There are few things more troubling than seeing your child or children struggle with serious impairments that limit what they can do. Perhaps the only thing worse may be being unable to provide the support and education they need to reach their full potential. However, the United States government, through the Social Security Administration (SSA), makes benefits programs available to people, or their dependents, with serious impairments or disabilities. These cash benefits can be utilized to support the child’s growth and development.
The Social Security Disability maze can be challenging to navigate. Any mistake or omission could result in a denial. With more than half of all initial claims denied, even if you do everything correctly, your child might not be approved. Our team of dedicated attorneys is available to assist you through this stressful and frustrating process.
While every condition and situation is different, to qualify for program benefits, you must meet the program’s requirements (non-medical) and the medical requirements. Consulting with our experienced Fayetteville AR disability lawyers can help you understand if your child is likely to qualify for benefits due to their serious condition. Contact our law offices at (479) 316-0438.
What is Autism?
Autism refers to a class of conditions that is often referred to as Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). Autism disorders can cause problems with communication, social interaction, and behaviors and interests. While the exact pattern and severity of the condition varies from person to person, more than 3.5 million Americans are impacted with some form of autism, with 1 out of every 68 children being impacted. Autism-related conditions include Asperger’s syndrome, autism disorder, Rhett’s syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder.
Can My Child Qualify With Their Autism Spectrum Condition?
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program can distribute cash benefits to those who meet both program and medical requirements. To satisfy the program’s non-medical contributions, one must have a qualifying disability, be blind, or have reached age 65 or greater. Additionally, to qualify for childhood benefits you child must not have income or resources that exceed certain amounts. In a childhood context, the income and resources of household members can be included in your child’s calculation.
As for the adjudication of the claim, all Social Security benefit claims are determined through the sequential evaluation process. For childhood applications, the process is a 3-step one. At the first step of the process, your child’s benefits application will be analyzed for substantial gainful activity. For the first step to be satisfied, the child cannot be working. While adults are permitted a certain level of SGA – children are not. SGA can include:
- Work that you are paid to do
- Work that a person received monetary compensation
- Work where the goal is to make a profit
The first step of the process must be satisfied before the Social Security Administration will analyze your child’s medical condition.
Medical Evaluation at Steps 2 & 3 of the Sequential Process
At step two of the process, the Social Security Administration determines if your child’s condition can be considered severe. While impairments that are not severe will not cause functional limitations or cause only slight limitations, a severe disability will impose real limits and restrictions on your activities of daily living. If the SSA determines your condition to be of a sufficient level of seriousness, you will proceed to the third and final step of the evaluation process.
At the third step, the SSA determines if your condition is a listed condition. The childhood conditions are located in Part B of the “Blue Book.” However, a simple diagnosis of a condition that is listed is not sufficient. The severity of your condition must also be of the minimum severity as described in the listing. Autism-related conditions include:
- 08 Catastrophic Congenital disorder
- 06 Motor dysfunction
- 09 Communication impairment associated with a documented neurological disorder
- 08 Personality Disorders
- 10 Autistic Disorder and other Pervasive Developmental Disorders
To be clear, individuals must inquire into the particular requirements for each listing and compare their child’s condition. If the child’s condition is at least as severe as the listed requirements, they are likely to receive benefits.
Even if your child does not have a listed condition, they may still qualify if their condition or combination of conditions are functionally equal. To determine if the condition is functionally equal, the SAA looks at your childhood functioning across multiple areas of life. These are known as domains. If your child has a marked limitation in two domains or an extreme limitation in one, they will qualify. The domains the SSA will analyze are:
- Attending to and completing tasks
- Caring for self
- Mobility and ability to manipulate objects
- Maintaining one’s health and physical well-being
- Acquiring and using information
- Interacting and relating with others
Financial Requirements for SSI Benefits for Children With Autism
As stated above, applying for SSI benefits is a two-step process. In addition to demonstrating a qualifying disability through the provided medical evidence, a claimant must also pass a set of rigorous financial requirements.
The SSA provides Supplemental Security Income payments to disabled people with limited financial resources. SSI is a needs-based program, meaning that your family income, resources, and assets must fall below a specific threshold to qualify.
The first thing the SSA will examine is your total assets. For disability benefits, your assets are considered your resources. Resources are items that could be sold to provide food and shelter. However, the SSA permits claimants to exempt many essential assets that are not included in the calculation. For example, you are allowed to exempt your family car and your home.
For an autistic child to qualify for SSI benefits, their assets must not exceed $2,000. Likewise, their parents’ countable resources must be less than $2,000 for a single parent or $3,000 if the child resides in a two-parent household. If a parents’ assets exceed the limit, additional rules apply. Some common examples of countable resources include cash and bank accounts. If you have questions regarding countable assets, contact our Arkansas disability lawyers.
When considering income, the SSA measures your countable income and resources against the maximum disability benefit level. If a child’s countable income, including income deemed from their parents living in the same household, is less than the benefit level, the SSI benefits will be the difference between the maximum benefit level and the countable income.
Regarding income, the SSA measures your countable income against the maximum benefit level; if the child’s countable income, including income deemed from their parents living in the same household less than the benefit level, you would get the difference between the maximum benefit and the countable income. In 2021, the highest federal SSI monthly payment was $794 for an individual. There are also some states that provide supplemental payments.
When a child is applying for SSI benefits, a portion of their parent’s income is deemed to count as the child’s income. Similar to resources, not all types of income are counted in the SSA’s calculation. For example, the SSA will not consider SNAP benefits or income from foster care as countable income. However, if a disabled child receives child support payments, the SSA will count two-thirds of support payments to the parent’s income. The remaining one-third will be exempt. Additionally, children in the household often result in a reduction of otherwise countable income.
The Social Security Administration also makes allowances for adults who live in the same household who is not a parent of the child. When an adult single parent lives with another adult, the SSA will not consider their income as countable income. For the income of another adult to be considered countable, the adults must be legally married. Otherwise, the relationship does not impact the situation. The other adult could be a friend, romantic partner, or another relative, such as an aunt, cousin, or sibling. Both incomes will be included only if the couple is married or presenting themselves as married. However, if the other adult is providing food or shelter for the child, the child’s benefits might be reduced by the amount spent towards food and shelter.
The financial requirements for SSI can be confusing. The Social Security Administration advises calling your local SS office if you have any questions. Additionally, our Bella Vista disability lawyers will thoroughly review your income and resources to determine if your household meets the financial requirements.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits for Children With Autism
Some families simply do not meet the financial requirements to receive SSI benefits. However, there are certain situations where a child could receive SSDI benefits if a qualifying parent has earned enough work credits.
However, a child is not automatically eligible to benefit from their parent’s work history. Before a child receives any SSDI benefits, their parent must qualify for SSDI first.
Therefore, if you qualify for SSDI benefits, your child could be eligible for benefits as well. The SSA has listed a number of requirements that must be met.
- Only your biological or adopted children and dependent stepchildren are eligible.
- Your child must be unmarried and under the age of 18. If your child is in high school, they could continue to receive benefits until they graduate or turn 19 – whichever comes first.
- Your child must have a valid Social Security number and birth certificate to receive a portion of your SSDI benefits. If your child does not have a Social Security number, you must apply for one on their behalf before applying for benefits for your child.
The amount your child will receive depends on your benefit amount and the family limit. The amount of money you paid into the system before your disability determines the amount of your total benefits. The higher you paid into the system, the higher your benefits. Our experienced Farmington Social Security Disability lawyers are available to answer any question you might have regarding applying for SSDI for your child.
Arkansas Social Security Disability Lawyers Fighting For Adults and Children With Autism
Our Fort Smith Social Security Disability attorneys offer dedicated representation to Arkansans who are dealing with a serious disability. Regardless of whether your child has an autism spectrum disorder order or another type of impairment, our experienced team of disability lawyers can fight to obtain benefits for you and your family. To schedule your confidential and free initial consultation, contact us online or call (479) 316-0438 today.