What You Need to Know About SSI Benefits When Your Child Turns 18

November 8, 2019

Many disability beneficiaries undergo periodic evaluations to determine if they still meet disability standards. These checks of disability status are called Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs). Typically, CDRs occur every three years, though they may be scheduled more or less frequently depending on the nature and expected duration of a person’s disability. When children who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits as a result of their own disabilities turn 18 years old, their claims will be automatically reviewed.

The Social Security Administration states: “The standards that must be met for an adult to be considered disabled are different than those for a child, so at age 18, the child will be evaluated under the adult standards.” The difference can be attributed to the different expectations that we, as a society, place on children versus adults. Adults are expected to work, so the adult evaluation focuses on work. Children, on the other hand, are not expected to support themselves with a job, so the requirements for them focus on their level of functioning compared to other children.

A common example of disability differences between children and adults is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). A child may qualify for Social Security disability due to the effects that hyperactivity has on their level of functioning. The same individual will need to prove that these symptoms prevent them from working, which may not be true in some cases. Thus, it can be common for a child with this condition to lose Social Security disability benefits when they turn 18, even with medical proof of the symptoms that would interfere with them holding a job.

When your child turns 18, Social Security will look at several key areas to evaluate their ability to work. To name a few:

  • How well your child did in school. Social Security will not only look at your child’s academic performance, but also will look at the child’s functioning in school, such as difficulties in paying attention, negative interactions with classmates and those in authority, and any physical limitations that affected your child’s ability to learn.
  • The work and community experiences your child had, which will include their on-the-job training (if that occurred).
  • Your child’s ability to handle stress.

In addition to looking at medical evidence like test results from x-rays, MRIs, blood tests, and the like, Social Security will collect statements from your child’s doctors and other healthcare professionals, your child’s teachers, and family and friends who have regular contact with your child. If your child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP), that will be considered also.

You will receive a letter from Social Security before your child’s 18th birthday asking for this information about your child and their disability:

  • Names of any medicines;
  • Hospital stays and surgeries;
  • Visits to doctors and clinics;
  • Work activity;
  • Counseling and therapy;
  • Schools, and special classes, or tutoring; and
  • Names of teachers and counselors who have knowledge of your child’s condition.

How Social Security makes a decision as to whether your 18 year old is still eligible for benefits is governed by guidelines that can be confusing. If you have a child who is disabled, is receiving Social Security disability payments, and is approaching their 18th birthday, you should consider seeking advice from the Chicago disability attorneys at Nash Disability Law. We can give you a free evaluation of your individual situation.