Social Security provides SSI (Supplemental Security Income) for children who are disabled and whose families have low incomes and few assets. To qualify, Social Security requires a child to have a mental or physical condition that causes severe functional limitations that have lasted or will last at least a year, or result in death. (For the basics about SSI for children, see the article Getting Disability Benefits for Children.)
You can begin the SSI application process in three ways. First, you can visit a local Social Security office in person to start your child’s application. Second, you can call Social Security to begin the application process. (If you need special assistance completing forms or understanding the process, you may want to contact Social Security in person or by phone.)
Finally, you can file part of the disability application online. But even if you file online, you will still need to have an interview with Social Security to finish your child's SSI application.
If you want to visit an office in person, you can locate the office closest to you by entering your zip code at https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/fo001.jsp. To contact Social Security by phone, call 800-772-1213. When you contact Social Security by phone or online, the agency will schedule an appointment for you to talk to a representative, either in person or by phone, to finish your child's SSI application.
Applying for SSI will require you to gather a significant amount of information about your child's condition. Social Security has a helpful checklist of paperwork and information you need to gather for your child’s application at http://www.ssa.gov/disability/Documents/Checklist%20-%20Child.pdf. You will need:
When you are gathering information for your child’s disability application, think about potential sources of information that will show your child has limitations that are severe enough to meet Social Security's disability standard. School records are often very important in a child’s disability case. Children spend a lot of time at school, where they are observed by professionals (teachers and administrators) who keep written records of their behavior and performance. A child who attends school full-time but shows no signs of any functional impairment at school will have a difficult time being approved for SSI. Think of your child's regular schedule and try to identify people or agencies that might have witnessed the limitations caused by the disability.
To start your application online, you can file the Disability Report (Child), Form SSA-3820-BK. The Disability Report is the main form that Social Security uses to evaluate a child’s disability application. A printable version of the form is available at printable Form SSA-3820. An online version of the form is at online Form SSA-3820. Much of the information you'll need for the form is listed above.
For more information about completing this form, see our article on Child Social Security Disability Application Requirements.
Regardless of how you begin your child's application, Social Security will schedule an interview with you to gather more information to complete the application.
One of the first forms that Social Security will have you complete is SSA-8000-BK, Application for Supplemental Security Income. The form mainly asks for information that will let Social Security determine if your child meets the income and asset limits for SSI. Social Security uses the same form for children and adults.
After reviewing this form, Social Security will decide if your child meets the non-disability criteria to receive SSI. If not, it will issue a denial notice, and it will not continue on to look at your child's disability. If your child is otherwise eligible, Social Security will gather more information from you and your child's doctors and schools to complete the disability application.
Social Security may give you the “Medical and School Worksheet – Child” form, SSA-3819, before your interview. The worksheet asks for information about the child's doctors, medicines, diagnostic tests, and about the child's schooling. The worksheet is available online at http://www.ssa.gov/disability/Documents/SSA-3819.pdf. Because it duplicates questions that are on the Disability Worksheet, it is also useful as a tool to help fill that form out online.
Finally, Social Security will have you complete releases of information so that they can get more records about your child. Social Security uses the Authorization to Disclose Information form, SSA-827. A printable copy of the form is at http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-827.pdf.
Once your application is complete, Social Security sends it to an agency in your state that reviews the medical records and decides if your child is disabled. In most states, the agency is called “Disability Determination Services,” or DDS. If DDS thinks that more information is needed about your child’s condition, it may set up a consultative examination with a Social Security doctor or schedule particular tests for your child. If that happens, Social Security will pay for the additional consultations or tests.