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The SSI Definition of Disability for Adults
Any medical or psychiatric condition can be the basis for meeting the SSI disability qualifications if you are limited in the manner described in the SSI definitions of disability.
SSI disability qualifications are different for adults and children. Adults who apply for SSI benefits are evaluated using the same definition of disability that is used for Social Security Disability applicants. According to Social Security and SSI disability laws, disability is an adult’s “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted, or can be expected to last, for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. Our article “What Is Disability According to Social Security Disability Laws?” explains the definition and our article “How Does the Social Security Administration Apply Social Security Disability Laws to Determine If I Am Disabled?” includes a step-by-step explanation of how Social Security applies adult disability laws to your situation to determine if you are disabled.
When a child who is eligible for SSI turns eighteen, his or her eligibility for SSI has to be re-reviewed. The former child’s medical condition will undergo a new disability review to determine whether he or she meets the adult definition of disability. Additionally, his financial eligibility and potential benefit amount will be re-determined without consideration to his or her parents’ income and resources.
The SSI Definition of Disability for Children
A child is disabled for SSI purposes if he or she has “a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that causes marked and severe functional limitations and that can be expected to cause death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months.”
Determining a Child’s SSI Disability Status
If a child who is under age eighteen applies for SSI benefit and it is determined that he or she meets the non-medical eligibility requirements, the local Social Security office determines whether the child is performing work that is Substantial Gainful Activity, which is called SGA for short. Usually, gross work earnings as an employee or net income from self-employment is considered to be SGA if the earnings reach $1,820 for a blind person or $1,090 for a non-blind person. If the child is performing SGA is performing SGA, then the child is not disabled. As mentioned, a more complete discussion of SGA can be found in the article “What Is Disability According to Social Security Disability Laws?“
If the child is not performing Substantial Gainful Activity, then the claim will be sent to the Disability Determining Services, which is called DDS for short. To conduct a medical review of your child’s claim, the DDS will review the medical and other information you provide on the SSI application form. The DDS may also ask you for additional information, contact your child’s medical providers and educators, or ask that your child to attend a Consultative Examination. The examination, if requested, will be for evaluation purposes only and will not include any treatment. For more information about Consultative Examinations and about who decides if your child is disabled, see our articles “When Applying for Disability Benefits Will I Have to See a Social Security Doctor?” and “Who Decides If I Am Disabled? If Both My Doctor and the Social Security Disability Doctors Say I Am Unable to Work, Will I Be Approved?”
In its first step, the DDS evaluates whether your child has a physical or mental impairment that is medically determinable and whether it is severe enough to cause more than minimal functional limitations. If no impairment is supported or functional limitations are only minor, the claim will be denied. On the other hand, if your child has a severe impairment, then the review proceeds to the next step.
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