September 01, 2016

Disabled Foster Youth Have More Time to Seek SSI Benefits before Aging Out

Claire Chiamulera

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

Disabled youth in foster care who are getting close to transitioning from care and are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits now have more time to apply. 

Application Period for SSI Benefits Extended: For one year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is piloting a policy change that gives disabled youth in foster care up to 180 days (six months) to apply for SSI before they transition from foster care. Applications will be accepted from disabled foster youth regardless of age.

Effective Dates: August 1, 2016 – July 31, 2017

Background: The pilot builds on work begun in 2010 when the SSA began accepting SSI applications from disabled youth in foster care up to 90 days before they turned 18 and transitioned from care. That change modified a policy providing a 30-day application period to eligible disabled foster youth.

The policy change recognized that foster youth with disabilities who age out of the system face a sudden loss of financial support. SSI payments serve as an important income support for many of these youth. However, the time needed to process SSI applications often left them with no financial support for a period after leaving foster care until they started receiving SSI benefits.

Impact: By extending the application timeframe from 90 to 180 days, the goal is to further increase the likelihood that youth who are eligible for SSI will have income and health services in place when their time in foster care ends. 

An evaluation  of the prior policy change allowing applications 90 days before a youth transitioned from care found positive results: 

  • The 90-day filing period increased earlier SSI application filings.
  • More initial decisions occurred within 60 days of the applicant’s 18th birthday.

How Advocates Can Help: 

  • Identify older disabled youth who will be transitioning from foster care before the 180-day filing period. 
  • Determine if disabled youth are eligible for SSI benefits and inform youth of the 180-day filing period and the importance of submitting claims early. 
  • Assist eligible youth apply for SSI benefits within the 180-day filing period, as early as possible. 
  • Follow up with SSA on the status of eligible youths’ applications. Ensure SSA’s procedures for processing claims are being followed timely.
  • Once SSI benefits are awarded, ensure they are being directed to youth on a schedule and the youth knows how to access them.

Learn more: 

The SSA published an Emergency Message outlining the details of the pilot policy change and procedures for processing SSI claims. 

—Claire Chiamulera, CLP Editor