A child with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) or juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) may qualify for Social Security benefits if the arthritis qualifies as a disability. This means the juvenile arthritis must seriously limit the child's activities and last for at least one year or be expected to result in death. However, even if a child qualifies as disabled, he may still be ineligible for benefits if his family's household income and resources are substantial.
JIA and JRA Affects Children
Juvenile arthritis, known as both JIA and JRA, encompasses a variety of arthritic conditions that affect children. Although symptoms, family history and joints affected differ among the different forms of juvenile arthritis, each is caused by the body's abnormal immune system that attacks itself, especially the child's joints.
Qualifying for Social Security Benefits
Children under the age of 18 may qualify for Social Security benefits if they meet the Social Security Administration's definition of disabled and the family is of low income with limited resources. The SSA defines a disabled child as one who has a physical or mental condition that seriously limits his activities and the condition has lasted, or is expected to last, for a minimum of one year or result in the child's death. If a child with juvenile arthritis meets these requirements, he may qualify for Social Security benefits.
Automatic Approval for Benefits
In certain instances, a child may automatically qualify for Social Security benefits. Conditions that are so serious they warrant automatic approval are known as listings, and inflammatory arthritis is one of them. Juvenile arthritis typically includes inflammatory arthritis. To qualify for automatic approval, a child's medical records must confirm certain symptoms, such as problems walking or using hands, problems with the spine, problems with organs or body-wide symptoms, or developmental delays.
Qualifying Because of Marked or Severe Limitation
Even if a child's juvenile arthritis doesn't rise to the level of the SSA's listing for inflammatory arthritis, the child may still qualify for benefits if the child has a "marked" or "extreme" limitation in function, as defined by the SSA. A marked limitation is one that seriously interferes with a child's ability to independently complete, sustain or initiate activities. When a child has an extreme limitation, this ability is interfered with even more. The SSA evaluates a child's disability as it relates to six areas of functioning. These are the child's overall health and physical well-being, attending and completing tasks, moving about and manipulating objects, interacting and relating well with others, and caring for personal needs. A child may qualify for benefits if his disability results in a marked limitation in two of these areas or extreme limitation in one.
- AARP: Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Nolo: Can My Child Get SSI for Juvenile Idiopathic or Rheumatoid Arthritis?
- Social Security Administration: Child Disability Starter Kit: How Does Social Security Decide if a Child is Disabled?
- Missouri Department of Social Services: Child Welfare Manual, Attachment G -- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Referral
- Social Security Administration: Code of Federal Regulations, Section 416.925
- Social Security Administration: Code of Federal Regulations, Section 416.926a
Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.