How to Get Cerebral Palsy Disability Benefits

Disability Benefits

Wondering how hard it is to qualify for cerebral palsy disability benefits? Since many people receive this diagnosis in childhood, you likely want to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The SSI program does make cerebral palsy disability benefits available to children and adults who meet all eligibility requirements. The federal government’s other program, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), pays benefits to disabled adults with enough recent work credits. We’ll explain how children and adults can qualify for cerebral palsy disability benefits from both federal assistance programs.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological disorders that affect your ability to move, maintain balance while standing, and posture. It is the most common motor disability disorder that doctors diagnose in childhood. Approximately 1 in every 345 children have some form of cerebral palsy (CP). The disorder is more common in boys than girls and affects more Black children than white.

There are different kinds of CP. The most common form that affects children is spastic cerebral palsy (SPC). SPC, which affects 75%-80% of the CP population, makes muscles stiff and movement can become awkward at times.

Three other types of cerebral palsy include:

  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy (DCP)
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy (ACP)
  • Mixed cerebral palsy (MCP)

People with DCP have uncontrollable limb movements, which makes it difficult to stand and walk without assistance. Sometimes it affects the face or tongue, which means a person cannot chew, swallow, or talk.

ACP affects both balance and coordination. And MCP is exactly what it sounds like: a combination of two or more of the above types of CP.

It’s not unusual for children with cerebral palsy to have other conditions. One in 10 have an autism spectrum disorder, and 4 in 10 also have epilepsy.

How to Get Cerebral Palsy Disability Benefits for Your Child

For children born with CP who are still younger than 18, you should apply for SSI rather than SSDI. Why? Because you cannot qualify for SSDI without first working for a decade while paying into Social Security. In 2024, that means earning $6,920 per calendar year before you can qualify for SSDI. Since doctors often diagnose CP at or shortly after birth, minor children cannot meet the SSDI work requirement.

SSI, on the other hand, does not have any work requirements. In addition to having a qualifying medical disorder, there are only  three requirements for SSI qualification:

  • Little or no income (for 2024, that means everyone who lives with you must make less than $1,600 per month combined)
  • You must also own few or no financial resources or assets
  • Eligible applicants must have a qualifying disability, blindness, or be at least 65 years old

For both SSDI and SSI, families who apply must meet income and resource limits to receive cerebral palsy disability benefits.

Making the Switch to Adult Cerebral Palsy Disability Benefits at 18

After the Social Security Administration awards your child SSI benefits, they’ll check in with your family once every three years. These are called Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs). Then, another one happens when a child getting SSI cerebral palsy disability benefits turns 18.

This happens because the way the SSA evaluates children for SSI differs from the way they evaluate disabled adults.

At that time, the SSA wants to determine each person’s ability to work before continuing to pay them benefits. Why? Because if a person with CP can work at 18, they may no longer qualify for cerebral palsy disability benefits.

The SSA will probably ask for copies of things like:

  • A prescription medication list
  • Hospital and surgery records
  • Doctors’ visits, records, and treatment notes
  • History of therapy (mental and/or physical)
  • Education history
  • Work activity, if any

These documents will help the SSA determine if cerebral palsy disability benefits for a child should continue into adulthood.

How Even Mild Cerebral Palsy Limits Your Ability to Work as an Adult

There is no cure for cerebral palsy, which means that a person will live with the disorder for life. As that person ages, the following additional challenges can occur:

  • Premature aging
  • Swallowing disorders
  • Inability to walk without help
  • Mental health conditions
  • Various challenges in the workplace, such as lifting, squatting, carrying objects, etc.

Premature aging can present issues while at work, too. Tasks once done with relative ease or even minor accommodations can become more and more difficult over time. Those who age prematurely see those issues accelerate, especially losing the ability to walk. Eventually, even sedentary jobs may become impossible for people with CP.

Other Health Problems That May Help You Get Cerebral Palsy Disability Benefits

As a person with cerebral palsy ages, other health problems can begin to emerge. Studies show that aging CP patients have a higher rate of chronic conditions, such as:

Also, since CP affects muscle tone and ability to move, patients may develop even more mobility challenges in time. This can result in inactivity, which in turn leads to additional health concerns (or worsens those that already exist).

Remember: You cannot get cerebral palsy disability benefits unless your health prevents you from working for at least 12 months. However, having additional medical issues only help support your case, which you can show through medical records and doctor’s notes.

Reasonable Accommodations for People with Cerebral Palsy Under the ADA

People with cerebral palsy are entitled to reasonable work accommodations through the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). 

For instance, if an employer allows employees to complete work tasks while sitting rather than standing, a person with CP may do that job. Remote work might be another accommodation, along with employers providing their workers with adaptive devices and equipment.

People with CP might also qualify for a service animal (such as a dog) to assist them both at home and at work.

Want Free Expert Help Qualifying for Cerebral Palsy Disability Benefits?

An attorney gives you or your child the best possible chance for getting cerebral palsy disability benefits. Recent government reports show people with attorneys are 2.9 times more likely to receive benefits within 6 months.

A local attorney can tell you whether you’ll qualify for benefits before you apply. Why not sign up for a free phone call today? This service has always been free since our website launched in 2014. If you choose to work with an attorney, they cannot charge you any fees unless the SSA awards you disability benefits. No benefits? Then your attorney gets $0.

Ready to get started? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:

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Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.