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Apply for Social Security Benefits at age 18

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal assistance program designed to provide income to aged, blind, or disabled people who have limited assets with which to support themselves.

The SSI program is managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), but financed by the general tax fund. Because the program is not financed by Social Security taxes, there are no work requirements necessary to qualify for SSI.

When a person age 18 or older applies for SSI, the Social Security Administration also determines whether s/he may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. These benefits are provided to people who meet the same stringent disability standards that apply to SSI, and who have “insured status”. Insured status depends on the person or a particular family member having worked and paid into the Social Security system through the FICA payroll tax for a period of time. There are three types of Social Security Disability benefits: (1) Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is based on the individuals’ own earnings history, and may be awarded to people at least 18 years old, (2) Childhood Disability Beneficiary (CDB), which may be awarded to a person who is at least age 18, has been disabled since before age 22 and whose parent (who worked and paid into Social Security) is retired, disabled or deceased, and (3) Disabled Widows/Widowers Benefit (DWB), for people age 50 or older whose deceased spouse paid into Social Security.

A person who receives $693/month or less from Social Security Disability benefits may often qualify for a small SSI check as well. SSI provides automatic eligibility for Medical Assistance. Social Security Disability provides Medicare, but only after a two-year waiting period.

How do I apply for SSI?

Try to schedule your interview with Social Security to take place immediately after your child turns 18. You may want to call before the child’s birthday, however the interview will not be able to take place until the child is 18. A person may not have more than $2000 in assets to be eligible for SSI. Adjustments may have to be made five years prior to age 18. Be sure to alert other family members not to give large gifts of money or stocks directly to your young adult directly or in their wills.

It may also be appropriate to collect monthly room and board from your young adult who will receive SSI and continue to live with you at home because this will establish a pattern of their paying a portion of their benefits towards monthly rent in preparation for them moving into their own housing.

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