Being born prematurely does not qualify automatically qualify an infant for SSI disability benefits; the important factor when determining a preemie's eligibility for disability is his or her birth weight when compared to its gestational age (how far along in her pregnancy the mother was when the baby was born).
A baby can also qualify for SSI benefits if he or she meets the childhood disability requirements for a serious medical condition (we discuss the more common problems below).
However, even if a baby meets either the low birth weight or childhood disability criteria, the household income and assets must still be under the threshold required to be eligible for disability.
Infants with low birth weight may be eligible for SSI regardless of their gestational age. Here is the chart that shows the weight/gestational age requirements for SSI.
If a baby does not qualify for SSI based on low birth weight, he or she may qualify under other childhood disability rules. To be found disabled, the infant must meet the following criteria.
Infants may qualify for disability through SSI for conditions such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, congenital heart problems, blindness, and cystic fibrosis. Visit these links for more information on getting disability benefits for these diseases.
If you are unsure whether your baby is eligible for disability, you should contact an experienced disability to discuss your case. Keep in mind it can take several months for the SSA to decide if your baby is eligible for SSI.
In some cases, you may be able to get immediate benefits for your disabled infant. Here are some of the conditions that qualify for immediate benefits:
If your child has a disabling condition other than the ones listed above, you should contact the SSA to see if the baby’s condition qualifies him or her for immediate benefits. For more information, read our article on presumptive disability benefits.
The mother of a disabled infant must meet very low asset and income limits to be eligible for SSI. The asset limit is $2,000 for a single person.
The income limits vary depend on a number of factors:
Visit the SSA’s website to see the detailed chart that outlines income limits for single parents. Also read our how family income is deemed for child recipients for SSI.
The SSA's website will also tell you whether your state provides a supplement to the federal benefits and who to contact if you have questions about how your state deems income for the purposes of eligibility for SSI.
If you already receive benefits for a disabled child and you have another baby, contact the SSA to let them know. Having an additional child will increase your income limit for eligibility. If you are disabled and receiving SSI, your benefits and those of your child will not be affected, but, again, the income limits may change.
Note that single fathers and two parent families may be eligible for SSI for a disabled child.
The Children with Special Health Care Needs Act is a Social Security law that requires states to provide certain support programs for parents of disabled children. Contact the SSA for more information and resources that may be available in your area.
It can also be helpful to discuss your child's case with an experienced disability attorney to get advice on applying for benefits.