Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder that causes damage to the parts of the brain that control movement. CP can be caused before or at birth, or in infancy up to about age three. CP can cause a range of symptoms, including problems moving, problems with vision, communication difficulties, seizures, musculoskeletal problems, and cognitive problems.
Children who come from low-income families and who have severe problems caused by cerebral palsy should be able to get SSI disability benefits. This article addresses Social Security benefits for children with CP. For information on adults, see our article on how adults with CP can qualify for Social Security disability.
Social Security’s listing for childhood cerebral palsy is listing 111.07, which was significantly updated in 2016. Children with severe motor dysfunction should automatically qualify automatically for SSI, but children whose CP causes only slight impairments will not qualify for SSI.
Children with cerebral palsy who have problems with two extremities that cause either severe difficulty walking, standing, balancing, getting up from a seated position, or using their arms and hands effectively should satisfy the requirements of Social Security's listing for cerebral palsy (and be approved for benefits).
For children who are older, to qualify based on their difficulty walking, standing or balancing, Social Security may look at their ability to stand for a period of time, climb stairs, and/or sustain a reasonable walking pace over a sufficient distance to be able to carry out age-appropriate activities. A child who can walk effectively with a cane will generally not qualify for SSI, but a child who needs to use both arms to operate a walker may qualify; a child must be unable to walk independently without the use of a hand-held device that requires the use of both arms. For children who are too young to be expected to walk independently, Social Security may look at their functioning in comparison to others of their age.
As to fine and gross movements, for younger children, Social Security will look at things like reaching, pushing, pulling, grasping, and fingering, and whether your child can perform these tasks in an age-appropriate manner. For older children, Social Security may judge the ability to use the hands or arms effectively by looking at things like the ability to prepare simple food and feed oneself and the ability to take care of personal hygiene.
Note that Social Security will no longer consider whether the child's I.Q. is less than 70 when determining whether the child will qualify for benefits under the cerebral palsy listing.
If your child does not meet the criteria of the CP listing, he or she still might be eligible for SSI if his or her condition medically or functionally "equals" the impairment listings. To succeed, you will have to show that your child's condition very seriously interferes with her daily functioning. For more information, see our article on getting SSI for a child by functionally equaling the listings.
Social Security has a list of serious disabilities that may qualify an individual to receive disability benefits faster. Cerebral palsy with severe impairments is one of the disorders that entitles an applicant to presumptive disability benefits. If your child has cerebral palsy and severe difficulty walking, speaking, or using his hands or arms, then he may qualify for presumptive disability benefits, which are advanced payments of SSI. To apply for presumptive disability benefits, you can contact the Social Security field office nearest you or you can call Social Security at 800-772-1213.