Children who collect Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will have their eligibility reviewed by the Social Security Agency (SSA) when they turn 18. This “age-18 redetermination” is necessary in order to continue collecting SSI into adulthood. 

If you are under age 18 and currently collect SSI, you will receive a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) within one year of your 18th birthday, requesting information to determine if you are disabled and eligible to continue collecting SSI benefits. You will be asked to provide information about your medications, hospital stays and surgeries, education, and work activity. Doctors and other trained staff will decide if you meet the disability requirements to collect SSI as an adult.

SSA makes its determination based on a variety of factors, including the existence of any severe impairment(s) that significantly limits your physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. If your impairment does not meet or equal SSA’s listed impairments, the agency will conduct a residual functional capacity assessment and consider vocational factors (your age, education, and work experience) to determine if you can make an adjustment to work. 

In addition to determining if you meet medical criteria for continued benefits, the SSA will consider your level of functioning in your past work and what it says about your ability to work in the national economy. If you are able to work only because of SSI work incentives or other supports, that will be considered in the redetermination. 

Work Incentives and Supports
Work incentives allow you to continue receiving your SSI payments or Medicaid coverage while you work. According to the SSA:

“When we review non-medical eligibility during the age-18 redetermination, we will ask for information about all of your income, including any earnings. If you use SSI work incentives and supports to help you to work, we will not count some of your earnings and that will reduce your risk of you losing your SSI or Medicaid because of work. However, you must tell us about your work activity no matter how little you earn. Your SSI may continue while you work if you are still disabled. As your earnings go up, the amount of your SSI will go down and eventually may stop. Even if your SSI stops, you may be able to keep your Medicaid coverage and keep working.”

Work incentives allow disabled adults to continue receiving SSI payments and/or Medicaid coverage while working. Some of these incentives include:

  • SSI Continued (Section 301) Payments: Even if you are no longer medically eligible for SSI after age 18, your benefits may continue as long as you are participating in approved special education, vocational rehabilitation, or similar programs. See the SSA Red Book for details. 
  • Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE): Youth under the age of 22 who are attending school may exclude some of their countable income when determining their SSI benefit. Attending college or taking an employment training course are examples of schooling that may allow you to exclude some of your earnings from countable income. 
  • Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS): A PASS is a written plan for the future for those who receive SSI and want to work or start a business. Having an approved PASS may allow for setting aside some earnings (to pay for education, training, or business start-up expenses) and still receiving SSI payments under Section 301. Learn more about PASS here: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-11017.pdf.

Education Grants and Scholarships
Most educational grants, scholarships, fellowships, and gifts used for tuition and fees at educational institutions are not counted as income when determining SSI benefits. 

SSA Decision and Appeal Process
Once the SSA has made its decision, the agency will send you a letter. Historically, about one-third of children lose their SSI eligibility following the age-18 redetermination. To appeal a decision to discontinue benefits and continue to receive benefits during the appeal process, you must send a written appeal within 10 days of receiving your determination letter. To appeal without continuing to receive benefits, you may send a written appeal to the Social Security Administration within 60 days of receiving the letter.

It’s critical to respond quickly, and with the appropriate information, if you choose to appeal. Ladas and Hoopes can help with this process. Contact Ladas & Hoopes to schedule a free consultation to discuss social security disability, supplemental security income, or any of our other services.