What Are SSI Income Limits for Parents of a Disabled Child?

For their disabled child to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, parents must meet established income limits. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) only counts a portion of parents’ income when determining eligibility for the child. The SSA uses a complex calculation, a means test known as deeming, to determine the income limits for each family. Gross monthly income limit guidelines range between $3,065 and $6,009.

To more accurately determine your SSI income limits, and to learn more about how to apply for SSI benefits for your disabled child, consider the following information.

What is the difference between SSI and SSDI?

Although the differences between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and SSI are subtle, they are significant—especially when it comes time to apply for these benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance

SSDI pays disability benefits to disabled workers, disabled widowed or divorced spouses, and disabled adult children. Technically considered a form of insurance, the SSA draws funds for this benefit from employee payroll taxes. For every year you work and pay FICA benefits—typically through payroll deductions—you earn work credits toward becoming fully insured for this benefit. Workers can earn between one and four work credits each year, depending on their income and FICA contributions.

Supplemental Security Income

SSI benefits are funded by a federal income supplement program paid from a general tax fund to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. SSI is needs-based and intended for those who do not qualify under the SSDI program and have very limited assets and income. Applicants must be age 65 or older or disabled under the SSA’s definition. The SSI qualifying income limits are significantly restrictive and, for disabled children, the SSA considers parental income and resources to determine eligibility.

Is my disabled child eligible for SSI benefits?

To qualify for SSI benefits, a child must be blind or disabled based on the following definitions:

  • Blindness: The child must have vision of 20/200 or less in the better eye when a corrective lens is worn or visual field limitation in the better eye no more than 20 degrees at the widest point.
  • Disability: The child must be under 18 with a medically verifiable physical or mental impairment that causes severe functional limitations expected to result in death or that have lasted—or are expected to last—for 12 or more continuous months.

Once the child reaches age 18, the definition for disability is extended to require that their disability prevents them from participating in substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Why does the SSA impose income limits for SSI?

The SSA imposes SSI income limits for the parents of disabled children to ensure that benefits are reserved for those who have the highest level of need. Unlike SSID, SSI benefits are available to children and those who have not worked long enough to qualify for the alternative program.

To prevent the program from being overly restrictive, the SSA uses a variety of factors to determine the maximum resource and income limits necessary to qualify for SSI. In analyzing your child’s application for approval, they will consider where you live, how many persons live in your household, and specific aspects of your living arrangements.

How do I perform the SSI income limit calculation?

If a disabled child is under age 18 and lives at home, the SSA will attribute, or deem, some of the parents’ and, if applicable, stepparents’ income to the child.

The deeming process begins by totaling all earned and unearned income. Tax refunds, veterans’ pensions, court-ordered support, food stamps, and other social assistance, such as welfare payments, will not be considered in this calculation. The SSA provides a more comprehensive list of non-eligible income items under the deeming process.

Next, the calculation applies a series of deductions. Deductions are taken from unearned income first, if applicable, and then from earned income once unearned income is exhausted by deductions.

Deductions include:

  • $368 per month for each non-disabled child;
  • $20 general income exclusion; and
  • $65 earned income exclusion.

From the net of those deductions, the remainder is divided in half for any additional earned income exclusions. Finally, from that amount, you are authorized to deduct an amount equal to the SSI federal benefit rate, which is approximately $735 for an individual, $1,103 per couple, or $368 for an essential person. Whatever remains is the amount of income the SSA deems to the disabled child.

It is important to note that the SSA reevaluates this calculation monthly. If the calculations change and household income levels rise, the SSA may discontinue the SSI benefits at any time.

The SSA also imposes limits on parental resources in addition to the income limits described here.

How do I apply for SSI for my disabled child?

You can initiate the application process by completing a Child Disability Report online or by visiting your local SSA office location.

However, before you begin the application process yourself, consider speaking with an SSI attorney. Because the process is highly complexand approval can be potentially challenging to achievea lawyer can assist you in the correct preparation of the application and, if necessary, handle your SSI appeal if the SSA denies benefits for your child.

How can I learn more about SSI income limits for my disabled child?

You can explore your eligibility using SSA’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool. This tool does not request your social security number or other personal data and you cannot formally apply for benefits through this interface. It is helpful, however, for walking you through the deeming process and other complex calculations.

For a truly personalized level of assistance, contact the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC. We assist clients across the U.S. with their SSDI and SSI applications and appeals. Our compassionate, helpful legal team can answer all your questions and assist you with every aspect of the process. Contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation with one of our SSDI lawyers. We can help you determine the parental SSI income limits for your disabled child and expedite the application process on your behalf. Call 866-628-8179 for more information.