What Happens to My Child’s SSI When He Turns 18?

What happens to your child’s SSI when he turns 18? For many purposes, adulthood starts, and childhood ends when one reaches the age of 18. And just like many things at this point in life, SSI benefits can change as well. According to the policies set by the Social Security Administration, claimants who have filed for childhood benefits will only receive them until age 18. While it is unlikely that a disability has disappeared by the time your child is age 18, you may be wondering if they will still qualify for some form of benefits from the SSA. The answer is likely, yes. 

Child’s SSI Remains if a Full-Time Student

One exception to the cessation of childhood disability benefits on a child’s 18th birthday is if the claimant is still, or has become a full-time student. In this event, you will not need to have your child go through the redetermination process, as long as you can prove they are a full-time student in either an elementary or secondary school. To verify the student requirement, you will need to notify the Social Security Administration by providing them with a completed statement of attendance that will need to have received approval by authorized school officials. Once student status has been verified, they will continue until the child graduates or reaches the age of 19, whichever event comes first. 

Redetermination of Eligibility

At the age of 18, a redetermination of disability is required to determine if the claimant who recently qualified under childhood disability would still have a condition that would qualify them under adult disability. The reason for the need for redetermination is simple. There are two major differences between childhood and adult disability determinations. 

Redetermination of Eligibility: Definition Differences

One major difference is the way that childhood disability is defined versus adult disability. Children are not expected to be employed at that age, so this is not a factor in the definition of childhood disability. A childhood disability will require marked or severe impairments in learning, task completion, self-care, social interaction, manipulating objects, or poor health.  For an adult to qualify for disability, they will need to be able to demonstrate an inability to work as a result of their disability. 

Redetermination of Eligibility: Medical Differences

Illness and disability can have different effects on a child versus an adult. A child that now has an illness or disability may not respond the same way to it as an adult as they did when they were a child. Because of this, the Social Security Administration has separate lists of impairments for adults and children, referred to as Part A and Part B, respectively. While there are some impairments that will fall into both categories, the criteria may be different for judging disability. The children’s listing also contains several conditions that are not applicable as an adult, such as certain growth impairments. 

Filing for a Redetermination of Benefits

The process of filing for a redetermination of benefits is similar to the original application process, though it is typically shorter. Once your child reaches age 18, your local social security office will contact you via mail with a notification letter. After receiving the letter, you will need to schedule an interview with you, your child, and the social security office to determine eligibility. After the interview has been completed, that information, along with other technical and medical information, will be reviewed by the Bureau of Disability Determination. The determination will be made using this information along with an assessment of the future possibility of employment of the claimant. You may be asked to take your child to a medical appointment to verify that the medical information presented is updated. After all of the information is reviewed, you will receive a letter from the Social Security Administration regarding their decision.

Eligibility Requirements for Adult Disability

To meet the requirements for adult disability, your child will have to qualify using their own income and assets, instead of yours. To meet the government’s disability standard, they will need to have a minimal income and less than $2,000 in assets. Once they are determined eligible, the amount will be determined by the earned and unearned income they receive. For every dollar of unearned income and every two dollars of earned income, there will be a one-dollar deduction of the SSI amount. In any event that the amount of the benefit reaches zero, the benefit will end. Though it is important to note that even if the beneficiary has one dollar of SSI payment, they will still be eligible for Medicaid benefits, so if healthcare coverage is necessary, you should plan accordingly. 

Adult List of Impairments

While there is a long list of impairments that can qualify an adult for disability, most will fall under one of the 14 main categories including:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions resulting in a loss of function
  • Special Senses and Speech issues, which can include blindness and deafness
  • Respiratory disorders that result in restriction or obstruction
  • Cardiovascular conditions which affect the proper functioning of the heart
  • Digestive system issues, such as liver dysfunction
  • Genitourinary disorders, such as diabetic nephropathy
  • Hematological disorders, such as bone marrow failure
  • Skin disorders, such as chronic infections and burns
  • Endocrine disorders, such as pituitary gland disorders
  • Congenital disorders, such as Down syndrome
  • Neurological disorders, such as ALS and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Mental disorders, such as schizophrenia
  • Cancers depending on the extent of movement
  • Immune system disorders, such as HIV

What Can You Do if Assets Are a Concern?

If your child has more than $2,000 in assets when they turn 18, which can make them ineligible for SSI, you may want to consider creating a special trust to hold their money. A “First Party Supplemental Needs” trust can be created by a guardian of the court, parent, or grandparent. Any assets that are put into this trust will not count towards the $2,000 in assets that a beneficiary is allowed to have. The only catch to this type of trust is that if there are any funds left in it when the beneficiary dies, then the balance of the funds will go to the state as a form of reimbursement for the medical care costs the state provided when they were alive. 

Another Option is a “Third-Party” supplemental needs trusts. This involves a family fund where the assets are never in the SSI beneficiary’s name, but the trustee will be able to distribute these assets to fund the beneficiary’s care. In this case, the funds would not count as the beneficiary’s assets, nor would any balance revert to the state in the event of their death. This can help to provide a disabled adult with the money they need to handle any care that is not covered by other services. 

What Happens if the Redertermination Results in a Denial?

In the event that your redetermination comes back denied, it does not mean that the process is necessarily over. As with any original claim, you will have the right to appeal the decision. The Social Security Administration acknowledges that many appeals will result in continuances, which means you still have a decent chance of being approved even if you were initially denied. 

What is Section 301?

If denied during a redetermination, you may also be eligible to continue to receive SSI payments under section 301. Applicants can be found eligible under Section 301 benefits if all of the conditions listed below are met. 

  • They must be currently participating in vocational rehab services, support services, or employment services.
  • They must have commenced the program in the month before their benefits had ended.
  • They must participate in the program for at least two months.
  • The Social Security Administration must determine that the completion of the program will reduce the chances of the claimant having to return to disability benefits. 

Benefits under Section 301 will continue to be paid until the Social Security Administration has decided that continued participation of the program is no longer leading to a decrease in the likelihood of returning to disability payments, or the claimant has ceased participating in the program. 

Can My Child Become Eligible for SSDI?

If your child was disabled before 22 years-old they may be able to collect SSDI based on the work record of their parents. To be eligible, the parents will have to have worked enough quarters to collect their Social Security and they are already receiving it. A young adult may also qualify if their parents have worked enough quarters and have died. The child that is now a disabled adult will receive the benefit if it can be shown that they can’t perform any substantial work that earns them more than $1090 each month. They would also qualify for Medicare after two years of claiming benefits. This can be the preferred option for many as there are not as many strict rules as SSI on sources of income and assets and the benefit tends is often higher. 

When your child turns 18, they may still qualify for SSI benefits as long as they meet SSA’s financial requirements and fall under the classification of an adult impairment that prohibits them from maintaining employment. Be proactive and schedule a meeting with the SSA office as soon as you receive a notification that your child’s disability benefits are going to expire so that you can begin the redetermination process as soon as possible.

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