Children with juvenile diabetes and low family income may be eligible for SSI disability benefits. To qualify as a disability, a child’s diabetes must require daily insulin or 24-hour-a-day adult supervision, depending on the child’s age.
There are two ways for a child to qualify for Supplemental Security Income on account of a disability. One is by meeting the requirements of one of Social Security’s official disability listings, and the other is by showing that their limitations functionally equal the listings.
Meeting the Listing for Juvenile Diabetes
Social Security’s listing for juvenile diabetes applies to either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes mellitus, but it only applies to children under six years old. For children under six years old to qualify for SSI disability under the listing, they must simply require daily insulin.
Those Who Don’t Meet the Listing for Diabetes
After age six (and for children under age six who don’t need daily insulin), Social Security will look at whether the child’s medical condition is “functionally equivalent” to that in the listing. If the child’s treatment needs amount to the same type of adult medical supervision required by daily insulin, Social Security will consider the child’s condition just as severe as that in the listing, and will approve benefits.
For example, if your child needs 24-hour-a-day supervision by adults to take care of insulin injections and monitor food intake and exercise levels, Social Security will find that your child’s condition is functionally equivalent to that in the listings. (See C.F.R. § 416.926a, which says that any time a child has a requirement for 24-hour-a-day supervision for medical reasons, that child will qualify for disability.)
Some children are six years old or older but can’t control their own diabetes -- through monitoring their own food intake and watching for hypoglycemia – due to intellectual disability or attention deficit. Social Security will take this into account when considering ether the child needs constant adult supervision.
Other children simply have more complex medical situations and need more monitoring than others. Social Security will take into account how the child’s daily life is affected by diabetes management, including how many episodes of hypoglycemia the child has at school, how many school days the child has to miss due to diabetes. Social Security will also consider whether the child’s studies and school performance are affected by hypoglycemia or other diabetes symptoms like the frequent need for urination, extreme fatigue, or unusual thirst and hunger. In addition, if your child suffers any complications from diabetes, such as blurred vision, Social Security should take this into account when determining the severity of your child’s limitations.
It’s important to keep records of your child’s daily blood glucose levels and how often your child becomes hypoglycemic, both in school and out of school, as well as how many days of school your child misses due to illness, treatment needs, or hospitalizations.
Children’s SSI Payments
The federal SSI benefit is currently $721 per month, but few children on SSI actually receive that amount. If the child’s parent or parents are working, part of their income will be attributed to the child (read our article on how Social Security deems family income). This could mean that the child might only get a couple of hundred dollars in SSI payments. On the other hand, some states supplement the federal SSI benefits with a state supplementary payments that can add on anywhere from $10 to $200 to the monthly payment.
The SSI payment can be used to pay for the child’s medical treatment, any medical copays or uncovered costs of daily insulin injections, and healthy food for the child. Some families have also racked up debts due to medical bills for doctors’ visits or insulin delivery pumps, or other costs that weren’t covered by insurance. SSI can be used to pay off these debts or just to help pay the family rent or mortgage if the mother or father is taking time off work to supervise the child’s diabetes. You may want to read Nolo’s article on the types of supports that a child’s SSI can pay for.