Brachial Plexus and Social Security Disability Benefits

Brachial Plexus and Social Security Disability Benefits

The Brachial Plexus is a network of nerves in the body that are responsible for sending signals up the spine from the lower body and down from the brain to the upper extremities. People with Brachial Plexus injuries (BPI) are most commonly children who received traction at birth to assist in the delivery, but the condition can also result from serious incidents later in life such as falls, motor vehicle accidents, and sports injuries. Such an injury damages the nerves of the Brachial Plexus, resulting in partial or complete motor and/or sensory function loss in the upper extremities. The need to undergo repeated surgeries, the loss of the ability to care for oneself, chronic pain and other issues related to the injury are only some of the things a person must face when enduring such a condition. The medical attention and care necessary for a person with a BPI can be extensive depending on the severity. Fortunately, in some cases, Social Security Disability benefits can help offset the inability to maintain an income and the medical costs associated with the injury.

What is Social Security Disability?

Social Security Disability is provided via two programs known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Both of these programs are run by the Social Security Administration and offer monetary payments to those who are permanently disabled for the purpose of helping with their medical and personal needs. Different from Social Security Disability Insurance, which covers adults with disabilities who can’t work, SSI is intended for children who are too young to work but require extensive care, and is based on income. SSI also provides health insurance benefits for those who qualify. SSI is a critical service for families with children that have severe disabilities, helping to pay for things like in-home childcare and medical services, surgical procedures, medications, travel expenses to specialists, physical therapy, developmental therapy, and more.

Qualifying for SSI Benefits

Under the SSA Blue Book, the publication the SSA uses to determine eligibility for disability benefits, the BPI falls under both nerve and soft tissue damage, which increases the odds of someone with a BPI qualifying for SSI benefits. You can read more about the SSA’s specific listing on Brachial Plexus Injuries here.

There are several considerations when determining the qualification status of a child with a disability, and particularly so with children with a BPI. Qualifying for SSI depends on the parents’ income levels and ability to provide for the child’s needs with a BPI. Qualifying in the case of a Brachial Plexus injury also depends greatly on the severity of the injury. Bilateral injuries, in which a child cannot use either arm to assist or care for him/herself qualify under SSA disability, but a single-arm injury may not depending on the function of the child. In addition, there are strict limitations and regulations as to what the money received from SSI for a child can be used for. Specifically, the money may only be used for the necessities that the child must have and/or medical bills and products needed for the child’s treatment.

How to Apply

To apply for SSI benefits for your child you will need to schedule an appointment at your local Social Security office and bring in as much documentation as possible pertaining to the child’s injury and his/her development throughout the injury, as well as proof of income for parents/guardians of the child. Parents’ income is taken into consideration, but only a portion of that income is deemed to the child through the application process. This means your family income may exceed the SSA limits, and your child may still qualify through the deeming process. Before scheduling an appointment with the SSA, be sure to go through the Child Disability Starter Kit, which will prepare parents for the in-person interview.


Many thanks to Judy Thornberry and Kathleen Mallozzi (UBPN BOD) and Deanna Power at Disability Benefits Center for collaboration.

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