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Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program designed to provide financial assistance to individuals who are unable to work due to a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. For people with special needs, SSDI benefits may be available to children and adults to help offset the costs associated with their condition.

Eligibility Requirements for Children

Children under 18 years of age may be eligible for SSDI if they have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability. The child’s condition must significantly limit their ability to engage in age-appropriate activities and must have lasted or be expected to last at least one year or result in death.

Additionally, to qualify for SSDI benefits, the child’s parents or guardians must meet specific eligibility requirements regarding their work history and Social Security taxes paid.

Eligibility Requirements for Adults

The eligibility requirements for adults with special needs to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in the United States are the same as for adults with any other disabilities. The requirements include:

  1. Work History: To be eligible for SSDI, an individual must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years. The exact number of work credits required depends on the individual’s age at the time of disability onset.
  2. Medical Eligibility: The individual must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. The condition must be severe enough to prevent the individual from being able to work at their previous job or any other job for which they are qualified. The condition must also be expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.
  3. Age: The individual must be between the ages of 18 and 65 to be eligible for SSDI benefits.
  4. Earnings Limitations: The individual must not be able to earn more than a certain amount of income per month ($1310/month in 2021) due to their disability.
  5. Applications: The individual must apply for SSDI benefits and provide all necessary documentation, including medical records, work history, and other supporting documents.

One difference for individuals with special needs is that their disability may impact their ability to work in different ways, and they may have specific needs related to their condition that should be considered when seeking SSDI benefits. In some cases, individuals with special needs may be able to receive expedited processing of their SSDI application.

Applying for SSDI Benefits

When applying for SSDI benefits, it is essential to provide detailed medical information and documentation to support the disability claim.

The SSA requires that the applicant’s medical condition be assessed by a medical professional who has specialized knowledge of the applicant’s condition. This may include a physician, psychologist, or other medical specialist, depending on the diagnosis.

It is also crucial to provide any educational records or documentation of the applicant’s functional limitations to support the disability claim.

SSDI benefits are not automatically awarded to children or adults with special needs, and the process can take several months or even years. It is important to be patient and persistent throughout the application process. It is common to have your first request denied.

Always file an appeal and don’t be afraid of a court appearance. It is often a formality and the firs step to getting your benefits.

Benefits Available to Children

If a child is approved for SSDI benefits, they may receive monthly payments to assist with the costs of medical care, therapy, and other necessary services. The amount of the payment is determined based on the parents’ or guardians’ work history and the child’s medical condition.

Benefits Available to Adults

If adults are approved for SSDI benefits, they can use it to cover medical expenses, therapy, and other necessary services. The amount of SSDI benefits that a person with a disability receives is based on their work history and average indexed monthly earnings.

Although it can take time to get approval, SSDI will often backpay benefits from the time the recipient turned 18 years of age.

Additional Benefits of SSDI for Children and Adults

Children and adults with special needs who receive SSDI benefits may be eligible for other benefits and assistance programs, such as Medicaid, which covers the cost of medical care, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provides supplementary financial support to families with low income and resources.


SSDI benefits can provide much-needed financial assistance to families with special needs. However, the application and approval process can be complex and time-consuming. Consulting with an experienced disability attorney or advocate who has experience in SSDI applications may be helpful. With the right support, families can navigate the SSDI process and receive the benefits they deserve to support their child’s special needs.



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