If you have a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, your family may be eligible for financial assistance from the Social Security Administration. In this article, we take a look at the requirements for supplemental security income (SSI) for children with autism and explain how to claim your benefits.
How a Child with Autism Can Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits
The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial support to low-income families with children who have serious disabilities.
If your child is diagnosed with a severe form of autism and your family meets SSA’s income and asset limit requirements, you may be able to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) assistance for your child.
What Is the SSI Benefits Program?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a need-based benefit program administered by the Social Security Administration. The program provides monthly payments to individuals with disabilities of any age, as long as they meet certain medical and financial eligibility criteria.
SSI is not to be confused with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a program that pays benefits to disabled adults who have paid FICA taxes over the course of their working history. These benefits are not available for children with autism or other disabilities.
How to Qualify for the SSI Benefits Program
The Social Security Administration recognizes autism spectrum disorder as a potentially disabling condition that may be able to qualify your child for assistance through the SSI program.
To be considered for SSI benefits, you must provide documentation showing that your child meets the necessary disability requirements. The SSA’s medical guide, known as the Blue Book, lists all the symptoms and test results needed in order to get approved for SSI benefits.
You must be able to document that your child’s condition causes both:
- Significant deficits in verbal communication, non-verbal communication, and social interactions, and
- Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
In addition, your child must have either extreme limitation in one of the following areas or marked limitation in two areas:
- Interacting with others
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information
- Concentrating, persisting or maintaining pace
- Adapting or managing oneself.
SSI benefits are offered only to families with documented financial needs. To be eligible, you have to meet certain income, resource, and asset limits set by the SSA.
The income limit for SSI is equal to the federal benefit rate (FBR), which in 2023, amounts to $914 per month for an individual and $1,371 per month for a couple.
However, it is important to keep in mind that not all income is countable, which means that you could still qualify for SSI if you earn more than the income limit. Countable income includes wages or any other kind of money you earn from working, the money you get from other sources like unemployment, Social Security retirement, gifts from friends, as well as free food or shelter.
To be eligible for SSI benefits, Social Security requires that you have less than $2,000 in assets, for a single person, and $3,000 for a couple.
Items that count as resources for the SSI benefits program include cash, money in a checking or savings account, the cash value in life insurance policies, stocks and bonds, household goods and personal effects over $2,000, real estate, and more than one car. Note that your primary home and car, as well as some types of savings, don’t count toward the SSI asset limit.
How Much Does a Child with Autism Get From SSI?
The amount of SSI payments directly corresponds to the income level of your household. In other words, the lower your income, the more disability benefits you will receive. The full SSI benefit amount for 2023 is $841 per month.
Starting a Claim
There are several ways to apply for SSI benefits:
- Fill out the Child Disability Report online and contact Social Security to complete your application
- Schedule an appointment by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213
- Visit your local SSA office in person.
Whether you apply in person or online, you have to attach extensive documentation that proves your child’s medical needs and the financial situation of your household, including:
- Your child’s medical records
- A list of symptoms that indicate your child’s limited functioning, for example
- Limited social interaction
- Verbal and nonverbal communication issues
- Extreme limitation in one area
- Significantly restricted repetitive patterns or behavior
- Names and contact information of your child’s doctor and all the other health care professionals who have worked with your child, as well as the dates of their appointments
- Written statements from professionals who work with your child and can attest to their challenges, including health care providers, teachers, therapists, and caretakers.
- Your and your child’s social security cards
- Proof of citizenship
- Proof of income for your household, including all family members living with the child
- Statements from any other benefits received
- Bank account statements
- W-2 form or a federal tax return for each adult that earns a wage in the household
- Any other documentation related to your income
- Proof of financial assets or resources
- School records, including
- Report cards
- Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 documentation
- Teacher’s contact information
Child Disability Starter Kit
Before your appointment, be sure to consult the SSA’s Child Disability Starter Kit. This online resource provides all the details on the paperwork you’ll need to present in order to successfully apply for SSI on behalf of your child. It also includes the definition of disability for children under the age of 18, information about the SSI benefits program, and provides a link to the Child Disability Report.
When to start the application process
If you think that your child with autism spectrum disorder may qualify for SSI, you should start the application as early on as possible. The entire process may take several months, and this will ensure that you will receive the benefits in a timely manner.
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