Understanding Social Security Disability Benefits For Children

Published on: August 12, 2020

When we think about Social Security disability benefits, we usually relate the concept to adults receiving help for a certain medical condition or disability. However, adults are not the only recipients of disability benefits. There are a few different ways in which children can qualify to receive Social Security benefits, too.

Learn more about the situations where Social Security benefits for children apply and how SSDI or SSI for children may change with. 

Can Children with Disabilities Apply for Social Security Benefits? 

It happens all too often - there's a child with disabilities and their family just doesn't have the money to properly care for them. Low-income families who have a child or children who are disabled may collect Supplemental Security Income until the disabled child reaches the age of eighteen.

At this time, the child (who is now technically an adult) may begin collecting adult Supplemental Social Security benefits. In this situation, the income of the family is no longer a deciding factor for Supplemental Security Income. You should keep in mind that once the child reaches the age of eighteen, he/she must fit the adult definition of disability for their condition. There are conditions in which Social Security may consider a person disabled as a child, but not as an adult. 

Adulthood Requirements

Once a child recipient of Social Security disability benefits reaches eighteen, they can still receive benefits if the disability occurs before they were twenty-two years old.

  • The child’s medical condition will be reviewed on their eighteenth birthday. If it corresponds to the adult disability rules, they will remain eligible for SSI benefits.
  • Even if a child wasn’t eligible for SSI benefits before their 18th birthday due to their parents having too much income to qualify, they may become eligible for benefits at eighteen since their parent’s income is no longer a deciding factor. 

What are Dependent Benefits? 

When a parent becomes disabled or dies, children can be supported through dependent benefits from Social Security. In fact, the SSA distributed an average of $2.6 billion each month in 2017 to support over four million children because one or both of their parents were disabled, retired, or deceased. This Social Security for children helps to provide the necessities of life for family members and help make it possible for those children to complete high school. 

If a child is younger than eighteen and has a parent who currently receives Social Security disability income, Social Security retirement benefits, or is deceased, he/she may be able to collect these benefits without regard to disability.

A child can receive dependent benefits if they are not disabled if:

  • They are younger than eighteen.
  • Remain unmarried. 
  • Between eighteen to nineteen years old and a full-time high school student.
  • Have a parent who is disabled, retired, or deceased and qualified for receiving Social Security benefits.

In these circumstances, a child is eligible for up to half of the parent’s monthly benefits (or up to 75% if the parent is deceased).

Can Grandchildren Receive Disability Benefits?  

Believe it or not, it is possible for grandchildren to receive Social Security benefits. However, a few key criteria must be met in order for this to happen. First, the parents of the grandchild must be disabled or deceased. Second, the grandchild must have begun living with the grandparent before he or she turned eighteen. The grandchild must also have received at least half of his or her support from the grandparent in the year prior that the grandparent became eligible to receive benefits.

Finally, on the condition that the grandchild is younger than 12 months, it must be proven that the baby lived with the grandparent, and received at least 50 percent of his or her support from the grandparent since birth. In this instance, step-grandchildren are considered the same as biological grandchildren.

These may seem like rare circumstances, but they happen quite a bit more frequently than you might think. 

Contact an Advocate if Benefits have been Denied

If you believe that your child or grandchild is deserving of Social Security disability benefits, and they've been denied their benefits, it is important to consult an expert. An experienced advocate will be able to get the children the benefits that are rightfully theirs. What are you waiting for? Contact an advocate, today!


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