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Will Your Child Receiving SSI Continue to Receive the Benefits After Their 18th Birthday?

** This article has been revised from its original version which was published on November 4, 2016.

Parents of children with disabilities must prepare for the day their child becomes an adult. Many factors could influence whether adults with special needs will remain eligible for Social Security Income (SSI) benefits once they turn 18.

The Definition of Disability is Different for Children and Adults

Once your child turns 18, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reevaluates their disability based on a different standard than when they were younger. Prior to age 18, a beneficiary is considered disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment expected to last at least 12 months that results in “marked and severe functional limitations.” However, after the beneficiary’s 18th birthday, their impairment must “result in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity.” Since the adult disability standard is a higher one, many adults with special needs fail to meet it and are dropped from receiving benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Requirements Also Change

Fortunately, when a beneficiary turns 18, the SSI financial requirements often become easier. When a child with special needs turns 18, SSA looks at their own income and resources instead of their parent’s financial record. Since many SSI beneficiaries who receive benefits as a child don’t have any other sources of income and don’t own large assets, they most likely won’t have a problem qualifying financially on their own. There have also been some cases where a child with a disability, who was not qualified for SSI due to their parents’ financial record, became eligible after turning 18 due to their own finances.

However, an SSI beneficiary who fails to meet the new disability or financial requirements when turning 18 may not lose their benefits. If a child with special needs participates in an approved vocational rehabilitation program or special education program before turning 18, they can continue to qualify as an adult with special needs under the pre-18 rules. Also, SSI beneficiaries who regularly attend school can exclude $2,220 of income a month, up to $8,950 a year, from their countable income for SSI purposes.

Because these rules can be complicated, it’s imperative that parents of children with disabilities meet with a qualified special needs planner well in advance of their child’s 18th birthday to learn how turning 18 will affect their SSI benefits. Russo Law Group, P.C. is a team of experienced and compassionate estate planning and elder law attorneys who also focus on special needs children and adults with disabilities. We can ensure your child’s SSI benefits will continue for their lifetime. Our special needs planners evaluate and restructure assets to avoid simple mistakes that may cause disqualification.

If you are concerned about your loved one’s future, reach out to us for professional advice and schedule an appointment for a consultation. You may also take advantage of our comprehensive website, free seminars, and webinars to learn more about estate planning and elder law services that offer peace of mind. If you prefer, call us at 1 (800) 680-1717. We are happy to help you protect your child’s future.

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