Avoid These Common Mistakes When Applying for Supplementary Security Income

Sometimes, the simplest mistakes can be the most costly. When it comes to applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for your adult child (over the age of 18) with a disability, what you don’t know can definitely hurt you. Educating yourself on some of the most common mistakes can help you avoid denial of the application.


Parents frequently apply for SSI on behalf of an adult child with special needs who is not capable of applying on their own. While answering questions about your child’s abilities and disabilities is relatively easy and straightforward, answering questions pertaining to their assets and income is a far more complex task.

Being aware of these key points will help you avoid costly mistakes:

  • Once your child turns 18, only his/her assets and income are relevant to the application.   Disclosing any of your own assets may result in the application being denied.
  • The manner in which assets are titled is often confusing. Make sure you fully understand which assets belong to you and which belong to your child.
  • Social Security application questions are often perplexing. Make sure you fully understand the question you are answering so that you provide accurate and appropriate information.
  • Be precise in explaining your child’s income and assets to the Social Security representative to avoid any misinterpretations or misunderstandings.


EXAMPLE:  “You wish to apply for benefits for your adult daughter who has a disability; you currently receive unallocated family support. The family support is not child support specific to the child with the disability, and therefore, should not be counted against your adult children with a disability. Unfortunately, when you explain the family support to the Social Security representative, if you are not specific enough in your explanation, the representative may misinterpret your family support as child support and deny your application.”


Very simply, missing required due dates and deadlines may cause your application to be denied.  The number of deadlines that must be met and paperwork that needs to be completed may seem overwhelming on top of all of the other important, day-to-day responsibilities you have as a caregiver.

Some suggestions that may help you avoid missing a deadline:

  • Identify a process to keep track of all due dates for paperwork, phone calls and office appointments.
  • Social Security’s schedules must be adhered to. To avoid the difficulty of having to call and ask for an extension, get into the habit of filling out and returning any forms you receive immediately.
  • Check to see if your child’s own physician can provide services required by Social Security. It is often easier to get an appointment with your own physician, and he/she will be far more comfortable with a familiar doctor.



As a parent who has spent the past 18 years building your child’s self-esteem, it is difficult to present your child only in terms of what he/she cannot do. This is, however, exactly what Social Security wants you to do. They need to know exactly what abilities he/she is lacking that keep him/her from holding a consistent job.

  • Answer the question of what your child cannot do in an objective manner. Answer as if your child was someone else’s. How would you describe their limitations?  Would you hire him/her? What supports would need to be in place for full-time employment?
  • During the interview, do not limit your answer to current issues which may omit key facts. Accurately and specifically describe all of your child’s disabilities.
  • Take care not to answer questions in a general manner. Be as explicit as possible when describing the specific limitations that make your child unable to hold a consistent job. Break each limitation down to its most basic parts.


EXAMPLE:  You indicate during the interview that your son can brush his own teeth. What you really mean, however, is that his performance of the task requires you to walk him through each of a dozen specific steps involved in brushing his teeth, from following him to the bathroom to making sure he dries his mouth when he is finished.

When it comes to applying for SSI for your adult child, a little bit of education can go a long way. By taking the time to fully understand what Social Security is asking for, and providing accurate and specific information, you can greatly increase the chances of the application being approved.