Social Security is familiar to the majority of Tennessee residents, but many people think that benefits are available only to individuals over the age of 65. In fact, however, some children-or their parents-have the option of applying for SSI benefits if they meet the eligibility criteria.
For the purposes of Social Security’s SSI program for children, “child” has a specific definition. Consistent with state law, a child is defined as anyone under the age of 18. However, a person who is 18 or older but under the age of 22 also qualifies as a “child” if he or she is still regularly attending high school.
In addition to being a child, eligibility is conditioned on the child being blind or disabled. The eligibility period runs from birth until the child turns 18. The Social Security Administration has different criteria to determine disability for children and disability for adults. Once the child turns 18, he or she may still be eligible for SSI benefits, but the disability will be evaluated according to adult standards, not child standards.
The definition of “disabled” for a child requires a physical or mental impairment that can be determined and identified medically. Emotional disorders or learning problems can qualify. Similar to the adult definition of “disabled,” the disability must be expected to last for 12 months or longer or result in the child’s death. However, an additional requirement that differs from the adult disability definition is that the disability has severe and marked functional limitations on the child’s life and daily activities.
“Blindness” also has a specific definition that must be met in order to qualify. The standard is based on vision in the better of a person’s two eyes. It requires central visual acuity of 20/200 or less even when corrective lenses are used. Alternatively, “statutory blindness” means that field of view is limited at an angle of 20 degrees or less. If these standards are not met but a child suffers other visual impairment, the visual impairment may still qualify the child for SSI benefits if the impairment satisfies the definition of disability.
Source: Social Security Administration, “Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI for Children-2014 Edition,” 2014