The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to adults and children living with specific disabilities. For children to qualify for SSI, they must have limited daily functioning as a result of their disability. Families must also meet income guidelines to be eligible for the monthly payment.

15 Child Disabilities That Qualify for Social Security Benefits

  1. Cancer
  2. Respiratory Disorders
  3. Low Birth Weight and Failure to Thrive
  4. Musculoskeletal Disorders
  5. Special Senses and Speech
  6. Hematological Disorders
  7. Immune System Disorders
  8. Cardiovascular System
  9. Digestive System
  10. Genitourinary Disorders
  11. Skin Disorders
  12. Endocrine Disorders
  13. Congenital Disorders That Affect Multiple Body Systems
  14. Neurological Disorders
  15. Mental Disorders

This list of child disabilities includes those that the SSA recognizes for children eligible for SSI payments. Families must prove with evidence from medical experts that their child has a disability that falls within a category in this list of child disabilities.

SSI disability benefits can assist low-income families in paying for things the child needs, such as food, clothing, and medical equipment. Children eligible for SSI may also qualify for Medicaid automatically, depending on the state in which they live. Parents receiving SSI for their children must document what they use the money for.

How Can I Get Social Security Benefits for My Disabled Child?

Parents can apply for SSI benefits for a child with special needs. The child must be under 18 years old and have a disability recognized by the Social Security Administration – and there must be medical evidence that proves the disability. The SSA also requires that the health impairment interferes with daily tasks the child must complete, such as bathing, feeding, or participating in school.

Children who are 19 years old may also receive SSI benefits if they otherwise qualify for the benefits, are still attending school through grade 12, and are under the care of their parents. Two months after the child turns 19, the child may be switched over to SSI benefits for adults. The program remains the same, but the SSA could require more information about the child's educational performance, day-to-day living, and disability before providing payments.

To apply for Social Security disability benefits for a dependent child, you can visit the SSA website. You'll need to fill out a Child Disability Report and discuss the report with a representative before completing an application. The representative will go over the child's disability determination and your household's earned income and resources before you apply.

15 Child Disabilities That Qualify for SSI Benefits

It's important to note that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) differs from Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is reserved for people who have paid into the Social Security system through their jobs and now live with special health care needs from a disability. In contrast, SSI is based on the need for additional income due to a disability and low income.

The following list of child disabilities are ones that parents can name in an SSI disability claim when applying for their child. The SSA recognizes these disabilities, like hearing impairment, visual impairment, or brain injury, as ones that could qualify a child as needing SSI benefits.

1. Cancer

The SSA lists malignant neoplastic diseases as ones that SSI benefits can cover. This means that children living with various forms of cancer or leukemia can qualify if they meet income guidelines and have medical evidence of their impairment. However, some cancers may not qualify if they're related to a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

When making a disability determination for a child with cancer, the SSA considers the origin of the cancer, the duration of therapy and the child's response to therapy, and the after-effects of therapy, if any.

2. Respiratory Disorders

Respiratory disorders, like cystic fibrosis or chronic lung disease, are coverable by SSI benefits. The SSA recognizes respiratory disorders involved in air restriction, obstruction, or diffusion. When a parent applies for a child with a respiratory disorder, the parent must provide medical evidence of lab tests, physical exams, imaging results, and prescribed treatment or medications.

The SSA will consider the severity of symptoms associated with the condition and the child's response to any treatments. Your child may also have spirometry testing to gauge their lung efficiency.

3. Low Birth Weight and Failure to Thrive

Low birth weight (LBW) and failure to thrive (FTT) in infancy can indicate growth impairments. The SSA recognizes these conditions as a disability category that could lead to developmental delays in young children.

Parents or guardians may show proof of either condition using birth weight documentation from birth and medical records. The SSA determines that LBW or FTT are plausible for a child based on growth tables for the child's age range and the child's historic birth weight and growth.

4. Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders are those that cause physical or orthopedic impairment. Some disorders the SSA considers in its evaluations include inflammatory arthritis, the curvature of the spine, and spinal cord injuries.

A physical examination may be necessary if there has not been enough medical evidence describing a child's condition. Otherwise, the SSA considers the child's medical history and a parent or guardian's written description of the condition, its severity, and the symptoms it causes.

5. Special Senses and Speech

Children with visual or hearing disorders can receive SSI benefits under this category. The SSA considers blindness, visual disorders, loss of visual efficiency, and hearing loss with or without cochlear implantation to be potentially eligible disorders.

For statutory blindness cases, the SSA does not require documentation of the cause of blindness. However, hearing loss cases typically need documentation that proves there is a medical cause for your child's hearing loss. Children without a cochlear implant may qualify for SSI benefits through age 18. However, those with a cochlear implant may only qualify up to age five unless they receive word recognition scores under 60% using the HINT or HINT-C assessments.

6. Hematological Disorders

The SSA makes many malignant and non-malignant hematological disorders eligible for SSI benefits for kids. These disorders can include but are not limited to bone marrow failure, thrombosis, multiple myeloma, and leukemia. The SSA relies mostly on laboratory tests ordered and signed by a physician to determine hematological disorders. Still, a written, detailed report from your child's physician may also lead to eligibility.

7. Immune System Disorders

The SSA categorizes immune system disorders as HIV infection, autoimmune disorders, and immune deficiency disorders, excluding HIV infection. Because many variables are involved in diagnosing immune system disorders, the SSA may require different forms of proof for different cases.

In most cases of immune system disorders, parents should expect to prove a child's health history through physical exams and diagnostic test results. Specific tests may be required, like x-rays or MRIs, depending on the child's condition.

8. Cardiovascular System

Children born with or who have developed a heart defect or condition affecting the cardiovascular system may qualify for SSI benefits. The SSA considers any condition that affects how the heart and circulatory system function. It also considers heart conditions that are persistent or recurring.

Medical imaging results and detailed physician reports of your child's condition usually provide enough medical evidence for this particular category.

9. Digestive System

Many disorders can affect the digestive system. A disabled child and their parents may seek SSI eligibility for digestive conditions like hepatic dysfunction, inflammatory bowel disease, and malnutrition.

Medical documentation for these disorders may be lengthy, depending on the condition. Some families may need to provide pathology reports, x-ray results, and radionuclide scan results. The SSA also considers the treatment your child receives, if any, and how responsive your child has been to the treatment thus far.

10. Genitourinary Disorders

Genitourinary disorders affect the kidneys and may lead to chronic kidney disease. Diabetic neuropathy, hypertensive neuropathy, and ectopic ureter are examples of genitourinary disorders that may qualify for SSI benefits.

The SSA determines the severity of genitourinary disorders through lab tests, imaging results, and physician reports. Your child's treatments, like dialysis or transplantation, will also be evaluated in terms of efficacy.

11. Skin Disorders

On the list of child disabilities eligible for SSI benefits, skin disorders can often be among the most perplexing and difficult to prove, mostly because the severity of these conditions can vary significantly among children. Skin conditions potentially eligible for SSI include dermatitis, chronic skin infections, and burns.

The SSA considers a parent's explanation of the severity of their child's disorder, including how it affects their daily life. The agency also relies on medical history that details your child's skin lesions, symptoms, and treatments. If your child lives with any condition that could adversely affect the health of the skin or cause skin disorders, the SSA may also seek more information about that condition.

12. Endocrine Disorders

Endocrine disorders, such as conditions affecting the thyroid or pituitary gland, may be eligible for SSI benefits, depending on how their symptoms affect a child's daily life. For children younger than age six with diabetes mellitus type 1 or 2 and requiring insulin may automatically qualify for these benefits. Other conditions may require medical evidence that symptoms have not improved or have worsened over time.

13. Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems

Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems is a category that incorporates conditions like non-mosaic Down syndrome, anencephaly, and Edwards' syndrome. These are conditions that can interfere with a child's development since birth. The SSA may require a lab report of tests that have helped diagnose a congenital disorder as well as a detailed physician statement of the diagnosis.

14. Neurological Disorders

Disorders that affect the neurological system, such as coma or epilepsy, can qualify for SSI benefits if they impact a child's physical and mental health. The SSA considers both medical and non-medical evidence to evaluate a child's neurological condition, including imaging scans, physician reports, and written statements from a parent or guardian.

15. Mental Disorders

SSI benefits for autistic children and others experiencing mental disorders typically require a lot of documentation from parents or guardians, doctors, and specialists who work with the child. Other examples of mental conditions that may qualify include somatic symptom disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and anxiety disorders. Cognitive development, physical symptoms, and executive functioning are all evaluated by the SSA.

List of Child Disabilities for SSI Benefits

The list of child disabilities above includes those that may qualify a child for SSI benefits. Traumatic brain injury, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disability are among those that could be eligible with enough medical and non-medical evidence. The SSA requires each specific disability to interfere with a child's daily living, like attending school or eating.

Children who qualify for SSI benefits may also meet Medicaid eligibility guidelines automatically, depending on the state in which they live. Together, these benefits can assist low-income families with paying for necessities and related services for the child.