How to Apply for SSI for Your Child

Two Parts:Preparing to Apply for SSICompleting the Application Process

If you have a child who is disabled, then you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA). This money is intended to assist with the additional cost of caring for a child with special needs by parents who are already struggling financially.

Part 1
Preparing to Apply for SSI

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    Understand the eligibility criteria. SSI payments are for unmarried children under age 18 who have a qualifying disability.[1] A qualifying disability is defined as having a physical or mental impairment(s) which results in marked and severe functional limitations and has or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months or result in death.[2]
    • The SSA publishes a listing of impairments for children. If the child’s disability is on the list, then this is usually enough to establish that the child has a qualifying disability. However, the absence of a listing does not mean that the child cannot still be deemed sufficiently disabled for benefits.[3]
    • SSA also publishes a “compassionate allowances” listing. The list allows SSI to get benefits quickly to those who invariably qualify.[4] If the child's condition is listed in the “compassionate allowances” database, then your application will likely be approved quickly.
    • The list of compassionate allowances can be found here.
    • Along with the age and disability benefits, the household must qualify under income and asset guidelines. The SSA has a complex formula for determining who financially qualifies and does not qualify for benefits. Very generally, a child may qualify if their two-parent household has only earned monthly income below $4,158 or if their single-parent household has only earned monthly income below $3,424.[5]
    • The income thresholds are too complicated to summarize here. If you have any question about whether your child is eligible, contact SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or send an email at this page.
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    Gather necessary documentation. The SSA will need a large amount of medical, financial and other information to review your eligibility. Keep the documents in a handy file because you will need to take them with you to your interview at the SSA. You should gather all of the following:[6]
    • Name, address, and phone number of every doctor, therapist, hospital, and clinic that has seen or treated your child in the last year.
    • Any medical records that you already have, including the dates the child was seen or treated and the child's patient ID numbers, if known.
    • Medications the child is taking. These can be found on the medicine containers.
    • Child's medical assistance number, if any.
    • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of any schools the child has attended in the past 12 months, including the names of teachers, psychologists, counselors, speech, and other therapists who have seen or treated the child.
    • The child's Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for early intervention services or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for special education services, if your child has one. Also any other school records in your possession.
    • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of any social service program and the name of the caseworkers that have information about the child.
    • Name, address, and phone number of another adult who helps care for the child and can help SSA get information, if necessary.
    • An original or certified copy of the child’s birth certificate. If the child was born in a different country, then you need a document that serves as proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency.
  3. Image titled Close a Bank Account Step 8
    Gather information about the family's finances. You will also need information about your household, including financial information. You should gather the following:[7]
    • Names and Social Security Numbers for all the children and adults who live in the household.
    • Proof of current income for the child and family members living in the household, e.g., pay stubs, self-employment tax returns, unemployment or other program benefits, child support.
    • Proof of resources for the child and parents living in the household, e.g., bank account statements, life insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks, bonds, etc.
    • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of any employers the child has had.

Part 2
Completing the Application Process

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    Complete the Medical and School Worksheet--Child. This form is available here. It simply helps you organize all of the information and documents you will need in such a way to prepare you for completing the Child Disability Report and for the interview with the SSA.
  2. Image titled Change Your Name in Hawaii Step 2
    Complete the Child Disability Report. You cannot complete the application for SSI online. However, if you complete this Disability Report online, then SSA will have a chance to review it and contact you if they believe they will need additional documents or information that you can bring with you to your interview.
    • The online Child Disability Report can be found here. You may also print off a PDF copy from this website.
    • If you prefer, you can call 1-800-772-1213 and explain that you want to file an SSI application for a child.[8] A form can be mailed to you.
    • You may also go to your local Social Security office and fill out the form. You can find your local address by using this locator and typing in your zip code.
  3. Image titled File for Divorce in Texas Without a Lawyer Step 12
    Follow the instructions on your appointment letter. Within a few weeks of submitting your Child Disability Report, you will receive a letter from the Social Security Administration. This letter will give you a date, time, and location for your interview, as well as remind you of the documents that you should bring with you to the interview in order to complete the application process.
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    Attend the interview. Go to the Social Security office on the date and time stated in your appointment letter. Take all of the documents that you have gathered, plus any additional documents requested in the appointment letter. Personnel at the Social Security office will help you complete your application.
  5. Image titled Apply for Scholarships Step 13
    Wait for the decision. When the SSA has made a decision, they will send you a letter advising you of the decision. It can take three to five months for this decision.[9] Be sure to update the SSA with any changes to your address, phone number, or other information while you wait.
  6. Image titled Become a Millionaire Step 21
    Meet with an attorney if denied benefits. If you are denied SSI benefits, you should meet with an experienced SSI benefits attorney. An experienced attorney will make the best case possible for benefits and relieve you of the work necessary to build that case.[10] To find an experienced attorney, contact your state's bar association, which should run a referral service.
    • Federal law limits the amount of fees an attorney can charge. Typically, the attorney will represent you under a contingency agreement. Under this arrangement, the attorney will be paid a portion of your benefits award if they are successful.[11] Federal law limits the amount to 25% of the back benefits or $6,000, whichever is less.[12]
    • You will probably have to cover costs, such as photocopying records. Ask upfront for an estimate of costs.
    • You are strongly encouraged to use an attorney for your appeal. Having an attorney will significantly increase your child’s likelihood of being awarded benefits.[13]


  • SSI is not medical assistance; however, children who qualify for SSI often qualify for Medicaid.[14] If you need health care assistance, then you should contact your state Medicaid agency.

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Categories: Disability Forms Permits and Benefits | Raising Children with Special Needs