Is my child eligible for assistance if they can't work?

Your child is an adult now. They have a mental illness and can’t hold down a job because of it. Are they eligible for cash and medical assistance?  The short answer is yes.

Financial assistance

Cash assistance comes either through Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If the child has worked a total of ten years (divided into 40 quarters that do not have to be consecutive), then they can apply for Social Security Disability. For some, that could be as early as age 26.

If the child hasn’t worked at least ten years, then they can apply for SSI.

Either way, the application goes through the Social Security Administration (SSA). They will need to schedule an appointment. They will have to provide medical documentation of their disability. They will have to provide an address and contact information where they can be reached if the SSA has follow-up questions. Family members can give input.

This can take a few months. But if the child is determined to be eligible, that eligibility will be retroactive to the date of the application. So, it is important to apply as soon as possible.

Sometimes, people are denied the first time they apply. But denials can be appealed, and people often win on appeal.

Medical assistance

Medical assistance can come through private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, or sometimes a combination of these.

As a result of the Affordable Care Act, children anywhere in the country can stay on parents’ insurance policies up to age 26. In some states, the age might be higher—but that’s up to the state.

If the child is eligible for Social Security Disability, they will also be eligible for Medicare.

In most states, if the child is eligible for SSI, they will automatically be eligible for Medicaid. In the other states, they will have to file a separate application for Medicaid—and the eligibility standards may be different. You can find the current list of states—and whether they make Medicaid eligibility automatic or make you apply separately—here.  

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