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Feb 20
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Applying for Disability Benefits for Your Child

Caring for a special needs child can be a full time job—at home research, medical appointments, and finding trustworthy supportive care may cause parents to reach unexpected financial and emotional obstacles. If you or a loved one can no longer financially support a child with an illness or disability, it may be time to explore the Social Security Disability options available to you.

Supplemental Security Income

The Social Security Administration (SSA) controls two separate disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is an adult disability program in which basic eligibility is at least partially based on employment history. SSI, on the other hand, is based on financial need and is available to disabled individuals of all ages. If you are the parent or guardian of a special needs child, you will need to apply for benefits through the SSI program.

Below you will find tips to help you complete the application process and to increase your chance of receiving disability benefits for your child.

1.  Understand the SSI Eligibility Criteria- For your child to qualify for SSI, he or she must first meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. It is important to remember that the SSA has different standards for children and adults. A child is considered disabled if he or she has a mental or physical condition that seriously limits his or her daily activities and is expected to last at least one year or result in death.

If a child meets these criteria, the next thing that the SSA will evaluate is the parents’ or guardians’ income and financial resources. To learn more about the financial requirements, click here (http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/content/about-ssi).

2.  Follow the Correct Application Process- It is important to follow all steps of the application process. If you don’t, you may compromise your child’s eligibility for benefits. To initiate the application process, you must fill out a “Child Disability Report”. You should include information about your child’s functional capacity in your application, including the specifics of how his or her medical or psychological condition affects every day abilities. Collect records from your child’s doctor(s), hospitalizations, school(s) or any other information pertinent to your child’s conditions and abilities.

Although you can start your child’s disability application online, many parents find it easiest to apply for benefits in person. The interview process is required, so getting the interview out of the way at the same time as the application may potentially shorten your wait for a decision on your child’s claim.

3.  Set Your Disability Interview Appointment- To set an appointment for an SSI application interview, you will need to contact the SSA via the main phone line at 1-800-772-1213, or by calling your local SSA office. If you do not set an appointment in advance and show up at your local office, you will likely have to wait some time to speak with an attorney, and even then you may have to schedule your interview and application for a later date.

4.  Collect the Required Documentation- When you schedule your interview, be sure to ask what paperwork, records and other documentation you should collect before the appointment.

Among the documentation the SSA will need are your child’s medical and school records. The SSA will also need statements from your child’s teachers, coaches, doctors, and others. If you can collect these statements in advance, you can potentially cut down on the time it takes for the SSA to review your child’s disability application.

It is important to understand though that even if you provide statements at the time of your interview, the disability examiner may need to contact other individuals to get additional information before making a decision on your child’s claim.

5.  Complete all Requirements in a Timely Manner- You may feel the disability process is complicated and demanding, but you must still complete all requirements in a timely manner. Responding quickly and thoroughly to any request from the SSA will make the application process run as smoothly and as quickly as possible. Failure to respond will only delay the claims process and could potentially result in the dismissal of your child’s application.

6.  File an Appeal, if Necessary- It is not uncommon for initial applications for disability benefits to be denied. Appeal processes are built into the SSA’s procedures, and you can appeal an SSI denial more than once, if necessary.

This guest post is brought to you by Molly Clarke of http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/, an organization that helps people apply for government disability benefits. Submitted by: Molly Clarke

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