Government and Insurance Benefits

Transitioning from SSI to Adult Child Disability Benefit

By Financial Planning, Government and Insurance Benefits, Personal Stories No Comments

In a prior blog, I wrote about securing SSI for my son Josh. A few years back my husband retired. While many people wait till 70 to collect their Social Security benefit, in an effort to maximize on their income, I encouraged my husband to take it at 65. The reason? I wanted our son Josh to transition from SSI to the SSDI Childhood Disability Benefit (CDB). With the Childhood Disability Benefit, Josh would receive 50% of my husband’s Social Security benefit. If my husband should pass, the Childhood Disability Benefit would increase to 75%.

In our case, CDB has some advantages over SSI:

1) Unlike SSI which deducts a dollar for every two dollars earned, the CDB does not.
2) This benefit is not needs-based, so the Adult Child can amass more than $2000 without losing their benefit.
3) After two years, the Adult Child is eligible for Medicare.

For a child with ASD, Social Security is part of your child’s financial safety net. In our case, 50% of my husband’s benefit was greater than SSI. In addition, as Josh was preparing to graduate from CSUF, the employment flexibility would prove useful in the future.

To Qualify For CDB

This benefit is available to adults with a disability that began before age 22. It requires the parent to have paid in amply to Social Security and to be either collecting Social Security or be deceased. For details see this pamphlet:

Transitioning from SSI to CDB

In making the transition to CDB, I first contacted our advisor, Jim Huyck to make sure I understood the process. When my husband was ready to apply for Social Security, I accompanied him to the Social Security office. The representative at Social Security noticed that our son was on SSI, and immediately filed the paperwork to transition him to the Child Disability Benefit.
The one hitch, was that Josh would no longer be receiving SSI and therefore he would no longer receive Medi-Cal funding through Social Security. I was told that we needed to go to the Social Services office to apply for Medi-Cal.

The application process for Medi-Cal through Social Services was simple. I had to bring Josh’s financial paperwork and proof of citizenship to the Social Services office. Social Services reviewed the material and approved Josh’s transition such that the funding of Medi-Cal would now be through Social Services. Josh was assigned a case number and a case worker. For details on the process, please refer to

Reporting Wages when Receiving CDB

Like SSI, it is important to report your wages when receiving CDB. Unlike SSI, the rules for how wages are treated are different. This is a bit confusing and to be honest, since Josh has not cycled through this process, I am not sure I fully understand it. Below is a summary:

  • CDB recipients, who are making less than “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), will continue to receive their disability benefits while working. In 2020 SGA is $1,260 per month
  • Once the recipient’s earnings are higher than $880 for nine months during a 60-month period, the Social Security Administration will review the recipient’s income record
  • If the average earnings during the trial work period hit or surpassed the substantial gainful activity threshold of $1,260 then the benefits will likely stop. But if the average earnings during the trial work period are below that amount, then benefits will continue.
  • If the recipient can work while continuing to receive benefits, they can enter what is known as an extended period of eligibility. After the trial work period, they have 36 months during which they can receive benefits for any month in which their earnings fall below the substantial gainful activity threshold.

This month, June marks the two-year anniversary since Josh went on CDB. I will write a separate blog on the process of enrolling Josh in Medicare.

How I Got SSI for My Son

By Government and Insurance Benefits, Personal Stories No Comments

As the president of the Orange County Asperger’s Support Group, I often hear of differing concerns from parents. One common issue is how to get their child on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). An SSI benefit, can help your child financially with a monthly stipend. It also can enable them to receive Med-Cal.  For a child with ASD, SSI is part of your child’s financial safety net. Now I am not an expert, but am happy to share my personal experience.

To Qualify For SSI You Must Have Less than $2000 and Have an Approved Disability

SSI is a means tested benefit. This means that the government requires that the individual have less than $2,000 of financial assets. Note that personal possessions — a car, home, or furniture — are not counted as assets. Some families are able to get on SSI, before their child turns 18. But in those cases, the parents must meet the strict financial guidelines as well as provide proof their child’s disability.

When Josh turned 18, he became an adult and was eligible to apply for SSI. Prior to applying, we had to do a little work. Josh had some money from his Bar Mitzvah and other family gifts. With the help of an attorney, we set up self-funded special needs trust. By moving his money into the trust, Josh was able to meet the financial requirements for SSI.

We Hired an Advocate to Help Over See the Process

We also hired an advisor to help with the process. We worked with Jim Huyck. The first step was to fill out the application for SSI. This was quite an extensive form and required many details from Josh’s medical history. In preparing the application, we also reached out to the original psychologist who diagnosed Josh when he was three years old and to Josh’s current therapist. We had Josh revisit the diagnosing therapist who wrote up a report. We also had his current therapist write a report. It was important that Social Security understand Josh’s disability and his limitations.

There is also financial information required related to Josh’s living expenses. Josh lived at home, and so we needed to pull together all our families living expenses including utilities, mortgage payments, insurance, groceries, etc. Josh needed to pay his fair share. If Josh was unable to pay his fair share, then he would lose a portion of his benefit.

Social Security also needs copies of all the banking accounts. Part of their process is to thoroughly review the funds Josh had available. They even counted savings bonds.

We then submitted the application. It took around nine months. There were occasional letters asking for additional information. At a certain point, Social Security sent a correspondence indicating that Josh would need to meet with one of their doctor’s to be evaluated. This doctor was located in a small clinic in Long Beach. I was nervous, because Josh is fairly high functioning, but the doctor told me that we had nothing to fear.

In the end Josh was approved. I was made his representative payee, which meant I was responsible for managing Josh’s money. The first payment was a lump sum that included back-pay dating back to the date that we applied for the benefit. This amount of money meant that Josh had more than $2000 in the bank. We were given a time frame to spend down the money, before Josh would be penalized for having this much cash on hand.

Josh was on SSI from the time he as 19 till he was 26 years old. I often hear that families get denied. My advice is get professional assistance. Don’t rush. Take your time and do this correctly.

Living with SSI

In my next blog, I will explain living with SSI. There are lots of reporting rules that can impact your child’s income. There are also strategies for how to manage the funds that I am happy to share.