Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario: Supplemental Security Income Benefits

Question: My child is currently receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and is going to turn 18. Is there anything I should consider before that time?

Answer: A fair number of children (one source says 1 or 3) who receive SSI lose their benefit when they turn 18. This can take place because the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a different test to determine disability after an individual turns 18. Prior to age 18, an individual is considered disabled if he has a mental or physical impairment expected to last at least 12 months that results in “marked and severe functional limitations.” However, once the individual turns 18, his impairment must “result in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity.” Because the adult disability standard is a higher one, the result is that many are dropped from SSI because they fail to meet the standard.

But SSI financial requirements often become easier once a child turns 18 because the SSA looks at the individual’s own income and resources instead of using his or her parent’s financial resources. Many SSI beneficiaries who received benefits as children don’t have any other sources of income nor have substantial assets of their own.

Comment: It is not a foregone conclusion that an SSI beneficiary will lose her benefits once reaching 18 and failing to meet these financial requirements. For example, a beneficiary can continue to qualify for SSI under the pre-18 rules if she participates in an approved vocational rehabilitation program or special education program that began before the beneficiary turned 18.

The rules are complicated so it is important to understand how one’s status can affect the ability to access benefits once a child turns 18.


Steven E. Shane

Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.

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