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What benefits are available for disabled kids when they turn 18?

If you’re raising a child with a disability that will keep them from working, you may be wondering whether there are benefits available for your child once they turn 18.

There are several federal and state programs available, depending on your situation.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

One of the most important programs for young adults with disabilities is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This is the federal government’s main program for people who cannot work and who have not built up sufficient work credits for the other main federal disability program, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

SSI provides a monthly payment to people who meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability and who have very limited means. The SSA’s definition of disability is:

  • You cannot engage in substantial gainful activity due to a severe disability that will last at least a year or end in your death.

In general, this means that you can’t earn more than $1,350 per month ($2,260 if you’re blind). Your condition must be severe enough to significantly limit your ability to do work-related activities. Although it is not required, it is helpful if your disability is found in the SSA’s list of disabling conditions. Your disability must keep you from performing the work you did previously and keep you from performing any other kind of work.

Your child may already be receiving SSI. If they are, their case will be reevaluated once they reach 18. Since the government will no longer consider your resources when calculating their adult benefit, that check may get larger. If your child is not already receiving SSI, there is a chance they will be eligible once they turn 18.

If your adult child qualifies for SSI, they are generally also eligible for Medicaid health insurance. An attorney can explain how these benefits work together.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) on a parent’s record

When someone has a disability that began before age 22, they may instead receive SSDI benefits through their parent’s Social Security record. Your adult child may continue to be eligible for SSDI benefits on your record indefinitely, as long as they continue to meet the definition of disability and are unmarried. Marriage to someone who is also a disabled adult child does not affect eligibility.

Your child generally can’t get both SSI and SSDI benefits, but they can get the benefit that is larger. SSDI may also entitle your adult disabled child to Medicare health insurance.

Other programs:

People who qualify for SSI, and some people who qualify for SSDI, will also qualify for other benefits, such as:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as food stamps)
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) (if your adult child is under 19)

How do I know which program to apply for?

It can be extremely helpful to talk to an attorney who focuses on Social Security Disability law. Your SSD lawyer can run the numbers and can generally tell you which program is most favorable for your adult child with a disability.

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