Some growth disorders and impairments can be seen at birth, while others aren't apparent until a child's growth fails to keep pace with other children their age. Children with growth disorders can receive disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Children with growth impairments can get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if their families qualify financially. To qualify for SSI disability, your child's impairment must meet specific criteria regarding height and weight compared to other children of the same age.
Social Security distinguishes between height and weight when assessing growth impairments for disability benefits. Short heights are evaluated under the growth impairment listing, while weight deficiencies are assessed under other listings.
Several different disorders and ailments can cause children not to grow as tall as they should. Here are a few of the more common ones:
Learn more about getting disability for a child with low birth weight.
Children can be eligible for SSI disability benefits. (Children aren't eligible for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits unless they have a parent who's receiving SSDI, in which case they might be able to get dependents benefits.)
To qualify for SSI, your child must meet both technical and medical requirements:
There are two listings for growth impairments that Social Security uses to evaluate children: one for infants and one for children up to age 3.
Listing 100.04 is for children from birth to one year of age, and is satisfied by a birth weight of less than 2 pounds 10 ounces (1200 grams), or a birth weight that falls into the parameters of the following table:
|4 pounds, 6 ounces
|4 pounds, 2 ounces
|3 pounds, 12 ounces
|3 pounds, 5 ounces
|2 pounds, 15 ounces
|2 pounds, 10 ounces
The chart above takes gestational age into account because premature babies generally don't weigh as much as full-term babies, but they also don't necessarily have any kind of growth problem. Along with birth weight, a doctor routinely determines gestational age when a child is born using several possible means, such as:
Listing 100.05 is for children from birth to three years old. This listing requires evidence of growth impairment and a developmental delay.
To establish a growth impairment under listing 100.05, your child must have at least three height and weight measurements in a year, at least 60 days apart, that are less than the third percentile. The specific measurements needed depend on your child's age:
In addition, evidence of a developmental delay is required. Specifically, the child must have a test score on a standard developmental assessment that either:
If there's no valid developmental test score as described above, the child can still meet this requirement by submitting at least two narrative descriptions that meet all of the following criteria:
To satisfy Social Security's growth impairment listings (100.04 or 100.05), it's not necessary to show the reason the impairment exists—you just need an adequate medical history and physical examination.
A child who doesn't meet the requirements of either of these listings might still qualify for SSI if the child has a chronic disease that qualifies under a different listing. For example, any serious chronic illness, such as severe lung disease, heart disease, or kidney disease, could be the basis for approval for benefits, without even considering the growth impairment.
It's also possible for a child with a documented disorder and a growth impairment to qualify for benefits if the combined effect of the disorders is severe enough to equal a listing—even if neither separately would qualify. (Learn more about how Social Security evaluates multiple impairments.)
Children who don't meet the listing for growth impairments can sometimes qualify for disability benefits by "functionally equaling the listings." To qualify this way, your child must have significant functional impairments—that is, impairments that can be considered equal in severity to the listings in the Blue Book.
There are six functional domains that Social Security assesses in determining this functional equivalency:
Your child must have two "marked" (severe) limitations or one "extreme" limitation within the six functional domains.
Children with growth impairments sometimes have physical difficulties with things like movement and self-care due to their short height or short limbs. For instance, your child might have difficulty climbing stairs or getting dressed without help due to these physical limitations. But it's fairly rare for a child to functionally equal the listings for growth impairment.
Learn more about what's required for a child to functionally equal the listings.
If your child is approved for benefits, Social Security will conduct periodic reviews (based on your child's medical records) to determine if the child is still disabled. All children approved for SSI benefits undergo these periodic reviews (called "continuing disability reviews," or CDRs). Those with disabilities that could improve, such as growth impairments, will be reassessed at least every three years, or even more frequently.
During the review, Social Security will look at your child's current medical condition and records for signs of improvement. The SSA will also look for evidence that your child is getting necessary medical care.
Learn more about how continuing disability reviews work.
Applying for SSI disability for a child is a two-step process. First, you must tell Social Security that your child needs to apply for SSI disability benefits, and then a Social Security representative will help you fill out the SSI application. There are three ways to begin the application process:
Initially, Social Security will need basic information about you and your child, such as:
Next, Social Security will need to see all your child's medical records (which the SSA will help gather), school records if applicable, and information about your family's income and financial resources.
Learn more about what it takes to get SSI disability benefits for a child.
Or, if you're an adult with short stature who's interested in applying for benefits, see our article on getting disability benefits for short stature or dwarfism.
Updated January 26, 2024