Premature infants can get Social Security benefits, but only in certain situations. A premature birth must lead to other medical ailments, such as low birth weight or failure to thrive, before a child qualifies for either Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income.
Not all premature infants can get SSDI or SSI. Many do qualify, however. Whether your child qualifies depends on a number of factors, such as what medical conditions, if any, they developed as a result of their premature birth. A Social Security disability lawyer can help you determine if your child qualifies and if so, they can help you apply and receive approval.
How the Social Security Administration (SSA) Defines a Premature Infant
A premature infant, commonly called a “preemie,” is an infant born before the 37th week of gestation. Because preemies often have underdeveloped lungs and other organs, they have a much higher risk of developing severe medical conditions compared to babies born on or around their due dates.
Preemies frequently suffer from respiratory ailments, which can lead to insufficient oxygen reaching the brain and other vital organs. This can cause long-term complications including blindness, deafness, cognitive impairment, impaired fine motor skills, and cerebral palsy.
Being a preemie is not on its own a disability, nor does it automatically make your child eligible for SSI. Many preemies turn out perfectly healthy and catch up to other babies in size and development within months. But if your child developed a disabling condition because of their premature birth, you could be eligible for SSDI or SSI.
How a Premature Infant Can Qualify for Social Security Disability
The Social Security “Blue Book” of approved conditions does not list premature birth. But it does feature listings for several conditions commonly associated with premature birth. If your child developed one of these conditions due to being a preemie, they may qualify for disability under the Blue Book listing. Many preemies are eligible for benefits because they have low birth weight or failure to thrive.
Low Birth Weight
If your newborn weighs less than a certain amount at birth, they fall under a classification of low birth weight and become eligible for Social Security disability. The weight threshold varies based on how prematurely your child was born. Here are the cutoffs for babies born between 32 and 40 weeks of gestation:
- 37-40 weeks: 2000 grams or less
- 36 weeks: 1875 grams or less
- 35 weeks: 1700 grams or less
- 34 weeks: 1500 grams or less
- 33 weeks: 1325 grams or less
- 32 weeks: 1250 grams or less
Failure to Thrive
Failure to thrive is a situation where a baby is born at a healthy weight—or at least within the range considered healthy—but does not grow and develop at the rate they should.
The SSA characterizes a child as having failed to thrive if the child has a marked developmental delay and weight measurements below certain thresholds:
- From birth to age 2: Three consecutive weight-for-length measurements, taken at least 60 days apart but all within a 12-month period, show the child below the third percentile for their age.
- From age 2 to age 3: Three consecutive BMI-for-age measurements, taken at least 60 days apart but all within a 12-month period, show the child below the third percentile for their age.
Other Medical Conditions Associated With Premature Birth
Low birth weight and failure to thrive are not the only medical conditions associated with premature birth. A preemie has an elevated risk of developing many ailments, some of them disabling and even life-threatening. Many of them appear in the Social Security Blue Book.
These conditions include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Impaired fine motor skills
- Neurological disorders
- Mental disorders
- Respiratory ailments
This list is nowhere near exhaustive. If your child was born prematurely and developed any medical ailment, minor or severe, temporary or permanent, you owe it to yourself to find out if you are eligible to receive Social Security disability on your child’s behalf.
SSDI vs. SSI
There are two types of Social Security disability for which your child may be eligible based on their premature birth and the resulting medical complications. SSDI resembles a government-run disability insurance program. It receives its funding from payroll taxes. Since SSDI is for injured workers, it is challenging to receive benefits for a premature infant. However, it is still worth talking to a lawyer to find out what your options are.
SSI is a means-tested disability program for the needy. If you have a limited income and limited assets, and you or someone in your household has a disability, you can qualify for SSI benefits. This includes if your baby developed a medical condition from being born prematurely.
Call 866-628-8179 Today for a Free Case Evaluation With a Social Security Disability Lawyer
In some cases, premature infants can get Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security disability lawyers at the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC, can help you apply for benefits for your child born prematurely. We offer a free case evaluation. To speak with a member of our team today, call 866-628-8179.