Disabled and blind children are eligible for Social Security benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program. In order to qualify, the child’s disability must meet the definition of disability established by the Social Security Administration and the income of the child's parents must be within permissible limits. The amount of benefits available depends on the SSI federal benefit rate, any adjustments made to the rate in the state where the child resides, and family income. Although the SSA provides guidelines regarding the available benefits, calculating the monthly benefit amount is complex. Submitting an SSI application is the best way to determine the available benefits.
Locate the SSA's current "Deeming Eligibility Chart" to determine the maximum gross monthly income that parents can receive and still have their disabled child qualify for SSI. The SSA website provides a chart that applies in most situations and shows, for example, that a single parent with a gross monthly income of $2,821 may receive SSI benefits for a disabled child.
Locate the current federal benefit rate for SSI recipients. This rate is the maximum monthly SSI payment available. The rate is adjusted periodically for cost-of-living increases. In 2010, the federal benefit rate for an individual, which includes a disabled child, is $674.
Locate information for the state in which the child resides regarding its policy on supplementing the federal benefit rate for SSI recipients. States that supplement the federal benefit rate in 2010 include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia. For example, in California, the monthly SSI payment for a disabled child in 2010 is $737.40.
Deduct from the maximum benefit amount located for the disabled child the portion of the family income and resources that are deemed available for the child's care. This is by far the most complex part of calculating the SSI benefits available to a disabled child because of the number of factors that affect the calculations, including the differing rules among the states that supplement SSI benefits. In general, if one of the child's parents has earned income from working, a portion of this income is likely to be deemed available to the child and therefore reduce the monthly benefit amount.
Once a disabled child reaches age 18, the deeming rules regarding parental income no longer apply to a calculation of SSI benefits. Also, additional benefits may be available under the Social Security Disability Insurance program so long as the SSA's adult disability requirements are met, one of the child’s parents has a qualified work history for Social Security benefits and the parent is retired, disabled or deceased.
Because some states, such as California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, pay supplemental benefits, you need to contact the SSA or the state agency administering benefits to determine the maximum gross income for SSI eligibility in these states.