Alston & Baker Social Security Disability Attorney Discusses Philadelphia Family’s Fight to Secure Benefits
Zephyrhills, FL (Law Firm Newswire) December 20, 2013 - Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available to low-income families with disabled children, but some face tough challenges in qualifying.
The public benefit program, run by the Social Security Administration (SSA), provides cash payments to the families of qualifying children. To be eligible, children must meet two sets of criteria. They and their families cannot exceed certain income and asset levels, and they must have a physical or mental impairment resulting in severe functional limitations. But as a recent story in the Philadelphia Inquirer illustrates, children who seem eligible cannot always get approved.
Social Security Disability attorney Robert Alston, who is not involved in the case, explained the matter.
“Two-year-old Maziah Mills-Sorrells suffers from a rare condition called Klumpke's palsy,” Alston said. “She suffered nerve damage at birth when she became stuck in her mother's birth canal and was forcibly pulled out. As a result, her left arm has been paralyzed her entire life.”
Maziah and her parents live in West Philadelphia. Their family income is $17,000 annually — below the poverty line ($19,530) for a family of three. They do receive Medicaid, which covers the majority of their medical expenses. But experts say most families with disabled children incur non-medical, out-of-pocket expenses between $5,000 and $20,000 each year.
Eligibility for SSI requires a family income less than double the poverty level and assets less than $3,000. The maximum monthly benefit is $710.
Doctors say Maziah's paralysis is permanent, and according to her mother, her abilities are severely limited. She cannot climb stairs, put on shoes or change her clothes by herself. A Social Security Administration judge agreed that Maziah's strength, range of motion and ability to function and play are severely limited. But that same judge ruled that the severity of her condition was insufficient to qualify for SSI benefits. Maziah has been turned down for SSI three separate times. Officials will not comment on the case.
According to the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, 1.3 million low-income children received SSI benefits in 2012, representing fewer than 25 percent of all disabled children.
Maziah's mother and attorney have pledged to keep fighting.
“Even with legal representation, this family is fighting an uphill battle,” Alston added. “Without that, they might have given up by this point. It goes to show how important it is to secure experienced counsel when applying for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability benefits.”
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