How Disabled Americans Are Pushing To Overhaul A Key Benefits Program
Many older, blind and disabled Americans receive benefits from the Supplemental Security Income program. But it has been essentially unchanged since 1972, and its rules mean that many recipients must remain in poverty.
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By Maggie Astor
When Congress created Supplemental Security Income in 1972, it left no question about its intentions. The program, lawmakers wrote, was designed to provide a positive assurance that the nations aged, blind and disabled people would no longer have to subsist on below-poverty-level incomes.
Today, it helps ensure the opposite.
The maximum annual benefit is $9,528, three-quarters of the federal poverty level. Payments decrease if recipients have more than $85 a month in outside income, and are revoked if they exceed $2,000 in savings. There are penalties for accepting groceries or even shelter from loved ones. The result is that it is structurally difficult to be on S.S.I. and not live in poverty.
The shift happened over nearly five decades in which Congress made no major changes to the program, which is run by the Social Security Administration and serves about eight million Americans. The outside income limits, for instance, have never been updated for inflation.
How Does A Person Qualify For Ssi
In addition to meeting the disability criteria , an SSI enrollee must meet several non-medical criteria, including having a low income. SSA has complex rules for determining financial eligibility. In general, income is anything received in cash, earned or unearned, that can be used to meet a persons need for food or shelter.17 Income is countable except for some limited amounts that are disregarded.18 Income also includes in kind support, such as any food or shelter provided or paid by another person. In kind support generally is valued at one-third of the maximum federal benefit amount.19 SSA also deems a portion of income from a persons spouse or parent/step-parent as countable income.20 To financially qualify for SSI, a persons countable income cannot exceed the maximum federal benefit rate , and the amount of SSI that a person actually receives is the maximum federal rate reduced by the amount of their countable income.21 These rules apply to SSI enrollees of all ages.
Figure 4: SSI Disability Determination Process for Adults
Figure 5: Disability and SSI Status of Nonelderly Adults with Medicaid, 2019
Figure 6: SSI Application Allowance Rate for Medical Decisions by Adjudicative Level, 2018
Can I Get Disability For Asperger’s Syndrome
If an applicant meets the Social Security Administration’s listing requirements for autistic spectrum disorders, he or she will be automatically approved for disability. The listing for autistic spectrum disorders requires that an applicant’s medical records show:
- deficits in social interaction
- deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, and
- significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
These deficits and behavior patterns must severely limit the applicant’s functioning. For more information on the requirements of Social Security’s listing for autism spectrum disorders, see our article on disability for autism.
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How Do Adults With Autism Qualify For Ssi Or Ssdi
An adult with autism syndrome can apply for SSI or SSDI. However, SSDI is available only to those with a work history from jobs that paid Social Security taxes.
Here’s one exception: An “adult child” of a parent receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, meaning a child over the age of 18 who has had autism before turning age 22, can get SSDI benefits on the earnings record of the parent. For more information, see our article on disability benefits for adult children.
Adults without a sufficient work history or a parent who receives Social Security benefits are limited to the SSI program. To qualify, they must have limited income and limited assets.
Supplemental Security Income Eligibility
To receive SSI, you must have low income and be age 65 or older, blind, or disabled.
Disabled means you have a physical or mental condition that keeps you from working and is expected to last at least a year or to result in death. Children as well as adults can get benefits because of disability. When deciding if a child is disabled, Social Security looks at how their disability affects everyday life.
For more information about benefits for children, contact any Social Security office to ask for the booklet, Benefits For Children With Disabilities .
Blind means you are either totally blind or have very poor eyesight. Children as well as adults may receive benefits because of blindness.
Sometimes, a person whose sight is not poor enough to qualify for benefits as a blind person may be able to receive benefits as a disabled person if his or her condition prevents him or her from working.
To be eligible for SSI based on a medical condition you must:
Be a U.S. citizen or meet the requirements for non-citizens.
Be considered medically disabled. Find more information about medical disability online.
Be a resident of the 50 states, District of Columbia, or Northern Mariana Islands.
File an application.
File for any and all other benefits for which you are eligible.
Accept vocational rehabilitation services, if referred
If you are blind, only the first seven requirements would apply to you.
Eligibility for Caretaker Supplement benefits
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What Are The Symptoms Of Autism
A doctor will diagnose autism when a patient shows symptoms of social interaction impairment, communication impairment, and a restricted, repetitive pattern of behavior.
Communication symptoms can include a lack of responsiveness or unusual gestures. Estimates of the number of autistic children who are nonverbal or minimally verbal range from 25% to 35%. Children do not need to be nonverbal to be considered disabled.
Restrictive behavior can include purposeless movement such as rocking, head rolling, hand flapping, and other movements. It can also include compulsive behavior such as rearranging objects and needing to control the physical environment.
Ritual behavior is also a common symptom of autism, such as needing to do things the same way and at the same time every day, and resisting change in the environment.
Limited activity, focus, and interest is another symptom of autism in which children have trouble focusing on things that don’t interest them, especially shared activities.
Some autistic children are prone to unusual responses to sensory stimuli and self-injury, such as biting oneself, pulling hair, and other self-injury activities. None of these symptoms are specific to autism, but these behaviors are often present, severe, and reoccurring in autism.
Do You Need An Attorney
If you are denied disability benefits and feel that you are disabled, you should see an attorney. Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. represents hundreds of claimants for SSI disability. Your chances of winning an SSI appeal are much better if you have an attorney.
Here are 10 good reasons for getting an attorney:
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Do You Know Someone Who Is Unable To Work And Support Themselves Due To Their Autism Spectrum Disorder Or Other Developmental Disability Diagnosis
Many people are unaware that a person diagnosed with ASD or other developmental disability may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits like Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income . Which benefit a claimant may be eligible largely depends on the claimants assets, income, and work history. Social Security, however, does not count certain assets against a claimant, including money in ABLE Accounts and assets in Special or Supplemental Needs Trusts.
Children’s Alternate Method: Functionally Equaling The Listings
If your child’s autism does not meet the disability listing for autistic spectrum disorders, the SSA will consider all of the child’s limitations. This method is similar to meeting the listing, but there are a few additional areas of functioning that are evaluated. To be found disabled, your child must show medical evidence of marked limitations in two the following areas of functioning or an extreme limitation in one area of functioning:
- how well a child moves about and manipulates objects
- how well a child cares for himself or herself
- whether a child has good health and physical well-being
- how well a child acquires and uses information
- how well a child attends to and completes tasks, and
- how well a child interacts and relates with others.
To determine how well your child functions within each “domain,” the SSA will consider medical opinions from a variety of sources, including pediatricians, nurses, and occupational therapists. When determining whether a limitation is marked or extreme, the SSA will consider how important the restricted activities are to the child’s basic functioning, how often the limitations occur, and whether the limitation occurs in all settings. For more information, read our article on how children qualify for disability benefits.
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Is Autism A Disability Or Learning Difficulty
In the same way that learning disabilities affect people in their lives, autism affects them in their lives as well. People with autism are sometimes referred to as autism spectrum disorders . The majority of people with autism do not have a learning disability, but approximately half do.
No Known Cure For Autism, But Treatments Available To Help Those Affected
Does autism have a cure? Despite the fact that there is no cure for autism, there are treatments available that can improve peoples abilities and living conditions. People with autism may benefit from these treatments, as they may be able to communicate better and learn new skills. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people interact and communicate with the outside world. In the United Kingdom, one in every 100 people is affected by autism, and around 700,000 people are autistic adults and children. Autism does not pose a mental health or learning disability threat. Autism is a developmental disability that affects how you interact with others and communicate with others. Some autistic people may also have learning disabilities in addition to autism. People with autism may have mental health issues as well.
Payment Components And Rates
Child Disability Payment is tax-free and made up of 2 components:
- 3 months old or over may qualify for the care component
- 3 years old or over may qualify for the mobility component
If the child is terminally ill:
- they qualify for the care component from birth
- theyll also qualify for the mobility component if theyre 3 years old or over
A child’s care and mobility needs are not only about their physical ability. They can include:
- emotional difficulties
This has 3 different payment rates:
This is a weekly rate of £24.45 and paid if the child either:
- needs attention from someone, for a significant part of the day, in connection with their bodily functions due to a physical or mental disability
- is 16 or older and, due to a mental or physical disability, is unable to prepare a cooked main meal for themselves
This is a weekly rate of £61.85 and paid if the child either:
- needs frequent attention from someone during the day, or prolonged or repeated attention at night, in connection with their bodily functions due to a physical or mental disability
- needs continual supervision during the day, or another person to be awake for a prolonged period or at frequent intervals at night, to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others
- gets renal dialysis treatment, during the day or at night, at least twice a week
This is a weekly rate of £92.40 and paid if the child either:
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How Do I Get An Attorney
For SSI and Social Security Disability claims, contact the nearest Idaho Legal Aid Services office listed on the back of this pamphlet, or the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives, 1-800-431-2804, or the Idaho State Bar, 334-4500, to receive a referral.
This page is for information only. If you have questions about your disability claim, contact an attorney.
Getting Ssi For Children With Autism
Children whose symptoms meet the requirements of one of Social Security’s “listings” can be approved for disability benefits. Listing 112.10, for autism spectrum disorder, requires that a child’s medical records include documentation of all of the following:
- deficits in social interaction
- deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, and
- significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
If all three items are documented, Social Security will look to see whether the child’s functioning is severely limited by autism. The child must either have an extreme limitation in one of the following areas or a “marked” limitation in two of the following areas:
- understanding, remembering, or using information
- interacting with others
- focusing on activities , and
- adapting or managing oneself .
Cognitive and communicative functioning can be measured through the use of standardized testing that is appropriate for a claimant’s age and special tests for language development or speech pattern development. Regarding the measurement of cognition itself, a primary sign of limited function is a valid IQ score of 70 or less.
Healthy social interacting isdefined by Social Security as a child’s capacity to form and keep relationships. This includes relationships with peers, parents, and other adults. Impairments in social functioning may result in physically aggressive behavior, inappropriate response to authority figures, social isolation, and even lack of speech.
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Getting Ssi Or Ssdi For Adults With Autism
Many children with autism grow into adults with autism, though adult autism can appear in different ways. For instance, adults with autism may have trouble:
- keeping up a two-sided conversation
- interpreting what others are thinking
- regulating their emotions, and
- showing interest in things outside of a restricted range of special interests.
For adults, keep in mind that Social Security has two ways to be approved for benefits based on autism. The first is meeting listing 12.10 for adult autism, which requires that an individual must have:
- pronounced difficulty in interacting socially, especially in responding or reciprocating
- impaired communication skills, and
- limited interest and participation in varying activities.
The listing also requires adults to have at least two of the following:
- serious limitations in activities of daily living
- difficulty with social interaction for any amount of time
- problems concentrating or finishing tasks at a reasonable pace, and/or
- repeated episodes of severe symptoms.
If Social Security doesn’t approve an applicant on the basis of meeting a listing, the agency will look at whether the applicant can be approved on the basis of what is known as a medical-vocational allowance. That means a person can be approved if, considering their work experience and work-related limitations, they’d be unable to perform substantial work.
In making this determination, the SSA will consider medical evidence including:
How A Child With Autism Can Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits
We take a look at the requirements for the SSI benefits for children with autism and other key information. From financial requirements to starting a claim, find out what you need to know.
A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is not just emotionally difficult for parents it also means they may have to make big lifestyle changes. There are many therapies and treatments to assist children with autism, but in most cases, a parent or caretaker will need to tend to the child full-time.
This need for full-time care can lead to financial turmoil in a family, especially one that relies on a two-person income to support themselves. With the loss of one income and the expense of treatments and therapies, parents are often under enormous pressure.
Many parents dont realize that the Social Security Administration program offers supplemental security income to support children with disabilities. If your family qualifies, autistic child SSI benefits can be a significant relief from financial pressure.
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Can A Child With Autism Be Denied Ssi
SSI Benefits Do Not Apply to Children with Autism Because of financial limitations, children with autism are not eligible for SSI. Monthly benefits for parents of children with autism are only available to parents under the age of 18 who meet the appropriate financial requirements.
The Importance Of Applying For Ssi Benefits For Children With Down Syndrome
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, approximately one in every 68 children has Down syndrome, which is the most common genetic disorder in children. Down syndrome is a neurological disorder in the brain and spinal cord that causes a person to struggle to function. It is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21 on the human genome. Down syndrome can cause a wide range of physical and cognitive issues. Some basic activities, such as walking, talking, and feeding oneself, are difficult for children with Down syndrome. Down syndrome has been linked to a variety of health issues as well as significant mental and physical challenges. Children with Down syndrome can, however, live a full and happy life thanks to specialized services and therapies. If you are a parent of a child with Down syndrome and are considering applying for SSI benefits, please contact your local Social Security office or the National Down Syndrome Society website for more information.