Supplemental Security Income benefits are designed to provide an income to severely disabled children and adults with very limited financial resources. However, since the income of the entire family is considered when determining a child’s financial eligibility for the program, many autistic children don’t qualify for the benefits.
That changes, however, once your child reaches age 18. At that point, your income and resources no longer “deem,” or count toward your child’s care and maintenance. Only any direct income that your child receives, such as wages or child support, can be considered when figuring out his or her financial eligibility. That means that even if your child was previously denied benefits as a minor due to your family’s finances, you should file for SSI again once he or she turns 18.
There’s one hitch, though, that you need to keep in mind: financial eligibility is only part of the equation when filing for SSI. Just like regular Social Security Disability benefits, applicants have to go through a formal determination of disability in order to gain entitlement.
Because the symptoms of autism vary so widely, getting an approval can actually be more difficult than many parents are awareâ??and it can make for a frustrating experience when the claim gets medically denied, especially when you can so clearly see why your child wouldn’t be able to handle a job.
There are some tips you can use when filing your child’s application that may help you get an approval more easily:
- Include every mental or physical condition in addition to autism that your child has. For example, if your child suffers from migraines or panic attacks, list those as separate conditions. This requires SSA to consider those conditions along with the symptoms of the autism as additional disabling factors.
- Focus on the limitations your child has regarding self-care, like remembering to bathe, dress, prepare a meal or keep track of his or her own medications.
- Stress your child’s inability to cope with ordinary situations, like going to a bank or doctor’s office without assistance.
- Detail any ritualistic behaviors that your child has, like hair twisting, hand flapping, or repeating words back to other people. These types of behaviors can make it harder for your child to communicate with others in a work-like setting.
Finally, if your child’s application for SSI is denied, consider getting an attorney to help you through the appeal.
Source: Funding and public policy: Social Security Benefits, “The Arc Autism Now,” accessed Jan. 16, 2017