This is an article written by Molly Clarke of Social Security Disability Help. Molly regularly contributes to the SSD Help blog where she works to promote disability awareness and assist individuals throughout the Social Security Disability application process.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates child and adult disability cases very differently. Adult eligibility for benefit programs is largely based on the ability to work, where children—who are not expected to support themselves and whose disability has kept them from working—are evaluated based on their ability to function at age-appropriate levels.
Because of this, when a child receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) turns 18, the SSA will reevaluate their claim based on the adult disability standards. This process is called Age-18 Redetermination, and will determine whether or not your child will continue to receive disability benefits.
The following article will provide you with information regarding the transition from childhood benefits to adult benefits.
SSI Technical Eligibility
When your child initially applied for SSI benefits, he or she was evaluated based on the income of a parent or guardian. Now that he or she is 18 and is considered to be an adult, they will be evaluated based on his or her own income. This means that—in 2013—your child cannot earn more than $710.00 per month. In cases where a child earns less income than a parent, the child’s benefit will actually increase when he or she turns 18.
SSI Medical Eligibility
As previously mentioned, a child’s eligibility for SSI benefits is based on his or her ability to function at an age-appropriate level. When a child turns 18, however, his or her eligibility is dependent on the ability to maintain employment. The SSA will consider an adult to be disabled if they meet the following criteria:
• He or she cannot do the work they did prior to becoming disabled; and
• He or she has a physical or mental condition that prevents them from doing other types of work; and
• His or her condition has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or result in death.
It is important to note that because your child was not previously expected to work, the SSA will evaluate how they function in an educational environment in lieu of work experience. If your child does not meet the criteria that make up the adult definition of disability, he or she will not continue to receive disability benefits after Age-18 Redetermination.
In addition to meeting the more general definition of disability, the SSA will also evaluate your child based on medical criteria found in the Blue Book. Although this was done during your child’s initial application, once they turn 18, they will have to meet the adult Blue Book listing rather than the child Blue Book listing. The adult listing for autism is outlined below:
12.10—Autistic Disorders and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders
An adult with autism must experience qualitative deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction, in the development of verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and in imaginative activity. Applicant must have a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests, which frequently are stereotyped and repetitive.
Although this listing is not much different from the childhood listing for autism, it is important to note that adult applicants must experience the same symptoms at an increased level. To read more about the adult listing for autism, click here.
Age-18 Redetermination Process
In the months before your child’s 18th birthday, the SSA will mail you information regarding the redetermination process. When you receive this information, you should begin your preparation. The preparation for the redetermination process will be quite similar to the preparation you did before your child’s initial application. Again, you will be required to collect documentation to support your child’s claim. Visit the Adult Disability Checklist for a complete list of the documents required for redetermination.
As part of the redetermination process, you and your child will be required to schedule and attend an interview at your local Social Security office. At this interview you will submit all of the documents you have collected and will be asked to answer questions about your child’s condition. It is important that you provide as much detail as possible so that the SSA will understand how autism affects your child’s daily life.
After your reconsideration, you will receive a letter in the mail containing the SSA’s decision. As with the initial application process, you will be allowed to file an appeal if your child is denied benefits after Age-18 Reconsideration.
For more information regarding the transition from child SSI benefits to adult SSI benefits, click here. And for more information about applying for disability benefits, visit Social Security Disability Help or contact Molly Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org.