Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Children: A Guide for Parents

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C, FAOSW
Last Reviewed: August 05, 2022

The Social Security Administration (SSA) runs the SSI program for children. SSI provides income to low-income families with limited resources who have a child with a disability. SSA has clear guidelines for defining disability in a child:

  • The child must have a physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limits his or her activities; and
  • The condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year or result in death.

Disabled children from birth to age 18 may collect SSI. Children may also be eligible for SSI until the age of 22 if disabled and going to school.

When determining eligibility, SSA reviews the income, resources, and size of the family to determine financial eligibility. SSI is not a medical insurance program, however in many states, once a child is determined to be SSI eligible, they are also eligible for Medicaid.

Many childhood cancers also fall under a category called "compassionate allowance diagnosis (CAL)." This means that the condition obviously meets disability standards. A compassionate allowance diagnosis can help to fast-track the approval process. Several pediatric cancers meet compassion allowance requirements including acute leukemia, grade III/IV astrocytoma, bilateral retinoblastoma, pediatric lymphoblastic lymphoma, pediatric lymphoma, neuroblastoma with distant metastases/recurrences, chondrosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma, hepatoblastoma, medulloblastoma, osteosarcoma, and aplastic anemia. A complete list of CAL conditions may be viewed online at If your child meets compassionate allowance requirements be sure to state this on every phone call and communication with SSA.

There are strict income requirements for SSI eligibility. This is called deeming. SSA assumes that a portion of the parent's income and resources are available to the child. Deemed income for the parents and other children living in the home helps the SSA determine if the child meets SSI income and resource requirements.

The application process for SSI takes patience, organization, and perseverance. To begin the application process, parents can contact SSA by phone (800-772-1213) or in person at an SSA local office. You must also complete a child disability report ( which can be done online or by paper. Your child's care team can provide assistance with completing the disability report.

For more information about the application process for SSI for a child visit:

Your social worker or financial counselor can also provide support and assistance when applying for SSI for your child.

Other Helpful links:

Information about SSI from the Social Security Administration:

Understanding SSI for Children from the Social Security Administration:

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