The financial challenges for parents with a child who is blind or disabled can be overwhelming, but the benefits payable through the Supplemental Security Income program administered by the Social Security Administration can be instrumental in providing some relief. Among the strictly enforced guidelines that Social Security uses to evaluate an application for benefits are limits on the income and resources a person making a claim may have and still qualify.

Adults applying for SSI must disclose all sources of income, including work and investments, as well as resources, such as cash on hand and vehicles. The disclosure requirements are the same for applications submitted on behalf of a blind or disabled child. An added requirement for a child’s application is that income and resources of parents and, in some situations, stepparents also must be disclosed because of a process known as “deeming.”

The laws and regulations governing the SSI program recognize the legal obligation of parents to support their children when financially able to do so. Deeming gives Social Security the method for accomplishing it. A consultation with an SSI attorney at NY Disability can provide answers to questions about deeming and SSI for children in addition to offering skilled and experienced representation at all stages of the process. This article looks at the deeming process to give you a better idea of how parental income may affect a child’s SSI benefits.

The process for a child to get SSI

The SSI program provides monthly payments to adults and children who are blind or disabled. It also pays benefits to people 65 years of age and older who are neither blind nor disabled provided they meet the financial guidelines of having limited resources and income, which are the financial requirements that must be met by applicants filing for benefits based upon being blind or disabled.

Blind or disabled adults and children must meet medical criteria in addition to financial guidelines. The definition of blindness applied to adults and children with a visual impairment is central acuity of 20/200 or less with correction in the better eye. It can also be an impairment of a person’s field of vision in their better eye causing the widest diameter of the visual field to subtend an angle of 20 degrees or less.

There are different definitions of disability for adults and children. An adult is disabled when unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to one or more medically determinable physical or mental impairments that lasted or are expected to last for at least 12 continuous months or can be expected to cause the death of the person.

A child under the age of 18 years of age is subject to a different definition of disability when applying for SSI. Social Security regulations define a child as disabled when a medically determinable physical or mental impairment alone or in combination causes functional limitations that are marked and severe. The marked and severe functional limitations must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months, or they are expected to cause the death of the child.

A claim must be supported by medical evidence. A person’s medical records containing physician’s notes and evaluation, results of laboratory tests, and reports of the results of diagnostic testing must confirm the medical or mental impairment. For children, records from school and other sources and professionals would be needed to prove the extent of functional limitations.

How much can a parent make?

Resources available to an applicant for SSI cannot exceed $2,000 for one person and $3,000 for a couple. Among the resources that count toward the limits are the following:

  • Real estate.
  • Money on hand and deposited at banks.
  • Stocks, bonds, and other investments.
  • Motor vehicles.
  • Personal property.
  • Life insurance policies with a cash value

Some resources, such as a home used as a principal residence, do not count toward the limits imposed for the SSI program.

For SSI claims on behalf of a child, the deemed resources of parents or stepparents may be taken into consideration in determining eligibility. A portion of countable resources of parents, which are those resources above $2,000 when a child resides with one parent or $3,000 when there are two parents, are deemed available to the child.

Deeming applies to parental income. The process begins with the total gross income of the parents or stepparent and deducting $397 from it for each non-disabled child living in the household.

A formula lets Social Security apply other allowable deductions to the total gross income. The total gross income is divided in half and an additional deduction equivalent to the federal SSI benefit rate is deducted. The monthly benefit rate for 2021 is $794 for a child living with only one parent and $1,191 for a child living with two parents or a parent and a stepparent. The remainder is the income of the parents deemed attributable to the child.

Get help from knowledgeable SSI professionals

The team of professionals at NY Disability takes pride in providing outstanding representation to individuals and families struggling with challenges related to Social Security disability. Whether applying for benefits for yourself or a child, our SSI attorney is a resource for advice you can trust and superior representation with applications and appeals. Contact us today for a free consultation.