Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is given by the Social Security Administration to individuals who are unable to sustain a livable income. Such individuals are usually disabled or too old to work. While SSI is usually given to disabled adults and senior citizens, children with limited income who meet Social Security's definition of disabled may qualify for benefits.
Social Security's Definition
The Social Security Administration defines a disabled child as one who has a physical or mental condition that severely limits his capacity to properly function within society. While a paralyzed or mentally retarded child would satisfy this requirement, a child suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) may not. In addition, the child must not be working at a job that has a lot of responsibilities and that pays more than a specified amount per month in wages. The maximum wage amount tends to increase with each passing year, usually hovering around $1,200. The child's mental or physical condition must have lasted or be expected to last over one year and should be verifiable by a physician.
In order to receive SSI benefits, a child must have limited or no financial resources. Social Security evaluates the child's income earned from a job as well as family earnings when determining the amount of money to administer. If a child lives at home, every adult household member undergoes a financial analysis. If the child is in a nursing home or hospital, residency costs and medical expenses are taken into account. Though the income evaluation process is stringent, families that can furnish proof of income at or below the poverty line should have no problem passing the analysis.
While the federal government typically provides SSI benefits to disabled children, some states have different practices that may increase or decrease overall benefits. For example, the states and territories of Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, West Virginia and the Northern Mariana Islands do not supplement the federal benefit. In these states, parents and guardians may only look forward to the amount that the federal government has agreed to remit. On the other hand, some states, such as California and Michigan, add money to the federal benefit so parents can expect more funding. Twelve states, including Alabama and Arizona, administer supplements in absence of federal funding. Parents and guardians in these states may also expect less money.
Social Security limits SSI payments to $30 per month when the child is in a medical facility receiving health insurance payments for his or her care. When a child is living in the household, payments are based on the number of ineligible children and parents along with earned and unearned income. While earned income tends to gain more benefits than unearned income, a single parent with four disabled children reporting unearned income will earn more than two parents with two disabled children reporting earned income. Earned income is defined as income obtained through wages, while unearned income is provided through state and federally funded programs such as unemployment compensation and welfare benefits. SSI for recipients can earn up to $5,500 annually for disabled children.