Redetermination For Children’s Disability at 18

Many parents have asked what happens to their child’s disability benefit when they turn 18.  Do they automatically lose the benefit?  The answer is no.

At age 18, the child must go through a process called a redetermination of benefits to determine whether or not their benefits should continue.  The reason for this process is because the standard to determine disability is different for adults as it is for children.  As a child, the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines limitations based on functioning over six domains of function.  When the child turns 18, SSA must examine the child’s limitations and how it affects their ability or capacity to work.

So how does SSA determine a child’s ability to work at age 18 with little or no work experience.  SSA will assess the child’s ability to work or enter the workforce based on limitations observed in school, part-time work or volunteer position, and discussing the child’s limitations with persons that may have made observations regarding the ability to work.

Documentation will be needed to show these limitations and may include:

  • Medical records
  • School records
  • Teacher statements
  • Counseling records
  • Statements by employers, charities, internships and volunteer opportunities
  • Statements by family

Evaluating Functional Equivalence In Childhood Disability

In children’s disability cases, if the child’s impairment is not severe enough to meet a Social Security “listing”, meaning an approval for disability benefits, then an assessment must be done to determine if the impairment functionally equals a listing.  For functional equivalence, the child must have one “extreme” or two “marked” limitations in the six domains of functioning. 

The six domains of functioning are:

  1. Acquiring and using information
  2. Attending and completing tasks
  3. Interacting and relating with others
  4. Moving about and manipulating objects
  5. Caring for oneself, and
  6. Health and physical well-being.

The evaluation of how functioning is affected will be done during all of the child’s activities; meaning activities done at home, at school, and in the community.   First, Social Security will identify which of the child’s activities are limited, and which domains are involved in those activities.  They will then determine whether the child’s impairment(s) could affect those domains and account for the limitations.  Second, Social Security will then rate the severity of the limitations in each affected domain(s).  If SSA finds one extreme limitation, or two marked limitations, the child will be approved for disability benefits.

Disability Benefits For Children With HLHS

I’ve addressed children’s disability benefits in previous posts, but would like address a specific disability, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in this post.  Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a congenital heart defect where most of the structures on the left side of the heart are too small and underdeveloped (hypoplastic) to provide enough red blood flow for the body’s needs.  The Social Security Administration has listed HLHS on their list of compassionate allowances. Compassionate allowances are medical conditions so serious that their conditions obviously meet disability standards.  Compassionate Allowances are a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that will ultimately qualify for benefits.

To recap, children’s disability benefits will be awarded to those children with:

  1. physical or mental condition(s) , or combination of conditions, that results in marked and severe functional limitations;
  2. The condition(s) must have been disabling, or expected to be disabling, for at least 12 continuous months; and
  3. The child must not be working and earning more than $1,010 per month.

HLHS is a rare congenital congenital heart defect (CHD) that may be diagnosed at birth or on a prenatal ultrasound.  HLHS consists of under-development of the left side of the heart.  Usually, the entire left side of the heart is affected, and can include the left ventricle, mitral valve, the aortic valve and the aorta.  Because of the under-development of the left side of the heart, the right side of the heart must work harder to maintain circulation to sustain both lungs and the rest of the body.  This, in turn, may cause heart failure.

A social security disability claim can take up to 2 years to process before being awarded benefits or ultimately denied, depending on many factors.  Because HLHS is listed on SSA’s list of compassionate allowances, the process may be expedited, and families may receive benefits in a matter of weeks versus a matter of months or possibly years.