The late summer means it’s back-to-school season for many young people. It’s a time of big changes—a new grade, a new school, and the change of seasons mean this time of year is full of activity. For children receiving Social Security income (SSI) benefits who are turning 18, there are even more big changes—these young people are moving from school to work, and childhood to adult independence.
This important 18th birthday also means changes in their SSI benefits—it marks the time when the Social Security Administration (SSA) conducts the age-18 redetermination, which evaluates whether the individual is still able to receive benefits.
The SSA’s rules can be difficult to understand—here, we’ll break down what this redetermination is and why it happens, along with what resources are available for young people as they enter the working world and how an SSA law firm – like Heermans Disability Law Firm – can help you throughout this process in the Memphis Mid-South area and beyond.
What happens when someone receiving SSI benefits turns 18?
When a child who has received benefits turns 18—or turns 19, if enrolled in high school—the SSA conducts a redetermination, which determines whether or not benefits will continue. This process usually starts about a month before the young adult’s 18th birthday and includes several personal file review steps.
These steps include firstly, an eligibility interview at a local SSA field office. Although since Covid-19, most interviews are done remotely over Zoom Meeting. Then, the local office of Disability Determination Services (DDS) reviews the report of the interview, along with any new or relevant medical or educational information. Then the SSA notifies the individual if they will continue receiving benefits or not.
If the application for adult benefits is denied, there is a sixty-day period during which it’s possible to appeal this decision—and a ten-day window is given to request that benefits continue during the appeal. This stage of the process might be stressful and overwhelming—that’s where a disability lawyer can step in to help untangle some of the system and be sure that you are properly represented during this critical review time.
The appeal process is similar to the application process—it includes gathering information about the disability, often including a statement from a doctor(s), another DDS review, and a hearing, which can be followed by a second appeal if the first is denied.
Why do these changes happen?
This evaluation takes place because the SSA has different criteria that determine who is eligible for benefits for adults and children. These criteria are different because of different expectations for different age groups. So while children are evaluated according to their functioning, and while they aren’t expected to support themselves, adults are evaluated according to whether or not their disability impacts their ability to work and earn money to live and pay their bills.
The differences between the threshold for children and adults means that about one third of children who received benefits from the SSA lose those benefits upon turning 18. But when it comes to financial requirements, some people who didn’t qualify as children might qualify as adults, or will retain the benefits—while a portion of parental income is included when assessing children, it’s an individual’s income that is examined when adults are screened.
What resources are available to help adjust to life outside of school?
Some people just turning 18 might be unable to work at all—this isn’t unheard of and can clearly reflect their disability. But the SSA does offer some programs for those who are able to work and children receiving benefits become eligible for some of these programs even before turning 18.
For example, many local Work Incentives and Planning Assistance (WIPA) programs offer benefits counseling for people between ages 14 – 25 who receive SSDI or SSI benefits. This type of planning can help set a teen up for success by helping them to figure out if heading to college, apprenticing, or going right to work is the best option. Laying out how income can impact benefits also helps young people to make informed decisions.
There are other types of benefits counseling, too. A young adult who joins the Ticket to Work program upon turning eighteen is connected to a service provider—often either an Employment Network or a Vocational Rehabilitation program. These programs can provide education about benefits, while also providing career counseling or training for skills that can help young adults achieve financial independence.
Another option is an apprenticeship—which the Ticket to Work program can help position you into. An apprenticeship provides on-the-job training, and the Ticket to Work program and VR (Vocational Rehab) or EN (Employment Network) networks can help to match a participant to an apprenticeship or review applications prior to employer submission to help increase chances of hiring success.
How can Heermans Disability Law Firm help me?
The SSI/SSDI application and appeal process can be confusing, time-consuming and overwhelming for those without experience with the law and the SSA system. That’s where a disability law firm can help. Where a general practice lawyer might know a little bit about everything, a specialized disability lawyer knows the SSI/SSDI application and appeal processes very well—their experience and specialized knowledge can immensely increase your chances of success during the appeal process.
While working with a large, national firm might mean that you only meet your lawyer the day of your hearing, at Heermans our localized offices in Memphis and the Mid-South mean that we know the locations of judges who will hear your appeal—which means that we can prepare a specialized appeal for our clients with our knowledge of how the local appeal process works. It also means that we know more about the local review process and work hard to represent our clients with the most thorough evidence available. Our courteous and friendly customer service and Southern hospitality help to make this part of a stressful situation a little easier too.
Whether you need help with an appeal or are looking for a long term disability attorney to help you from your initial application for a child up through the age 18, we’re here to help you or your child get the benefits you need and deserve. Give us a call at (901) 244-0057 or use our online form for a free evaluation—we’re on your side and here to help you with all aspects of the disability claim process.
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