How a Premature Baby Can Qualify For Disability Benefits

by Rachel Gaffney, Outreach Specialist

A premature baby can have serious health problems that require one parent to stop working and be the person in charge of the baby’s health care. During this stressful time the last thing new parents need is the financial strain that can come from losing an income. 

The Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Support Income program may be able to help ease that burden for parents. If the child qualifies for SSI benefits the benefits will be paid to the parents to help pay for the child’s expenses. A premature baby with serious health problems may qualify for SSI benefits. 

Qualifying For Preemptive Disability Benefits
A premature baby with low birth weight may qualify immediately for SSI benefits if the child’s medical condition meets the criteria set by the SSA for Presumptive Disability. If your child qualifies for Presumptive Disability benefits that means that you will start to receive benefits immediately because your child will probably qualify and the SSA knows that parents need the benefit money to help take care of the child. Your child should qualify for Presumptive Disability if their birth weight falls into one of these categories:

  • 4 pounds, 6 ounces (2,000 grams) if born at 37 weeks or later
  • 4 pounds, 2 ounces (1,875 grams) if born at 36 weeks
  • 3 pounds, 12 ounces (1,700 grams) if born at 35 weeks
  • 3 pounds, 5 ounces (1,500 grams) if born at 34 weeks
  • 2 pounds, 15 ounces (1,325 grams) if born at 33 weeks, or
  • 2 pounds, 10 ounces (1,200 grams) if born at any gestational age.

You can receive benefits for up to six months while the SSA decides if your baby is eligible for benefits. Often your local SSA office will determine if your baby is eligible. Babies born with cerebral palsy also qualify for Presumptive Disability benefits. 

Other Ways a Premature Baby Can Qualify
Premature babies who don’t qualify for Presumptive Disability benefits can still qualify for SSI benefits. Review the SSA’s Blue Book with your child’s doctor to determine if any conditions your baby is experiencing qualify for benefits. There are hundreds of listings in the Blue Book, including lung conditions, hearing and vision listings, as well as neurological and developmental disabilities. 

Many claims are denied due to lack of medical evidence. When applying for benefits, make sure to provide as much medical evidence as you can. This includes different test results, doctors notes, any scans or x-rays and prescriptions. 

Financial Qualifications
Parents must also qualify financially in order to receive SSI benefits for their child. All of the adults in the household that work full time will have to submit a W-2 or a Federal tax return to show that the total income of the household is below the cap set by the SSA. The income limit can change based on number of parents and child in each household.

Applying For SSI
You can begin the application SSI benefits for your child online. You will then need to complete the application at your local SSA office or over the phone. If you have questions about the process or about the claim it’s best to make an appointment and apply in person locally. 

Presumptive Disability Benefits:

SSA Blue Book:

Medical Evidence:

Income Limit:

Online Application:

SSA Offices:

Rachel Gaffney is an Outreach Specialist at Disability Benefits Center, an independent organization dedicated to helping people of all ages receive the Social Security disability benefits they deserve. She currently lives in Boston, Mass. but helps those seeking assistance nationwide. If you have any questions on this article or would like a little more information on how to qualify for disability benefits, she can be reached at [email protected].

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