What You Need To Know Abut Applying For SSI For Your Disabled Child

The Process

Applying for SSI is a daunting task.  I hope breaking it into steps will make it a bit easier.  Let’s name your child Megan for purposes of this discussion.

Megan is almost 18.  You are getting ready to file papers to become Megan’s guardian and to apply for SSI.

To apply for SSI, you first need to collect all of the info you can about Megan.  Then, you make an appointment with SSI.  Third, you attend the appointment and hopefully have all of the necessary paperwork to generate an application at the appointment itself.  Anywhere from 3-6 months later, Social Security will notify you whether Megan will receive SSI and how much.  If Social Security denies your application, you can appeal the denial.

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Step One

Collect all of the information you can on Megan in one place.  Let Megan’s doctors and teachers know that you are applying for SSI so they have advance notice that you may need help from them.

Filling out the online Child Disability Report will help you get all of the necessary information in one place.  You can’t have enough written proof of Megan’s status, both educationally and medically.

This includes summaries of IEPs, developmental evaluations and other educational tests and meetings.  It also includes things like dates of medical procedures, results of medical tests, hospital discharge plans and medications (with details re: dosage, time of use, doctor prescribing).

Collect receipts and other financial documents that reflect the costs of caring for Megan, if available.

Try not to skip any categories listed on the Child Disability Report.  Any additional information you need to provide after you have your interview may delay the process of obtaining the SSI.

Be sure to document how dependent Megan is.  This is not the time to brag about Megan’s accomplishments.  This is the time to highlight her weaknesses in the following categories:

  • Self care skills (bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, meal prep)
  • Behavior issues (frequency and severity)
  • Adaptive behaviors (communication, some or no expressive or receptive language ability)
  • Learning (especially if Megan’s IQ is below 75)
  • Mobility skills (assistance Megan needs in getting around)
  • Capacity for independent living (stress how dependent Megan is on everyone in the household)


Step Two

Schedule an in person interview with Social Security.  Contact the general number for Social Security or the local office.  Be sure you have all of the paperwork in Step One collected and organized before you schedule the interview.  Make a copy of all of the Step One documentation for you and one for Social Security.  Do not give Social Security any documentation that you don’t have a copy of for yourself.

Be sure to have a hard copy as well of any information you have uploaded online.

When you call to schedule the interview, you will be asked preliminary questions about Megan.  Have all of your paperwork from Step One easily accessible so you will be able to properly and thoroughly answer any questions asked.

You should ask what paperwork, records and other documentation you should collect before the appointment.  You still want everything in Step One, but this question may bring up other documentation you had not yet thought of.

Be as prepared as possible for the interview.  This means do a great job of Step One.

Don’t reschedule the interview.  You don’t want to add any delays to the process of obtaining SSI if at all possible.

Step Three

Attend the interview.  Bring all of the paperwork from Step One with you.

Take notes at the interview.

Provide a third party contact to the Social Security interviewer in the unlikely event that you cannot be reached and Social Security needs additional information.

Comply quickly with any subsequent requests for information from Social Security in order to avoid delays.

Step Four

Social Security uses what it calls the “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security” listing, also known as the “Social Security Blue Book”, to determine Megan’s eligibility for SSI.  It lists out what disabilities qualify for what services and how to prove the existence of those disabilities.  The language is very technical, so if you want to be sure that you are providing Social Security with the right information to meet the criteria of the Blue Book, get an advocate involved when you put together your SSI paperwork.

Social Security may take between 2 weeks and 6 months to determine whether Megan will receive benefits.  On average, it takes about 3 months.

Step Five

If your application for SSI for Megan is declined, you can appeal.  Depending on Megan’s diagnoses, denial may not be uncommon.