Can a cleft lip and palate qualify your child for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration? Possibly. There are several different things that have to be considered before a child's disability claim can be approved.

1.) Is your family financially eligible for SSI benefits?

Children are given benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program that's run by Social Security. While the medical criteria used to determine disability is the same as that used for regular Social Security benefits, SSI is a need-based benefit with very strict income limits.

As long as your child is under age 18 and living with you, your income is considered when determining whether or not your child qualifies financially for the program. Your resources, such as cars, stocks, bonds, and other property are also considered. Any resources that are deemed to be "above the limit" have to be converted to cash and used before your child qualifies for SSI.

Not all income and not all resources are treated alike. For example, food stamps and housing assistance don't count as income. Wages, or "earned" income, are treated differently than income from pensions, or "unearned income." A house that you live in and use for shelter isn't considered an extra resource, but a vacation cabin somewhere would be.

Don't assume that your income and resources will automatically exclude your child from the SSI program. There's an online screening tool provided by SSA that you can use that will help you determine if you meet the financial limits or not. You also have the option of speaking directly with an agency representative who can do the calculations for you.

2.) Is your child developing normally?

Children born with a cleft lip and palate require extensive reconstructive surgeries to repair the lip and palate. How soon that is done can affect how normally your child develops when compared to other children his or her age.

If the surgeries are done prior to the development of speech and your child is developing fairly normally and able to communicate well, he or she probably will not qualify for SSI benefits.

However, if the cleft palate leads to other problems, such as an inability to nurse or take in nutrition, this can cause conditions like failure to thrive. The lack of growth can cause your child to fall behind on the normal developmental markers. He or she may crawl later, walk later, and develop coordination skills later than other children. There may also be some cognitive impairment as a result. In those situations, it's possible that SSI could be awarded even before speech becomes an issue.

If the surgeries are done after the development of speech, your child's inability to communicate with others is going to be factored heavily into the decision to award benefits. In addition, the inability to speak normally may also limit your child's social development, including the ability to cooperate with others and maintain emotional connections. A child who shows marked impairments in these areas is much more likely to be approved.

SSI benefits for children are designed to provide extra income that can be used to obtain therapy and special services that will improve the child's life. If your child suffers from a cleft lip and palate and you anticipate a long period of medical intervention ahead before your child is able to live a normal life, consider contacting a disability attorney in your area for assistance. One place you can call is Horn & Kelley, PC Attorneys at Law.