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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

On Throwing Starfish: Helping Adults Disabled Before the Age of 22 Tap into the Benefits They Need

New York City’s Office for People with Disabilities estimates that around 1 million New Yorkers, or roughly 11.2% of the city’s population, live with a disability. No matter how hard we work, or how many Social Security Disability cases our firm takes on, this number haunts us because we know there are more people out there that could use our help.

The Star Thrower

When we start thinking about this, and begin to get discouraged, we think about throwing starfish.

    One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

    Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

    The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

    The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”

The parable of the starfish is a powerful reminder that helping one person may not change the world, but it changes that person’s world. It’s something we think about a lot when we are working on behalf of clients facing extreme challenges. One such group is people disabled before the age of 22.

People disabled before the age of 22 face a lifetime of difficulties. They will need special accommodations and support, and some of them have very limited opportunities before them.

Yet these are often the clients that remind us not of the starfish that need saving, but of the child eager to throw what starfish he can back in the water. They are full of life and oftentimes have an infectious youthful optimism. We get the pleasure of helping them tap into the benefits they need to live their best lives.

Why Those Disabled Before 22 Need Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability benefits are an important resource for this particular group. Many people think SSD is only available to people who have previously paid into the Social Security system, but that is not true.

Children and adults who were disabled before the age of 22 are eligible for what are known as “child’s benefits” if one of their parents is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits. These benefits are called child’s benefits even when they are accessed by someone over the age of 18 because the benefit is based on the parent's Social Security earnings record.

It is not necessary for the person applying for the child’s benefits to have ever held a job, no matter their age. However, working is also not discouraged. In order to qualify for these benefits, an adult child must not have what the Social Security office considers “substantial” earnings — an amount that varies each year. An adult child already receiving SSI benefits or disability benefits on his or her own earnings record should still check to see if benefits may be payable on a parent's earnings record.

The Seelig Law Group has helped many adults in New York City who live with disabilities apply for Social Security benefits. We know the ins and outs of the system, and we work every day to throw as many starfish as possible back in the sea. If you or a loved one has questions about Social Security Disability benefits, contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.


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