What are the Requirements for a Children's Disability Application vs. an Adult?

Published on: September 7, 2017


Disability benefits are typically viewed as applying to only the elderly or other injured adults. However, children are also susceptible to getting disabilities. In fact, in 2013 alone, over 1 million children who were themselves disabled or had disabled parents received monthly disability payments.

SSI vs. SSDI for Children

Children often qualify for benefits under the SSI program. This is because the SSDI program is based on work credits, and children typically have not reached the required age to begin accumulating these credits. Most people begin to accumulate work credits after the age of 22. The SSI program is geared towards those who have low income and a medical condition that puts them in need for benefits, making children qualify for this program.

Download Guide: How to Get Disability Benefits for Children in Florida

Children Disability Requirements

For children under the age of 18 to qualify for disability benefits, they must meet both income and medical requirements.

Income Requirements

In order for the child to be classified as meeting the income requirements, they must not be earning more than $1,170/month from any work that they're doing. The child and his/her family also cannot be receiving income that exceeds federally prescribed limits. This applies to income that parents from the same household receive. The parents/step-parents who live with the child, or are regularly responsible for the child's needs, will have their income assessed for the income requirement.

In addition, children are still eligible for benefits whether or not they live with their parents in the same home.

Medical Requirements

In line with the original purpose for disability benefits, children must have a medically-supported impairment that limits their ability to function normallly. The SSA stipulates that in order for children to qualify for disability benefits, they must have a mental or physical impairment that causes severe functional limitations.

The child must also have had, or is expected to have, this impairment for a period of 12 consecutive months or longer. If the impairment/disability is expected to result in death, the child will also qualify.

These 2 key requirements of the child's condition must be met before an application for disability is filed. Therefore, medical records describing the condition, as well as documentation showing proof of income requirements, should be prepared before the application is submitted.

Assessing a Child's Functionality

Determining the level of impairment in a child is more complex than with adults. Because a child's abilities vary greatly during their first few years, the SSA determines impairment based on age-appropriate functionality changes. This means that a child who is 12 years old will have their assessment carried out differently from a toddler.

There are 6 main functionality areas that the SSA evaluates:

  • Acquiring and using information
  • The ability tof complete tasks
  • Interactions with others
  • The mobility of self and with objects
  • Personal hygiene and self-concern
  • Overall health and physical capabilities

SSDI Benefits for Adult Children

Children who were disabled before they turned 22 can earn disability benefits under what is called the "Childhood Disability Benefit (CDB)." Eligibility is based on two criteria. First, the adult child's parents must be receiving disability benefits, or second; the child's parents must have passed away after having accrued enough Social Security in order to receive benefits.

Children who qualify for the SSDI children's benefit can continue receiving payments for as long as they are disabled. There are no work requirements involved. Adults who were listed as dependents on their parent's Social Security benefits before age 18 (or if the child got disabled at age 18) are also eligible for the children's benefit.

Applying for Children's Disability Benefits

Once you've accumulated all the required documentation, you can submit your application to the SSA. Decisions can take up to 5 months to be made once your information is sent to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) of your state. SSI payments are typically the same from state to state and are based on a common federal amount.

Receiving Immediate SSI Payments

There are certain severe medical conditions that your child may have, which make you immediately eligible to receive up to 6 months of benefits as you wait for your child's claim to be decided upon. The SSA has put this in place to ensure that children in the most urgent need for assistance are able to receive benefits as soon as possible. Some of these conditions include cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and total blindness.  These payments are called Presumptive Benefits.

Children of Disabled Parents

The parents who are currently receiving SSDI benefits can have their dependents also eligible for benefits under-certain conditions. First, the child should be unmarried or under the age of 18. The child can also be a full-time student who is between 18-19 or had obtained a disability before they turned 22 years old.


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