, therefore, your financial information will be crucial to determining eligibility. For more information on the financial eligibility requirements for SSI, visit: https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-child-ussi.htm

You should also keep in mind that most applicants wait at least four months for a decision, and even then your application may be denied. However, you can file appeals and seek assistance, if necessary, in order to get the benefits you need for providing the level of daily care your child deserves.


One Comment

  1. Ross Hart October 27, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Excellent advice. Further thoughts that I used for my daughter:

    Filling out the form, while needed, doesn’t tell the story. I prepared a two page narrative (“executive summary”) describing the onset of my daughter’s condition, the various doctors/clinics/hospitals she went to (with contact info) and appended admission/discharge summaries we had received from the providers. She also went with me to SSA (as “exhibit A”) when the application was filed. The worker read the narrative, glanced at the supporting docs, and started benefits that day.

    We’ve kept the narrative up to date and every time she sees a new doctor she provides that narrative as part of the process — I’ve had doctors come thank me personally for having the narrative as they saw the whole picture much quicker. And yes, I’ve prepared a narrative about myself. My daughter and I keep our narratives in a doc file in our smartphones.

    In my practice I recommend all my clients draft a narrative about their medical history and give them a ‘sanitized’ version of my daughter’s as a sample.

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