How to Get Disability for a Child

A child with a chronic or terminal illness may be eligible for disability payments.
A child with a chronic or terminal illness may be eligible for disability payments. (Image: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

The Social Security Administration provides disability payments called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to the parents or caregivers of children with physical or mental disabilities if those disabilities severely limit the child's ability to function in a normal manner. Such disabilities typically require ongoing medical or mental health treatment. To qualify for SSI benefits a child must meet additional eligibility requirements: The disability must have a duration of at least 12 months and the child must not have a substantial income.

Things You'll Need

  • Child's Social Security number
  • Child's birth certificate
  • Contact information for medical and mental health providers
  • Contact information for schools and teachers
  • Contact information for family members
  • Description of the disability

Apply for disability for a child in one of four ways: Visit your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office; call the toll-free number, 800-772-1213; start the application online by accessing Social Security Online (See Resource 1); or print and complete a paper form off the Internet (See Resource 2). Find the phone number and address for your local SSA in the phone book under Social Security Administration. The toll-free number is also listed under the contact information for your local office or offices.

Take with you the following documents: the child's Social Security number and birth certificate, names and contact information for each of your child's doctors, mental health providers, school and schoolteachers, day-care providers, and any family members who have knowledge of how the child's disability affects the child's function.

Provide the Social Security Administration representative with copies of any medical records or school records you have on hand. Be ready to supply dates of medical or mental health services accessed. Give consent for release of confidential information for each of the child's providers.

Provide a detailed and specific description of the disability and how the child is affected. Before contacting the Social Security Administration write a detailed list of the child's limitations related to the disability. For instance, if the child has an emotional problem that results in frequent interruptions in the child's schooling, be specific about the nature of the problem and the types of interruptions incurred, such as school absences or frequently having to pick up the child from school.

Comply with any requests made by the Social Security Administration. If the SSA is unable to make a determination based upon the records obtained, the agency may request further examination of the child. If the SSA requests further examination, the agency pays for the examination.

Tips & Warnings

  • An adult child may be eligible for disability payments on the child's parent's Social Security if the disability began before age 22.
  • Applications started online must be completed in person. However, starting the application online allows applicants to take their time and go at their own pace while providing the detailed information required.

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