Establishing Disability. An adult SSI applicant, age 18 or older, must show through medical evidence that he or she is unable to perform substantial gainful activity. Evidence from VR agencies, evidence of how well the individual performs in employment settings, and even the applicant’s ability to do a range of activities of daily living may also be relevant to meeting the SSI disability standard. The SSI program has a separate disability standard for children under 18. The child applicant must show, through a combination of medical evidence and educational records, several substantial deficits in the ability to function in both school and non-school settings compared to his or her non-disabled peers. Statements from parents, other family members, and even neighbors could also be relevant to the childhood disability determination.
The SSI applicant and those helping with the application must take steps to make sure medical and other relevant evidence is submitted to SSA.
Establishing Financial Eligibility. The SSI applicant must also establish that both their countable income and countable resources are within the program’s limits. For example, if the child or adult receives Social Security benefits, $20 of that income will be excluded and what remains will be subtracted from the maximum SSI payment otherwise due. Also, for the child under 18, a part of their parent(s)’ income could be counted as income to the child to reduce the SSI payment that is due or, if that “deemed” income is high enough, eliminate the child’s eligibility for an SSI payment. At age 18, the SSI program will no longer count the income and resources of the parents no matter how high the income or resources are.
Middle class families of youth with severe disabilities should be prepared to have their child apply for SSI at age 18 as parental income and resources will no longer count against the child at age 18.
In the case of both adults and children, countable resources must not exceed $2,000. For example, $2,200 in a bank account would make either the adult or the child ineligible for SSI. In some cases, the resources of the parent(s) could count toward the child’s $2,000 resource limit. For more detailed information about SSI’s income and resource rules, see our Toolkit, How Income and Resources Impact SSI Eligibility and/or Payment Amount