Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Childhood Disability Benefits: Can a Child Receive SSDI and SSI at the Same Time?

Many parents are unaware that a child may be eligible to receive both SSDI and SSI benefits at the same time.  These children are commonly referred to as: "concurrent beneficiaries".  A “concurrent beneficiary” in Social Security parlance, is someone who receives SSDI benefits and also a reduced SSI payment.  Concurrent beneficiaries receive two separate checks each month (one for the SSDI benefit and one for the SSI), as well as both Medicare (after the 24-month Medicare Qualifying Period) and Medicaid. 
In order to understand this concept, one must be aware that a child may qualify to receive benefits under different provisions of the Social Security Act.  For example, a child may receive benefits (commonly called SSDI) because one of his parents is retired, deceased or disabled.  This type of Social Security benefit has nothing to do with whether the child in question is disabled.  A child may also be eligible to receive benefits (known by most as SSI) if he or she is found to be disabled and falls below certain economic level.  It is important for parents and childhood disability advocates to be aware that a child may be found eligible to receive concurrent payments under both of these programs.  A parent should never give up fighting for both of these benefits simply because the child has already been deemed to be eligible for one of them.  What follows is a brief summary of some common scenarios under which a child may be able to collect both benefits.
A concurrent beneficiary sometimes begins as an SSI recipient who later on is found eligible for a SSDI.  An example of this would be when a parent dies, retires, or becomes disabled, triggering eligibility for SSDI benefits for his children.  In this case, the child would get an SSDI payment that would count as unearned income for SSI.  Depending on the amount of the SSDI payment, the SSI check could be reduced or eliminated.
Another example of a concurrent beneficiary is that of a child who is receiving SSDI benefits and then, later on, subsequently meets the requirements to collect under the SSI program. A common circumstance in this type of case would be when one of the parents of child who receives SSDI, becomes unemployed, thus lowering the amount of deemed income that previously prevented him or her from receiving SSI.
In all concurrent cases, SSDI benefits take precedence since these are entitlement programs.  Once the SSDI benefit has been determined, the eligibility for SSI is made.  The SSDI payment benefit is considered unearned income for the purposes of determining both eligibility for and the amount of the SSI benefit. There is no choice when determining which benefits a beneficiary will receive since SSI is the payer of last resort in all cases.