The U.S. Social Security Administration administers the Supplemental Security Income by helping low-income blind and disabled adults and children. SSI eligibility is not based on an applicant, or an applicant's parents, prior work history as is Social Security disability. Income, however, will affect the benefit amount that a child is eligible to receive.
SSI General Eligibility for a Child
A child may be eligible to receive SSI benefits from the moment of birth until age 18 if she is blind or disabled. The definition of disability for a child differs from the definition used for an adult. According to the Social Security administration, a child is considered disabled if he has "a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or impairments which result in marked and severe functional limitations." The medical condition must last longer than 12 months or be "expected to result in death" according to the guidelines. The Social Security Administration defines blindness as "a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in your better eye with use of a correcting lens; or a visual field limitation in your better eye, such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees."
SSI Parental Income
In addition to the medical condition or blindness test for SSI, there are also income and resources limits that apply when determining whether a child is eligible for benefits. A parent's, or step-parent's, income and resources are often considered "deemed," or available, to a child when determining SSI eligibility. Some income, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payments, and resources such as one's home and one vehicle, are exempt. The maximum allowable income for a child to receive SSI depends on the type of income -- earned or unearned -- the number of people in the household, and whether or not the family lives in a state which supplements the federal SSI benefit amount. In a state, which does not supplement, a family with one additional ineligible child with two working parents has a maximum earned income limit of $3,832 as of publication, for example.
SSI Benefit Amount for a Child
The maximum allowable benefits amount of an SSI payment for a disabled child as of the date of publication was $737.40 for a child not living in the household of another and $517.30 for a child living in the household of another. This amount includes both the federal and state supplements. A child who has income, or whose parent has deemed income, above the income limits may not be eligible to receive the maximum amount.
How to Apply
A parent, or legal guardian, may apply for SSI benefits for a disabled child by calling the Social Security Administration and making an appointment to apply via telephone or at a local office. A person may apply without an appointment at a local office; however, an applicant may face a significant wait time if they did not make an appointment in advance.