Applying for Disability
Benefits For a Child

By Deanna Power, Community Outreach Manager,  Social Security Disability Help

Having a child with a hearing loss and perhaps other needs can take a great financial  toll on any family. From lack of communication ease to ASL classes, children who are deaf or hard of hearing often need additional monetary assistance when compared to their peers. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) understands this need, and offers disability benefits for those children who qualify.

What Disability Benefits are Available?

For children, the SSA offers Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a needs-based program designed to help adults who have no work experience and have a disability, and are low-income. SSI benefits are also available for children. An SSI recipient can receive up to $733 per month, but the average person receives around $450.

SSI has very strict financial qualifications for adults, but children do not have these tight limitations. When determining whether or not a child is financially eligible for SSI benefits, the SSA will look at the child’s household income. According to a guide on the SSA’s website, a single parent with one child who has a disability earning $3,001 or less per month may potentially qualify for benefits, but this is a rough estimate. The actual income limit may be higher depending on where the child lives. Some states allow for higher monthly household incomes, and most states give additional benefits to children with disabilities. Keep in mind that if a parent is married or has additional children, the monthly income limit will also rise. Learn more about how children can qualify here.

Childhood Hearing Loss and Qualification

When the SSA evaluates any disability applicant, it uses a medical guide called the Blue Book. The Blue Book contains hundreds of conditions, and qualification criteria for each listing. Hearing is listed in Section 102.10 of the children’s Blue Book. The listings vary depending on whether or not a child uses cochlear implants and how well they work for the child.

A child under the age of 5 can qualify if he or she has an average conduction hearing threshold of 50 decibels or greater in the better ear. A child over the age of 5 may qualify for SSI benefits if he or she has:

  • An average conduction hearing threshold of 70 decibels or greater in the better ear, and an average bone conduction hearing threshold of 40 decibels or greater in the better ear, OR
  • A word recognition score of 40% or less in the better ear, OR
  • An average air conduction hearing threshold of 50 decibels or greater in the better year, plus marked limitation in speech and language.

For a child using cochlear implant(s):

  • This is automatically considered an eligible condition until age 5 or for one year after initial application, whichever is later, OR
  • If child is older than age five or one year has passed since initial application, a word recognition score of 60% or less will qualify.

How to Apply for Disability Benefits on Behalf of a Child

Some adults are able to complete their disability benefit application online, but all applications for children must be completed at a local SSA office. Before scheduling an appointment, be sure to review the SSA’s Child Disability Starter kit. This will give you a thorough list of all the necessary documents, which include birth certificates, household tax information, and more. For a child applying for disability benefits, some additional information needed such as hearing tests, speech recognition tests, and any doctor’s notes on the child’s condition. Be sure to complete the Child Disability Report online, which begins the application process. To schedule an appointment for an in-person interview and finish the application, call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.

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