Social Security Disability|Legal

What are the income limits for Social Security Disability for a child?

Children who have a disability that renders them unable to work may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits under special provisions. The benefits they might qualify for are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, which are income-restricted.

What Are the Medical Qualifications for Children to Receive SSI Payments?

Supplemental Security Income payments are different from welfare, and one of the major differences is the medical requirement. Children are only eligible for SSI payments if they suffer from a disabling medical condition that causes “marked and severe functional limitations.” The medical condition must have resulted in disabling functional limitations for at least 12 months, or the condition must be terminal.

Medical professionals and a Social Security disability attorney can help determine whether a child’s condition meets the medical qualifications for SSI.

What Are the Income Limits for Social Security Disability for a Child?

Financial qualifications apply both to a child’s earnings and their family’s income. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability through Supplemental Security Income, both income limits must be met.

What Income Limits Apply to Disability Benefits for a Child?

The child themselves generally cannot earn more than $1,350 per month, and the calculations are on a month-to-month rather than an annual basis. Their income can’t be more than $2,260 if they are blind. The federal government recognizes blindness as a uniquely challenging disability in such a visually oriented world, and thus allows blind children and adults higher income limits.

As far as the child’s income limit is concerned, the $1,350 (or $2,260) monthly maximum takes into account only income that’s earned from “substantial gainful activity” — work. Children who are fortunate to receive earnings from investments, interest or other assets usually don’t have to include these when calculating their individual income. All income must be included in the family calculations, however.

(All figures provided are for 2022. Figures vary slightly from year to year, most often increasing a nominal amount.)

What Family Income Limits Apply to Disability Benefits for a Child?

Family income limit calculations primarily focus on the parents’ income, for parents are typically the ones who claim their child as a dependent. They also have the highest incomes within a family in the vast majority of cases.

The Social Security Administration takes into account both the patients earned income (from substantial gainful activity) and unearned income (from non-work sources). 

Parents’ income is likewise considered on a monthly rather than annual basis. Adding up all income within a month is a fairly straightforward process, even if doing so requires checking income from many sources. 

Child Benefit Standard Calculation

The gross income isn’t what the SSA looks at, though. Several numbers are subtracted from the parents’ gross income:

  1. Government Payments: All income earned through government programs (e.g. food stamps, welfare, stimulus checks, etc.) is subtracted. SSA benefits such as SSDI are one government program that doesn’t get subtracted.
  2. Tax Refunds: Any federal or state tax refunds are subtracted (including advance payments for the Child Tax Credit). This keeps refunds from messing up income limits in any one month.
  3. A flat amount of $397 is subtracted for each non-disabled child in the family. This is subtracted first from non-earned income, and then from earned income once non-earned has been exhausted. It’s the same amount as the difference between individual and couple SSI limits.
  4. A flat amount of $20 is subtracted (regardless of whether there are one or two parental income earners). This again is subtracted from non-earned income if available.
  5. A flat amount of $65 is subtracted. This is subtracted from earned income, regardless of whether any non-earned remains.
  6. The total earned income at this point is reduced by 50 percent, halving the amount of income from actual work.
  7. The SSI benefit rate for the parents is subtracted from non-earned and earned income remaining. This is $794 for children who live with a single parent, and $1,191 for children who live with both parents/a parent and a stepparent.
  8. The remaining earned and non-earned parent income is then divided equally among all disabled children in the household. The entire amount is attributed to the child if they’re the only child in the family who is disabled. The amount is proportionally deemed if there are multiple disabled children.

Approval and Allowance Calculation

The resulting amount that’s deemed to the child must not exceed the individual maximum income of $1,350 (or $2,260). This amount is added to any earned income that the child personally receives when checking the maximum allowances.

The child should be approved for Supplemental Security Income if their earned and deemed income is less than the maximum. 

Cash benefits payments are normally made immediately if the child suffers from total blindness, total deafness, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, severe intellectual disability (for children 4 or older), symptomatic HIV, down syndrome, and birth weight less than 2 pounds 10 ounces (for children 3 or younger). Any other medical condition can take three to five months to review before payments are made.

A review is conducted at least every three years, or more often in some cases.

Child Benefits With Child Support Calculations

For parents who receive child support, one-third or the payments received are included in the parents’ income when calculating SSI eligibility for a child. Thus, the child support received within a month should be divided by 3 before adding it to income.

This is included before anything is subtracted, and thus is subject to the flat amount deductions, halving and non-disabled child deductions as noted above.

Child Benefits Received from Disabled Parents’ Calculations

Any Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments that parents receive are included as normal parent income for the purposes of calculations.

SSDI/SSI payments are included at the full amount received (and not divided by 3), but they are subject to the flat amount deductions, halving and non-disabled child deductions noted.

Child Benefits With Alimony Calculations

Alimony is included as parent income when determining eligibility. Unlike child support, it’s included at the full amount received. Alimony is still subject to the flat amount deductions, halving and non-disabled child deduction, though.

Child Benefits for Disabled Children in Medical Facilities

For disabled children who are in a medical facility that health insurance pays for, SSI benefits are normally set at $30. This assumes that the child’s income qualifies, of course.

How Deeming Affects a Child’s Eligibility for SSD Benefits

The amount that remains after all of the calculations have been completed gets assigned to the disabled child. The assigning is referred to as “deeming.”

Any deemed money is considered income for the child, and gets added to any earned income that they have. The total amount is then used to determine eligibility, with the child receiving SSI benefits if the amount is under the maximum allowance (provided their medical condition qualifies). 

Again, the maximum disability determination allowance is $1,350 for most disabilities and $2,260 for complete blindness. This is for each disabled child within a family.

Get Help Navigating SSI Benefits for a Disabled Child

As this rather lengthy explanation shows, the income eligibility calculations required for a disabled child to receive Supplemental Security Income payments are lengthy and involved. All income sources must be correctly tabulated, and then all applicable deductions must be taken.

Because this process is complex, parents should consult a knowledgeable Social Security Disability attorney for assistance with determining eligibility. Eligibility must not only be calculated correctly to determine qualification, but also so there are no delays or other issues due to inaccurate calculations. An SSDI attorney will be familiar with these calculations, having done disability benefits calculations many times. 

Of course, an attorney can also assist with determining whether a medical condition qualifies. Contact an attorney now for a consultation, so you can apply and begin receiving payments as quickly as possible.