Newborns can receive Social Security benefits

Ohio families know that the birth of a child typically requires some adjustments. When a newborn has serious health problems, though, the adjustments become more complex. Fortunately, many children are eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits right from birth, and benefits might be payable for many years. This assistance can help relieve some of the stress for parents when making adjustments for their children.

Children's disability benefits

The Social Security Administration's Supplemental Security Income program pays monthly benefits to qualifying persons who are blind or disabled, or older than 65. Recipients must have limited resources and meet income guidelines.

A child under age 18 can receive children's SSI payments if the family meets the financial eligibility standards and the child has a disability as defined by Social Security.

Social Security requires that the child have a condition that limits the child's activities. The limitation cannot be trivial but must be "marked and severe." To receive SSI benefits, the disability from the child's condition must have lasted for at least a year, or be expected to last for at least a year into the future or result in death. A disability may be physical, mental or both.

A state agency analyzes Ohio parents' applications for children's SSI benefits, and it can often take five months or so for the agency to decide whether a child has a qualifying disability.

Immediate SSI payments

For some conditions, the Social Security Administration authorizes states to okay an application for children's SSI immediately. Payments then continue for as long as six months while the state reviews the application and comes to a decision whether to continue benefits.

Some of the conditions that merit an immediate SSI benefits award may be diagnosable at birth. These include total blindness or deafness, Down syndrome, HIV and cerebral palsy. Parents whose families meet the financial eligibility requirements should be able to file an SSI application on the newborn's behalf and start receiving SSI payments for the child very soon.

Low birth weight definition

Immediate SSI benefits may also be paid when a child is born with low birth weight.

People may think of low birth-weight babies as premature infants, born too early. However, even babies who are not born before their due date can be born at a weight that is low for their gestational age. A full-term baby, born at 37 to 40 weeks into the pregnancy, is considered low birth weight if the weight at birth is less than four lbs., six oz.

For babies who are not full-term, Social Security uses this table of maximum weight in relation to gestational age to decide whether babies are low birth weight for the purpose of qualifying for SSI.

  • Gestational age 33 weeks: 2 lbs., 15 oz.
  • Gestational age 34 weeks: 3 lbs., 5 oz.
  • Gestational age 35 weeks: 3 lbs., 12 oz.
  • Gestational age 36 weeks: 4 lbs., 2 oz.

As low birth-weight newborns, babies who weigh less than these amounts likely can start receiving SSI payments right away.

Continuing SSI benefits

By the time a low birth-weight baby reaches one year of age, Social Security must review the baby's medical condition to determine whether the child still has a qualifying disability. In general, children who have other disabilities will be subject to a review at least every three years, if their conditions are likely to improve.

It is very helpful for parents with a disabled child to have an experienced advocate when they apply for SSI and when the child's condition is periodically reviewed. An attorney who specializes in Social Security benefits will know just what to do and when, and the attorney's knowledge can make a difference in the outcome of an application for children's SSI benefits.