What to Do When Your Child Receiving SSI Is Turning 18

  • January 18th, 2024

Young man with Down syndrome smiles at the camera outdoors.Does your child receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits? Are they approaching their 18th birthday? If so, it is a good time to talk to a special needs planning attorney.

Your child may likely be facing some important changes that could significantly impact their SSI benefits.

What Is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that provides people with disabilities monthly payments that help cover their basic needs. The criteria to receive these benefits are very strict. In order to qualify, individuals must meet specific income and asset limits.

SSI Benefits

About one in three children who receive SSI lose these benefits when they turn 18 years old. This often happens because the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a different test to determine disability once a beneficiary turns 18.

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According to the SSA, SSI recipients under 18 are considered disabled if:

  • They have a physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limits their activities
  • Their condition(s) has lasted or is expected to last at least 1 year or result in death

However, once they turn 18, their impairment must result in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity (SGA). Many beneficiaries are dropped because they fail to meet the SSA’s disability definition for adults.

SSI Redetermination Process

The SSA sends redetermination notifications to recipients who are turning 18. The recipient will then need to complete an interview with the SSA. In addition to taking into consideration your child’s resources, the SSA will also review your child’s medical records as part of the decision process.

Financial Requirements at Age 18

Fortunately, the SSI financial requirements often become easier once a child turns 18. When the recipient reaches this age, the SSA looks at their income and resources rather than that of their parents.

SSI recipients who received benefits as children often lack any other sources of income and don’t own any large assets. These individuals likely will not have any problem qualifying financially on their own. In some cases, a person who qualifies as disabled but can't meet SSI’s financial requirements due to their parents’ income or resources may immediately qualify for benefits once they turn 18.

However, note that beneficiaries who turn 18 and fail to meet the new disability or financial requirements may not always lose their benefits. For example:

  • An individual who started an approved vocational or special education program before turning 18 may continue to qualify for Supplemental Security Income.
  • SSI recipients under age 22 who regularly attend school can exclude a certain amount of earnings each year from their countable income for SSI purposes. This is known as the Student-Earned Income Exclusion. In 2023, these individuals are allowed to exclude $2,220 of income a month (up to $8,950 a year).

PASS Program

SSI recipients who would like to work may be concerned that they will lose their benefits if they earn an income. The Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) allows these recipients to seek out job training or start a business — without losing their benefits.

Find out more about PASS application requirements.

Speak to a Special Needs Planner

The rules regarding Supplemental Security Income are complicated. It is essential to meet with a qualified special needs planning attorney well in advance of your child’s 18th birthday. Connect with one in your area to learn how their birthday is going to affect their SSI benefits.

The SSA also offers a brief overview of how these benefits may change for recipients when they turn 18.

Created date: 09/30/2016


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