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Social Security benefits for young adults with disabilities

Having monthly cash assistance can be crucial for individuals with disabilities. Accessing social security benefits is essential, especially for families helping their young adults with disabilities transition into adulthood.

Once your adult child turns 18, they may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Both SSI and SSDI provide monthly payments for young adults with disabilities.

Lets take a look at SSI and SSDI

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income provides families of young adults with mental or physical disabilities, including vision impairments with monthly cash payments to help meet their basic needs. If you care for a child or teenager with a disability, and have limited income and savings or other resources, your child may be eligible for SSI under age 18 and again after they turn 18. SSI pays benefits based on financial need.

Transition tip

When filling out the application at age 18, the individual is their own household, and SSI is based on their income alone. No one else’s information should be included, including income.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Similar to Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance also provides a monthly cash payment to individuals with physical, mental disabilities or who are blind. One difference between SSDI and SSI is that SSDI pays benefits to individuals who have worked long enough to pay into the social security tax system (between five to ten years in their most recent job). Individuals may also be eligible for SSDI benefits from a family member who has paid into the social security system. For example, if a parent who was receiving SSDI benefits dies, their adult child with a documented disability may also qualify for SSDI benefits as well. Children cannot legally inherit their parent’s SSDI benefits. They must apply for benefits.

How does Social Security work for young adults?

If the adult child is over 18

These benefits likely include a monthly payment depending on the young adult’s living situation, including their income, things they own (house, car, etc.) and other factors determined by the federal government. 

If the adult child is under 18 and receiving benefits

Those benefits are received by the parents and determined by the parent’s income and assets. Once the young adult turns 18, they are considered a legal adult and will need to apply for benefits as an adult with disabilities and only their own assets and living situation will be considered, not the parents.

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Good to know

 It is possible that if you have both limited income/resources and a work history, you can qualify for both benefits, SSI and SSDI.

Who qualifies for SSI?

Anyone may qualify for SSI if they meet the following criteria:

Transition tip

 For individuals with a visual impairment who are 18+, check the Social Security Administration (SSA) eligibility criteria. If you meet SSA’s definition of blindness, you can bypass most of the requested documentation for disability determination and submit a certificate of blindness and a visual acuity medical report.

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Good to know

If you receive SSI based on blindness, blind work expenses are available. See this Social Security article for more information.

Who qualifies for SSDI?

The eligibility determination for SSDI involves a combination of factors. Meeting one or more of the criteria below is essential.

  • Must have worked long enough by paying into the social security system to qualify for potential services (five to 10 years in the most recent job).
  • In certain circumstances, a young adult may qualify for SSDI when a parent or spouse receiving SSDI passes away. For example, an unmarried child who is:
    • Younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school), or
    • Age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.
Icon of of a pencil and ruler

Need to know

 It is possible that if you have both limited income/resources and a work history, you can qualify for both benefits, SSI and SSDI.

What happens if your application is denied?

Many applicants are denied, and your initial application will most likely be denied. If you are initially denied, it is important to appeal right away. Most times the chances that your application will be approved increases at the next level of appeals.

Transition tip

If you are denied initially, it is important to appeal the decision within 60 days of the denial.

How to apply for SSI and SSDI benefits

There are a few ways to apply for SSI/SSDI benefits depending on whether you are comfortable applying online, over the phone or in person. 

Applying online

You can apply online through this Social Security Application link.

Applying by phone

If you are unable to complete the application online, you can apply by calling the federal toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Applying if you are Deaf/Hard of Hearing

People who are deaf or hard of hearing can call the toll-free “TTY” number, 1-800-325-0778, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Finding your Local Social Security office

If you need to apply in person, you can search and find your local Social Security Office. Here is a  helpful Social Security Office Locator.

Additional Resources

For more information about the social security and healthcare benefits process visit the links below.

Transition tip

Read this article to learn how ABLE accounts can help you save for qualified disability expenses without impacting your SSI:  https://www.ablenrc.org/

Ready for more? Read this.

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