What Happens To My SSDI Benefits When My Child Turns 18?

Published on: August 28, 2023

It may surprise you to learn that the Social Security Disability Insurance program averages $2.8 billion in benefit payments each month to children of deceased, disabled, or retired workers. That’s right, four million children qualify for monthly SSDI benefits.

The disability advocates at Disability Experts of Florida believe it’s essential for people who paid into the Social Security system through their payroll taxes to know about benefits available to them and their families. As you read this blog, you’ll learn about SSDI benefits for children and situations that could extend their eligibility beyond their 18th birthday.

How Does Your Child Qualify For SSDI Benefits?

Children are among the family members eligible to receive SSDI benefits through the Social Security account of a parent who is disabled or dies. Making help available to family members is to provide financial support when a parent cannot work or has died.

To qualify for SSDI benefits, a child must have a parent who is retired or disabled and eligible for help through the Social Security Administration. Children of a deceased parent may qualify for SSDI through their parent’s account, provided the parent worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes on income earned through jobs or self-employment.

Children who are unmarried and younger than 18 may receive as much as one-half of their parent’s retirement or disability benefits. If the parent dies, a child qualifies for survivor benefits, which can be as much as 75% of the Social Security benefit the deceased parent was entitled to receive.

The amount a child may receive in disability benefits through a parent’s account is subject to a family maximum. The maximum benefit payable to qualifying family members, including children, is capped at between 150% to 180% of the full benefit amount available to the parent. If the benefits exceed the cap, then benefits payable to each child and other eligible family members must be reduced to stay within the maximum family benefit. A disability advocate at Disability Experts of Florida can answer questions about benefit amounts related to your specific family situation.

As the parent of an eligible child, it's crucial for you to know that your monthly disability benefits are not reduced or otherwise affected by what your child receives. If the total family benefit exceeds allowable maximums, benefit reductions to reduce it to permissible limits do not apply to you as the parent on whose account the payments are made.

What Happens To My SSDI Benefits When My Child Turns 18 Years?

It’s natural as a concerned parent to wonder about what happens to my SSDI benefits when my child turns 18 years old. Generally, your child no longer qualifies for benefits through your account upon reaching age 18. However, there are unique situations that may extend a child’s eligibility. One applies to children attending elementary or secondary school at age 18.

To qualify for an extension of benefits for attending school, the child must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Be a full-time student attending elementary or secondary school.
  • Furnish a certification of attendance from a school official to the Social Security Administration.
  • Continue full-time attendance until graduation or two months after turning 19, whichever first occurs.

Extending benefits beyond a child turning 18 does not apply to pursuing educational opportunities at a college, university, or trade school.

The other situation that extends SSDI benefits for a child beyond age 18 is when the child has a disability that began prior to turning age 22. SSDI benefits may be extended for someone the SSA calls an "adult child." Benefits continue for as long as the adult child remains eligible for family benefits through SSDI and continues to be disabled within the criteria used by Social Security.

An adult child must have a medically determinable physical or mental health impairment preventing them from engaging in substantial gainful activities associated with working, including walking, standing, sitting, lifting, remembering, and climbing stairs. The impairment or combination of impairments must have lasted or be expected to last for at least one year or be expected to result in the adult child’s death.

Applying For SSDI Benefits For Your Child

To apply for SSDI benefits for a child based on your work record, you need their proof of birth or adoption and Social Security numbers for you and your child. Applications for benefits submitted on behalf of the children of a deceased parent require a death certificate or other proof of the parent’s death. Medical records must be included to support applications for benefits submitted on behalf of a disabled child to prove the nature and extent of the disability.

Get Help From Experienced Disability Advocates

The disability advocates at Disability Experts of Florida have the knowledge and experience to assist you with an application for disability benefits for yourself or your child. If you applied and your claim was denied, our disability advocates can appeal the decision. Learn more during a free consultation and claim review by contacting us today.


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