• Having an IEP does not automatically qualify a child for SSI benefits.
  • Eligibility for SSI benefits is based on both financial and medical criteria.
  • Families of children with disabilities should be aware of the application process for SSI and seek support services and financial planning assistance as needed.

If you have a child with a disability, you may be wondering if they are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. SSI is a federal program that provides financial assistance to people with disabilities who have limited income and resources.

This is a very common question that I get from parents and it’s one of those giant “urban legends” out there about our kids.

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It would be great if having an IEP or disabled child qualified them automatically for SSDI, but that is not the case. Still, it might be possible, just not probable.

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If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), you may be wondering how this affects their eligibility for SSI.

Understanding SSI and IEP can be a complex process. An IEP is a written plan that outlines the educational goals and services that a child with a disability needs to succeed in school. SSI, on the other hand, is a needs-based program that provides financial assistance to people with disabilities who have limited income and resources.

While an IEP can be an important factor in determining whether a child is eligible for SSI, it is not the only factor.

Understanding SSI and IEP

As someone with an IEP, you may be wondering if you are eligible for SSI benefits. The answer is that it depends on a variety of factors, including your child’s medical condition and how it affects their daily activities and functioning.

According to the Social Security Administration, there are two sets of eligibility criteria for receiving SSI:

  • financial criteria based on the income, and
  • resources of the child and family, and medical criteria about the child’s impairment or combination of impairments.

Having an IEP for your child does not automatically qualify them for SSI. SSI eligibility for children is based on specific medical and functional criteria set by the Social Security Administration, which assesses whether the child’s condition significantly impairs their daily activities and functioning.

To qualify for special education services (and an IEP), students must meet two criteria. First, they must be formally diagnosed as having a disability. This is defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This federal law covers 13 categories of disability.

However, just because they are determined to be disabled that does not automatically mean SSI, or SSDI.

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): This is a program in the United States that provides financial assistance to people who are aged, blind, or disabled and have limited income and resources. It’s administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and is designed to help meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.


SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) are both programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the United States, but they serve different purposes and have different eligibility requirements:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI):
    • SSDI is a program that provides benefits to disabled individuals who have worked and paid Social Security taxes (FICA) for a certain number of years.
    • To qualify for SSDI, an individual must have a disability that meets the SSA’s definition of disability and have earned enough work credits through their employment history.
    • The amount of SSDI benefits is based on the individual’s past earnings.
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI):
    • SSI is a needs-based program that provides financial assistance to disabled, blind, or elderly individuals with limited income and resources, regardless of their work history.
    • Eligibility for SSI is based on financial need, considering income and assets. It is available to individuals who have not worked or who have not earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.
    • SSI benefits are intended to help recipients meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.

SSDI is based on work history and contributions to the Social Security system, while SSI is a needs-based program for individuals with limited income and resources, regardless of work history.

Why don’t IEP students qualify for SSI?

Well, because the main stream of thinking is this–you’re supposed to pay for or financially support your child until they are 18.

That is a societal expectation. Mind you, I get it! My disabled child is more expensive than my non-disabled child, even though we do get Medicaid in Pennsylvania.

But, by and large, parents are expect to financially support their kids from 0-18, and having a disability does not change that.

IEP Disability Benefits

Having an IEP only offers disabled children protections and rights in American public schools. While some agencies may use an IEP as a criteria to qualify for something else, public schools are separate from the other agencies.

Receiving disability benefits, food stamps or anything like that is not connected to an IEP.

Are there some situations where having a disabled child will qualify for SSI?

Yes, having a disabled child may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits under certain circumstances. Here are some key points:

  1. Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB): If a child under the age of 18 has a disability that meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability and the child’s family meets the income and resource requirements, the child may be eligible for SSI benefits.
  2. Disabled Adult Child (DAC) Benefits: If an adult child (age 18 or older) has a disability that began before the age of 22 and meets the SSA’s definition of disability, they may be eligible for DAC benefits based on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. These benefits are often referred to as “childhood disability benefits” because they are based on the parent’s work history.
  3. Income and Resource Limits: Eligibility for SSI benefits, including benefits for disabled children, is based on financial need. The child’s income and resources, as well as the income and resources of the child’s family, are taken into consideration when determining eligibility.
  4. Medical Eligibility: The child must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in severe functional limitations and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. (these words are their language, not mine!)
  5. Application Process: The process of applying for SSI benefits for a disabled child involves providing medical evidence of the child’s disability and completing an application with the SSA. The SSA will review the child’s medical records and other documentation to determine eligibility.

It’s important to note that the eligibility criteria and application process for SSI benefits can be complex, and it’s often helpful to seek assistance from organizations or individuals with experience in navigating the Social Security system.

It’s also important to note that this process is income based and the income levels are very, very low. Well under $20k per year for a family, I believe.

The Application Process for SSI

To apply for SSI, you can visit the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) website and submit a request to apply online. You can also call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to apply over the phone or in person.

When you apply for SSI, you will need to provide information about your financial situation, including your income, resources, and living arrangements. You will also need to provide information about your disability, including your medical history, treatment, and how your disability affects your daily life.

To help the SSA evaluate your disability, you may need to provide medical records, test results, and other documentation. You may also need to attend a medical exam or evaluation with a doctor or other healthcare professional.

It’s important to note that the application process for SSI can be complex and time-consuming.

However, if you are approved for SSI, you may be eligible for monthly payments to help you meet your basic needs.

I’m sorry if you had your hopes up, but despite what the public thinks, our kids have very limited government resources available to us.

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