If your child is disabled, Social Security can help

If your child is disabled, Social Security can help

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Cancer is a terrible disease that, although sometimes beatable, can strike a blow to anyone unfortunate enough to face it. It is especially difficult to see children struck by cancer.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, designated to bring attention to the types of cancer that largely affect children. About 13,000 children under age 21 receive cancer diagnoses every year. About a quarter of them will not survive. Those who do will likely suffer with the disease for some time.

While Social Security cannot help with the cure, we can offer financial support to children with cancer—or any other severe disability.

If your child has cancer or another disabling condition, and if your family has low income and few resources, you may be able to get Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, for your child. If you are receiving retirement or disability benefits, your child may be eligible for Social Security disability insurance when he or she turns age 18 as a “Disabled Adult Child.” To receive SSI or disability insurance benefits, your child’s condition must be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months or result in death.

For both Social Security and SSI, you will need to file an application for disability benefits. A good place to start is by visiting and selecting the “Disability Starter Kit” under “Apply for Benefits.” There, you’ll find a “Child Disability Starter Kit” that includes a factsheet to answer your questions, a link to the “Child Disability Report” for you to complete, a checklist for your in-office interview with a Social Security representative, and a “Medical and School Worksheet.” A printable version of the “Child Starter Kit” is available.

Although going through the disability decision process and obtaining disability benefits may not help your child get well, the financial support can alleviate some of the stress. And the time to get started is now.

To learn more, view, print, or listen to an audio version of our publication, Benefits For Children With Disabilities by visiting

Vonda VanTil is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp St NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at [email protected]