How Can My Child's Retroactive
SSI Benefits Be Used?
Retroactive SSI Benefits?
It sometimes takes months or even
years for Social Security to approve a child for SSI (Supplemental Security
Income) disability benefits. When the SSI application is approved, the SSI
payments can go back to the month after the month you applied. These months of
back payments are called retroactive benefits.
For example, if you applied for your
child’s SSI in January 2003 and Social Security approved the application a
year later, the retroactive benefits would go back to February, 2003.
There are strict
rules about using retroactive SSI children’s benefits and
they are different from the rules for using regular monthly
Should I Put My Child’s Retroactive SSI Benefits?
awards of SSI benefits to children must be put in a special
separate bank account called a dedicated account. Only
the child’s retroactive SSI benefits may be put into this
account. It must be a savings, checking or money market
account. The money in the dedicated account does not
count toward the SSI asset limit.
here to see Social Security's rules about setting up a
Can the Money in the Dedicated Account Be Used For?
The money must be
used for things or services that benefit the child and are
related to the child’s disability. Here are a few examples:
- Special equipment, services,
treatment or therapies that the child needs because of her
medical condition. This includes appliances related to the
child’s disability such as an air conditioner for a
child with asthma.
- Home repairs (such as
building a ramp) to make the home accessible to the child
or to fix problems that are bad for the child’s health.
- Respite care for parents, a
reasonably priced car if needed to take a child to medical
treatment, and moving expenses when the need for the move
is because of the child’s medical condition.
- Repairing or replacing
furniture the child destroys because of his disability.
dedicated account money can be used for housing and food to
prevent the child from becoming homeless or malnourished.
This is not the whole list.
Any expense that is related to the child’s disability and
which benefits the child may be appropriate. Click
here to see Social Security's rules about using money in
Do I Need to Get
Social Security’s Permission Before I Spend Money from the
No, but if you are not
sure that what you plan to buy is OK under Social Security’s
rules, it is a good idea to ask Social Security to approve it
ahead of time. To get Social Security’s approval, you will
need to show how the purchase you want to make is related to
the child’s disability. It often helps to have a letter from
the child’s doctor or therapist explaining why the child
needs the item or service. Social Security must tell you in
writing whether or not they approve the purchase. If Social
Security does not approve, you can appeal their decision.
Security Check On How I’ve Spent the Dedicated Account Money?
Yes. Every year Social Security
will ask you to fill out a form about how you have spent the
dedicated account money. You will also have to report on how
you have spent the child’s regular monthly SSI benefits.
Social Security will want proof, so it is very important for
you to keep bank statements, receipts, and written records of
what you spent the money on. You should also be able to
explain how each expense is related to your child’s
What if I Don’t
Use the Dedicated Account Money According to Social Security’s
If you, as the child’s payee,
knowingly spend the dedicated account money on things
that are not related to the child’s disability, you might
have to repay the money to Social Security. Social Security
calls this misapplying the money. If Social Security claims
that you misapplied the dedicated account money, you have the
right to fight that decision by filing an appeal.
How Can I Use My
Child’s Regular Monthly SSI Benefits?
The child’s regular monthly
SSI benefits can be used for more kinds of items and
services than the retroactive benefits in the dedicated
account. You do not have to spend the child’s monthly SSI
benefits only on things related to her disability. The main
rule is that you must spend the child’s monthly SSI benefits
in the best interest of the child. This could include
disability-related needs, but also includes ordinary living
expenses like the child’s part of the family’s food
and housing cost, as well as clothing, school supplies, and
other items needed by the child. As with dedicated accounts,
Social Security will review your use of the child’s monthly
SSI benefits, so it is important to keep records.
information, call or email
the Disability Law Center.
or (800)872-9992. TTY (617)227-9464 or (800)381-0577, firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also get more
information on Social
Security’s website and the Massachusetts
Legal Services website.