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Social Security Administration

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal income supplement program administered through the Social Security Administration (SSA). It is designed to assist people who are aged, blind or disabled and who have little or no income.

When a child turns age 18, the Social Security Administration no longer considers the parent’s income and assets when it decides if a young adult can receive SSI. A child who was not eligible for SSI before his or her 18th birthday because the parent’s income or assets were too high may become eligible at age 18. Regardless of whether or not your child has qualified for SSI before age 18, she/he must reapply in order to determine if she/he remains eligible for income support as adult. Children who qualify for SSI prior to age 18 do not have to file a new application. However, they must undergo a non-medical re-determination and be reevaluated under the adult medical criteria. SSA will generally initiate these reviews but it is a good idea for individuals to contact SSA in the event we do not contact them. It is helpful for families to contact their local Social Security office prior to their child’s 18th birthday to determine the specific timeline for application.

To determine or redetermine eligibility, Social Security will ask you to describe how your child’s disability affects his or her true ability to work and what those limitations are that hinder work. Although this may be difficult, this is the time when it is important for everyone to accurately portray your child’s disability when asked how their disability affects their limitations. Please refer to the age 18 checklist on page 11 for more information regarding what to provide for documentation when determining eligibility.

The Social Security Administration has an appeals process. If your child is denied eligibility, the decision should always be appealed if you do not agree with the decision.

The Social Security offices are extremely busy. Patience is important when communicating with their offices. Often times their telephone lines are busy and many times you will need to be on the phone for an extended period of time while waiting for a claims representative. Having something with you to do while you are waiting may be helpful. Don’t give up or hang up!

Another program through the Social Security Administration is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This program provides benefits to individuals who are disabled or blind that are covered by workers' contributions to the Social Security system. In addition to other qualifying categories, SSDI refers to benefits paid to adult children who are disabled (age 18 and older) based on the contributions made through their earnings or the earnings of their spouses or parents.

There are other programs that are administered through the Social Security Administration, including Social Security Auxiliary and Survivors Benefits. Again, it is important to communicate with the Social Security office in your area to determine the process for applying and the eligibility requirements for each program.

Other suggestions when working with Social Security include:

  • Document everything. Create a log of all communication with SSA that include: date, claims rep name, nature of discussion.
  • Use the SSA 1-800 number for general information. Do not attempt to resolve specific issues related to benefits with this method. Make an appointment with a claims representative in the local office.
  • Request written documentation from the claims rep. verifying your understanding of the conversation. SSA will provide written documentation of all format determinations or actions affecting eligibility and paying amounts. They generally do not provide written follow-ups of informational conversations.
  • If your adult child lives with you, keep good documentation regarding their portion of household expenses (food & shelter). This will affect the amount of benefits payments.
  • Remember that SSI is designed to be a supplemental income program. As your adult child increases their work hours or rate of pay, their benefits will proportionately decrease. Hopefully, the long-term monetary benefits of increased employment will far exceed those of depending on SSI for the long term.

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