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Can Your Child Receive Social Security Disability For Mental Health Issues?

If your child is dealing with a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, or another disorder or diagnosis which may impair his or her ability to become self-supporting, you're likely looking into the various options available for your child's future. One of these options may include applying for and receiving federal disability benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Read on to learn more about which conditions will allow your child to receive SSI payments, as well as the advantages and disadvantages to applying for these benefits now.

What is the difference between SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance?

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is often confused with SSDI -- however, this type of disability compensation is available to those who don't have enough work credits to be eligible for SSDI. SSI has a few more restrictions than SSDI, with the most notable difference being the "asset test." Currently, if a disabled child lives with one parent and receives SSI, the parent cannot have more than $2,000 in liquid assets. If the child lives with both parents, the family cannot have more than $3,000 in liquid assets. If at any time you and/or your spouse obtain assets in excess of the asset limit, your child's SSI payments will stop.

SSDI is a type of federal disability insurance available for qualifying disabled adults. Your ability to qualify for SSDI, as well as the amount of income you'll receive, largely depends on the number of work "credits" you've received over the past few years. Like Social Security retirement payments, you must have worked a certain number of years and earned a certain threshold of salary during these years to be eligible for SSDI. Because of this work history requirement, it is generally impossible for those under age 18 to qualify for SSDI.

What ailments will make your child eligible for SSI?

The list of disabilities that can make an individual eligible for SSI continues to grow, and a number of mental or behavioral diagnoses are now on this list. Autism, severe ADHD, and even depression may qualify -- as long as these disabilities affect your child's ability to perform normal daily activities, like dressing or feeding him or herself, or attending classes at a public school. Talk to a social security disability attorney for the full list. Your child may be asked to undergo a physical examination by a physician, who will report the results to the Social Security Administration so that an administrative law judge can determine whether your child qualifies for SSI.

Is there any advantage to applying for SSI while your child is young?

There are a number of advantages inherent in applying for and receiving SSI during your child's early years. If you financially qualify for SSI, these payments can allow you and your family to afford treatment or therapies for your child, increasing the odds that he or she will later be able to live independently. In addition, your child can no longer qualify for SSI under your record once he or she turns 18. Therefore, the earlier you file for these benefits, the longer your child will be able to receive these benefits before being forced to re-apply.

If your child is unable to live independently, and you or the child's other parent qualify for Social Security retirement payments while your child still lives in your home, your child may also be able to claim SSDI (instead of SSI) on your record. Again, this will require your child to re-apply for benefits once he or she turns 18. However, these payments will not be subjected to an asset test, and SSDI payments tend to be higher than SSI payments, so your child may be able to enjoy a higher standard of living than he or she would if living independently and receiving SSI payments.