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SSI for Children under 18

November 1, 2021
Disability Systems

SSI is a program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides monthly cash payments to children who have a physical or mental disability or who are blind and whose families have limited income and resources. Learn more below.

SSI Eligibility for Children

Children under age 18 can get SSI if they meet Social Security’s definition of disability for children and there are limited income and resources in the household. Social Security defines a disability as:

  • The child must have a physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limits his or her activities; and
  • The condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year or result in death. A state agency makes the disability decision. They review the submitted information. They will also ask for information from medical and school sources and other people familiar with the child’s condition(s).

If the state agency needs more information, they may arrange an examination or test for the child, which SSA will pay for.

How to Apply for SSI for a Child

Applying for SSI requires two steps. 

Step 1

You will need to complete the online Child Disability Report. If you do not want to fill out this report online, or if you need help completing the report, you can call SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, call toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. Representatives are available Monday through Friday between 8 AM and 7 PM. The Child Disability Report is only available in English.

Before completing the Child Disability Report, use the Child Disability Starter Kit to get answers to commonly asked questions about applying for SSI. The kit also includes a worksheet that will help you gather the information you need.

Step 2

After you submit a report, SSA will call you within 3-5 business days. With SSA, you will:

  • Review the completed Child Disability Report.
  • Discuss whether the income and resources of the household are within the allowed limits.
  • Start the SSI application process with the help of a Social Security representative

You will be asked to sign a form that gives the child’s doctor(s) permission to give SSA information about their disability. Families applying can notify the child’s pediatrician office of their SSI application so that the office is aware of any paperwork they may receive pertaining to the child’s case. 

How will you know what Social Security has decided?

SSA will send you a letter. It can take 3 to 5 months for them to make a decision on a child’s SSI disability claim. They may also contact you by phone to ask additional questions. Let them know if your address or telephone number changes so that they can get in touch with you. Families may contact their local Social Security office. Click here to find your local office

Interpretation Services 

SSA provides free interpreter services to help you conduct your Social Security business, including helping you complete the SSI application and answering your questions. 

Additional Information

  • Compassionate Allowances (CAL): SSA is committed to providing benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that their conditions obviously meet disability standards.
  • The SSI Cash Payments: SSA uses a mathematical formula that deducts countable unearned income and countable earned income from the Federal Benefit Amount $794 (2021) for an eligible individual to figure how much federal SSI benefit the child is entitled to. 
  • Deemed Income: If a child is under age 18, not married, and lives at home with parent(s) who do not receive SSI benefits, SSA may consider a portion of the parents’ income and resources as if they were available to the child. SSI  may also count a portion of a stepparent’s income and resources if the child lives with both a parent and a stepparent (or an adoptive parent and a stepparent).
  • Child Support: When determining the benefit amount for a child, SSI excludes one-third of child support payments from countable income.
  • Medicaid: A child who gets SSI benefits can get Medicaid to help pay medical bills.
  • Right to Appeal: If you disagree with a decision made on your claim, you can appeal it. Generally, you have 60 days after you receive the notice of SSA decision to ask for any type of appeal. The letter contains guidance on what level of appeal you should select. If you are unable to appeal a decision online, call toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or contact your local Social Security office for other appeal options.

Here is a list of agencies that can provide assistance during the application process.


  • Social Security Administration (SSA): The United States Social Security Administration is an independent agency of the U.S. federal government that administers Social Security, a social insurance program consisting of retirement, disability, and survivor benefits.
  • Countable Income: The amount of money left after SSA has subtracted all available deductions from the total income. SSA uses this amount to decide the child’s SSI eligibility and payment amounts. 
  • Earned Income: Money received from wages, including from a sheltered workshop or work activity center, self-employment earnings, royalties, and honoraria received for services.
  • Unearned income: Money received from all other sources, for example, gifts, interest, pensions, Social Security, and veteran’s benefits. Unearned income also includes “in-kind income” (food or shelter) or “deemed income” (some of the income of a spouse, parent, or sponsor of an alien).
  • Deemed Income: Money received from a spouse, parent, or sponsor of an undocumented person alien. 
  • Medicaid: A joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for people with low incomes and limited resources, see