Dear Rusty: My young daughter is disabled, and I am trying to make ends meet financially. Can you help with a child’s SSI claim? Needy Mother

Dear Needy Mother: "SSI", or “Supplemental Security Income,” is a federal benefit program administered by, but separate from Social Security. SSI is available for low-income disabled seniors and disabled minor children. As your daughter’s parent, you must apply directly with the Social Security Administration (you cannot apply online). You can do this at the general SSA number (800-772-1213) or at your local Social Security office, which you can find by going to this link: www.ssa.gov/locator. Here, you can enter your ZIP code and get back contact information for your local office, including location, hours and phone number.

You should call first to make an appointment to speed up the SSI application process and avoid long wait times. To expedite the application, you should first complete a Child Disability Report, which will ask you to provide detailed information about the child and the child's medical condition. A child is considered disabled if suffering from physical or mental impairment that causes a severe functional impairment that has lasted (or is expected to last) more than a year. Go to this link for complete information on applying for SSI: www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/child.htm. In addition to information on the child’s eligibility criteria and how to apply, at this SSA website you will also find a link to the Child Disability Report.

Completing the report online is relatively straightforward and intuitive if you have some computer skills but, if not, you can obtain a copy of the form (SSA-3820) at this link:www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-3820.pdf. You can download the Child Disability Report form (SSA-3820), print it, fill it out as completely as possible by hand and provide it to Social Security when you submit the SSI application.

Gathering all the information requested and providing it to Social Security via the Child Disability Report will serve to greatly expedite the SSI application for your child. Please be aware that there are household income limits and that SSI benefits are closely coordinated with the state in which you live. In fact, Social Security will contact your state's SSI benefit office to provide it with your application, and your state's SSI benefit office will verify the child's eligibility by contacting doctors, hospitals, teachers, medical providers, schools or other contacts you have provided who can verify the child's disability and eligibility.

If the child is working, he/she must not be earning more than the monthly allowable amount ($1,220 for 2019) to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income. Also, be aware that if the application is initially denied, you have the right to appeal that initial decision. And for clarity, money for SSI benefits is not taken from Social Security funds but rather from the government’s general funds.

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