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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits For Preterm Infants With Severe Impairments Or Health Problems

by Layla Bryant

Your disabled child who is younger than age 18 may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if he or she meets the income guidelines or lives in a household with limited income and assets. In addition to the income limits, a child must meet the Social Security Administration's (SSA) definition of disability. Provided that a child meets the medical criteria, even a premature infant, an infant with a low birth weight, or an infant with developmental problems can qualify for SSI disability payments during the first year of life, including from the date of birth.

Qualifying Impairments

Generally, SSA's definition of disability includes impairments that severely limit a child's normal functioning and are expected to last for at least 12 months or lead to death. SSA expects you to provide medical evidence supporting the claim for SSI benefits for your child.

If your infant is born prematurely or with a low birth weight, he or she may qualify for SSI based on one or more of the following conditions:

  • Growth impairments that can lead to physical limitations

  • Vision loss (blindness)

  • Profound hearing loss or deafness

  • Decreased lung functioning (chronic lung disease) due to underdeveloped lungs

  • Cerebral palsy that severely impairs a child's muscle coordination and ability to walk, talk, and move his or her upper body

  • Mental retardation

  • Congenital heart disease that requires surgery

  • Delayed motor development or failure to meet general milestones for your baby's age (e.g. problems moving and manipulating objects)

  • Immune deficiency disorder that leads to frequent infections

  • Malnutrition due to a digestive tract disorder or problems feeding – caused by an underdeveloped gastrointestinal system – that require the need for a feeding tube

Long-term complications associated with premature birth that may not show up until your child is past infancy but that can still qualify him or her for SSI benefits include:

  • Cognitive delays

  • Behavioral problems

  • Learning disabilities

  • Mental disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and depression

  • Diabetes

  • Asthma

Medicaid Eligibility

If your child's medical condition requires frequent hospitalizations, extensive medical care, or continuous home care services, he or she may be eligible for Medicaid – a federal health care program for low income individuals which is administered by the states. In many states, children who receive monthly SSI payments automatically qualify for Medicaid to help cover their medical expenses. Even if your household income exceeds the guidelines set by the Social Security Administration, depending on the Medicaid regulations in your state, your child may still qualify for Medicaid if he or she requires institutional level of care.

For more information, contact a lawyer that specializes in Social Security claims.