If your adult child or your family, if your child is age 17 or younger, needs help paying for personal and medical expenses because of a disability or special health care needs, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can be a useful benefit. Sometimes you might hear SSI called "disability benefits."
SSI or disability benefits come through a federal Social Security Administration program. SSI offers monthly cash assistance to help pay for your child's personal and medical needs. It is for things like food and shelter, medical and dental care that isn't covered under health insurance and personal needs, such as clothing. You must apply and be approved for SSI based on your family or your child's income.
SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are completely different benefits. Learn more on our page on SSDI.
Also, your child can get Medicaid for their health insurance if they are receiving SSI.
For your child to be approved for SSI, there are five things that must be true:
Once your child is approved to get SSI, you or your adult child will receive a monthly payment. The amount will depend on your income and resources. For example, the 2014 base pay for SSI was $721 a month for a child age 17 or younger. This amount might change each year. The monthly payment may be spent on food and shelter, medical and dental care not covered under health insurance, and personal needs like clothing. Money left over is to be put in savings. However, if your child has more than $2,000 in savings, it could cause problems with their SSI benefits. See more about how to apply and the application process below. Your child or family does not have to pay taxes on SSI income.
Applying for SSI can be complicated or a challenge sometimes. Some parents said it helped them to remember to keep at it and stay strong – and maybe try to build a relationship with someone working at the local SSI office to help you along the way.
Once your child is approved for SSI and getting monthly payments, the Social Security Administration will look at your family or child's income, resources and living arrangements once every one to six years. This process is called a redetermination. However, if the Social Security Administration has reason to believe that your income or your child's income has changed, they can decide to review income every year.
In addition, there are some situations where the Social Security Administration will review your child's case and make a recommendation to continue or stop payments because your child no longer meets the Social Security Administration's definition of disability. Timelines for these reviews vary. Here are some review guidelines:
As long as your child remains approved to get SSI, they will receive payments until age 18.
At age 18, your child must re-apply for SSI. Your child might have to show proof again that they have a disability or special health care need that qualifies them for SSI. But the biggest change is with the income qualification. The agency will make a decision to approve or deny your adult child for SSI based only on their income, savings, and the value of certain things they own. Your family's income and savings are no longer part of the decision.
Start by reading about SSI online or visit your nearest Social Security Administration office to gather forms, ask questions, and get ready to apply. You can find the office using the Social Security Office Locator.
If your child is age 17 or younger:
If your child is age 18 or older:
After you apply:
You will need to have important documents handy during the SSI application process. It is crucial to keep your child's medical records organized in a care notebook with all your child's medical and educational paperwork. The Social Security Administration will ask for many of these documents and accepts original documents only.
Here is a partial list of documents and proof to gather. We recommend you read over the full list of documents you may need on the SSI website.
Once your child is approved for SSI, they will begin getting monthly payments, including back pay, for the months in the waiting period. If you want to learn more, the Social Security Administration has a web page about the application process and your rights.
Disability benefits are different in each state. If you are thinking about moving, see our page on moving to Texas to learn more about the benefits here. Compare them to the services you have now.