Social Security Benefits

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Most minors who receive a benefit from the Social Security Administration (SSA) receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a needs based program to provide for the person with disability's basic living expenses, such as food, shelter and clothing. A person does not need to have a work history to receive SSI.

Unlike SSI, SSDI is an insurance program. When an individual works, they pay into the system, and when needed, the individual and their dependents receive a benefit. Youth who receive a SSDI benefit usually receive it based on the work record of a parent or grandparent who paid into the system, and is now disabled, retired or deceased. A minor need not be disabled to receive SSDI. Youth who are not disabled can continue to receive benefits until 2 months after age 19 if still enrolled in secondary or elementary school. Youth who are considered disabled under the adult definition can continue to receive SSDI payments after they turn 18 for so long as they remain disabled.


Disability Definition for a Child

A minor is considered disabled for SSA purposes based on how a physical or mental condition or illness affects development and functioning in typical daily environments (i.e., school, home, community). At age 18, a review is scheduled to determine whether or not the condition or illness meets the SSA definition of disability for an adult.


Disability Definition for an Adult

The Social Security Administration considers an adult to be disabled when the illness or condition prevents substantial work activity for 12 months or longer. Therefore, the main issue for adults is how the condition or illness affects the person’s ability to work.

Work Can Affect Benefits

If you work, whatever your age, it is important to report your earnings to SSA. Earnings can affect the amount of an SSI benefit, and can even affect eligibility for SSI or SSDI. If SSA later finds that you were paid too much, or are no longer considered “disabled” because of work activity, you could be asked to repay the amount that you were overpaid by SSA.

Remember, if you are working, there are many Social Security Work Incentives that can be used to offset your earnings. When reporting income, it is important to also report any work incentives that you would like for SSA to consider, to reduce a portion of your countable earnings. See the Social Security "Red Book" for information on work incentives.

If a finding is made that the person is considered no longer disabled, SSA is required to send written notice of the decision, including all appeal rights. In order to continue the SSI or SSDI benefits during an appeals process, the appeal must be requested within 10 days of the notice of discontinuance.

If a finding is made that the person is considered no longer disabled by their illness or condition, § 301 Continued Payment Under a Vocational Rehabilitation or Similar Program may allow an SSI or SSDI recipient to continue to receive SSI or SSDI benefits. Benefits may continue if the person is participating in a vocational rehabilitation program at the time the disability ended, and the program will increase the likelihood of eliminating the future need for disability benefits. Section 301 Continued Payment Under a Vocational Rehabilitation or Similar Program also applies to Beneficiaries aged 18 through 21, participating in an individualized education program developed under policies and procedures approved by the US Secretary of Education for assistance to States for the education of individuals with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Social Security and Medical Benefits

SSI beneficiaries automatically receive Medicaid benefits.

Be aware however that there are many special Medicaid and Medicaid waiver programs in Florida that do not require a person to be eligible for SSI. For more information, see the Florida Medicaid Summary of Services.

SSDI beneficiaries qualify for Medicare benefits following a two year waiting period after first receiving SSDI. There are limited circumstances under which SSDI beneficiaries may qualify for Medicare without the two year waiting period.

Some individuals may be dually eligible for SSI and SSDI, and therefore for Medicaid and Medicare. Some individuals who receive SSDI only, may nevertheless be eligible to have Medicaid pay their Medicare premiums, and in some cases, their copays.

Some individuals, who received SSI benefits as a minor, become SSDI beneficiaries based on the work record of a parent or grandparent who is deceased, disabled or retired. As long as the person’s SSDI benefits are based on the work record of the parent or grandparent, and not on their own work record, the individual should maintain their eligibility for Medicaid. This is called Protected Medicaid.

The Social Security and medical benefits systems are very detailed and complex, and even the agencies that administer these programs sometimes make mistakes. It is always best to consult with a professional for information and advice about these systems and how they relate to each other. With proper planning, an individual can use available benefits to enhance opportunities for independence and quality of life.

Representative Payees

What is a Social Security Representative Payee?

SSA’s Representative Payment Program provides financial management for the SSDI and SSI payments to beneficiaries who are deemed incapable of managing their SSDI or SSI payments. A representative payee will always be appointed for a minor receiving benefits. Adults who are deemed capable of managing their own funds do not require a payee.

Generally, SSA will look for family or friends to serve as payee. When friends and family are not able to serve as payee, Social Security looks for qualified organizations to be a representative payee. The beneficiary may appeal SSA’s decision to appoint a representative payee.