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A child receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits has already gone through the process of evaluating their condition to determine their limitations and eligibility. However, turning 18 introduces changes to their SSI benefits. Below, you can learn more about what changes to expect and what needs to be done to maintain SSI benefits after you or your child turns 18.
The eligibility requirements for SSI benefits differ for adults and children. The standard that was applied to a child’s SSI application will not be the same as when they turn 18. When a child turns 18, the SSA will conduct an age-18 redetermination and review their eligibility for continued SSI benefits based on the disability rules for adults.
The SSA will typically contact the individual within one year of turning 18 so they are made aware of the change and can provide the necessary information to conduct the review. The SSA will ask for the following information when determining whether to continue a child’s SSI benefits after they turn 18:
The decision to continue or terminate SSI benefits is made by doctors and other SSA staff members.
The SSA will send a letter informing the applicant of their eligibility status and right to appeal the decision. Because the disability requirements differ for adults and children, about one-third of children lose their SSI eligibility after their age-18 redetermination. The benefits will usually continue until your child graduates or until two months after reaching age 19, whichever comes first.
If you want to challenge the SSA’s decision on your child’s continued SSI eligibility, you have only 60 days from when you receive the letter to submit a written appeal. If you submit an appeal within 10 days of receiving the letter, your child may be able to receive SSI benefits during the appeals process.
The age-18 redetermination is different from a new SSI application. Unlike new applications, any monthly earnings in excess of the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level will not make you automatically ineligible for SSI during the age-18 redetermination. The SSA will decide whether criteria for other medical and non-medical limitations are met before continuing to award SSI benefits to your child after their 18h birthday.
Your child’s level of functioning in past work and ability to work in the future is also considered when determining whether they meet the medical criteria for SSI benefits. Additionally, if they are only able to work at the SGA level because of SSI work incentives and other support programs, this information will also be considered in the redetermination.
Non-medical eligibility will require information regarding any income coming to the household. If SSI work incentives and support are used to help you or your child work, the SSA will not count some of these earnings against you, which can help reduce the risk of losing SSI benefits or Medicaid because of work. This information must be reported regardless of how much income your household earns. As the total earnings increase, SSI benefits will decrease and may eventually stop altogether. Even if SSI benefits stop, an individual may be able to keep Medicaid coverage and continue working.
If the SSA determines that your child is no longer medically eligible after the age-18 redetermination process, SSI payments will likely stop. However, if they are participating in an approved program, benefits may continue until the specified time. Examples of approved SSI programs include:
After turning 18, an individual may be preparing to attend higher education in college or a vocational or technical school. They may receive grants, scholarships, fellowships, and gifts. Specifically, the SSA will not count all student financial assistance received under:
As long as these items are used to pay for tuition, fees, and other necessary educational expenses, the SSA will not count them as income when they estimate appropriate SSI payments. It will, however, count any portion set aside or used for food and shelter.
Receiving SSI benefits as a child does not mean you will continue to receive them as an adult. If you or a loved one needs guidance through the age-18 redetermination process, contact our firm today for your best chance to keep your SSI benefits as an adult.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law