Supplemental Security Income and premature infants

Did you know that your severely premature infant may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), regardless of your income? Many people don't realize that SSI was designed to cover severely disabled children in the first place.

Will your income prevent your child from getting benefits?

Since a portion of a parent's income is "deemed" to their child's care, even children with serious disabilities often don't qualify for benefits because their parent's income is above the financial threshold that SSI allows. However, your income isn't a factor if your child is in a hospital's neonatal unit due to his or her low-birth weight and other problems related to his or her premature birth. A parent's income can only be deemed to a child that is actually in his or her care -- which isn't the case when your newborn is in the hospital (and likely to remain so for an extended period of time).

What if you really don't need the money?

If you're financially comfortable, you may not feel like you "need" the SSI benefits your child is due. However, SSI provides far more than a small monthly check. It also brings entitlement to Medi-Cal benefits. When your child is in neonatal care, even the best insurance is seldom enough to cover all expenses. Copays alone can bankrupt an otherwise financially stable family.

What is considered a low-birth weight?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) automatically considers an infant who weighs less than 1200 grams to be disabled, regardless of the length of gestation. In other cases, an infant's birth weight will be compared with the length of gestation along with other factors, such as whether or not the child has other problems, like respiratory issues, cerebral palsy or some other condition present from birth.

There are also many other reasons that young children -- even infants -- can qualify for Supplemental Security Income. If you believe your child is disabled, find out more about your legal right to benefits that can help your child far into the future.

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