The standard the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to determine whether a child should be awarded disability benefits is very different from the standard used for adults. In order to collect disability benefits for a child, his or her impairment must equal or be very similar to a specific impairment predefined by SSA (i.e. a listing), cause a marked limitation in two domains, or cause an extreme limitation in one domain. Some of the predefined impairments may need to be diagnosed by specified medical testing. A marked limitation seriously interferes with a child's ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete domain-related activities. An extreme impairment very seriously interferes with a child’s ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete domain-related activities. The domains are (1) Acquiring and Using Information, (2) Attending and Completing Tasks, (3) Interacting and Relating with Others, (4) Moving About and Manipulating Objects, (5) Caring for Yourself, and (6) Health and Physical Well-Being. One impairment could affect multiple domains. While, conversely, multiple impairments may affect only one domain. To evaluate the severity of the child’s impairments, the child’s capabilities in these domains are compared to children of the same age that do not have impairments.
Proving a child is disabled and should be awarded benefits can be trickier than proving an adult is disabled. If a child does not meet a listing, the impairment(s) have to impact a particular domain, as opposed to the individual as a whole. Multiple factors are considered in determining the child’s degree of limitation in the various domains. Bulleted below are some of the factors that are considered.
- Does the child need extra help or an assistive device?
- Does he or she have difficulty initiating, sustaining or completing activities independently?
- In what sort of setting does the child need to perform a given task?
- How do the child’s abilities and behaviors differ when outside of that setting?
- Does the child have a chronic illness that interferes with his or her abilities?
- What are the effects of treatment on the child?
- Is the child in an early intervention program or individualized education program?
- Does the child need special education services or accommodations?
- Does the child have poor attendance or participation?
These can be shown by providing Disability Determination Services and an Administrative Law Judge with teachers’ opinions on the child’s limitations, medical records, third party statements (including statements by family and friends), standardized testing scores, and school records, among other evidence.