Disability Benefits for Children and Dependents

When an individual becomes disabled, certain family members may also qualify for benefits based off their work record. Children under 18 years of age (or until 19 if he or she is a full-time student in an elementary or high school), may be eligible for dependent’s, or auxiliary, benefits stemming from their parent’s Social Security earnings record.

The child need not be disabled to obtain benefits as a dependent. While this benefit may be available for children of some individuals receiving Social Security Disability benefits, it is not a benefit extended to individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income. Children who are disabled may, however, be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments based off their own disability and household resources.1

However, adults who became disabled prior to the attainment of age 22 may be eligible for child’s benefits so long as they meet certain criteria; these are called Disabled Adult Child benefits (DAC). The individual must meet the definition of disability for adults and the disabling impairment(s) must have started before age 22.2 Further, in order for the individual to qualify, the parent must have worked and be either receiving disability or retirement benefits or be deceased.3 For example, a worker, with a 34 year old son who was born with cerebral palsy, begins collecting Social Security retirement benefits at age 62; the son can now start collecting DAC benefits on his father’s Social Security record. The son need not have ever worked as these benefits are paid based on the parent’s work record. On the other hand, the son must not have substantial earnings. For 2015, the earnings must not exceed $1,090 a month.4 Furthermore, an individual already receiving SSI may still be able to collect DAC benefits. In fact, higher benefits under the parent’s Social Security record may be available, as well as Medicare coverage, if the disabled adult child satisfies all of the other criteria under the DAC program.

At this time, Social Security does not allow online filing for these child-related benefits; an appointment can be requested at the local office or over the phone. But, the application process for SSI and DAC may be faster if the Adult Disability Report is completed before the appointment.5 Since the process can be lengthy and tedious, it’s important to have an experienced attorney on your side to help you navigate through. There are also some highly resourceful websites and services available to parents of children with developmental disabilities that might make the route smoother. For example, the United Cerebral Palsy website provides helpful links to resources, assistive technologies, early intervention services by zip code, and a social network where parents can talk to other parents with similar needs and experiences.6

Disability Attorneys of Michigan proudly represents children and families in pursuing disability benefits on behalf of the child – both for SSI and DAC benefits. Our attorneys also help clients discover whether their child or other members of the family qualify for dependent’s benefits based off their Social Security record. In fact, we often receive referrals from Social Security attorneys throughout the state, who aren’t equipped to handle children’s cases, for representation. We can help from the initial application level through appeals before the United States Federal Courts if warranted. Free consultations are always available. 800-949-2900.

1 See Blog ‘SSD vs. SSI’ for more information; also available here: https://damichigan.com/ssd-vs-ssi.

2 The disabled adult child may include an adopted child, or, in some instances, a stepchild, grandchild, or step grandchild. But the adult child must be unmarried, age 18 or older, and have a disability that began for the attainment of age 22.

3 The amount needed for the worker to have earned sufficient credits to qualify, and hence for their child to qualify, varies from year to year. A worker can earn up to four credits each year. In 2015, you will earn one credit for every $1,220 of wages or self-employment income. Therefore, $4,880 in 2015 earnings translates into four credits for the year. Generally, a worker need 40 credits, at least 20 of which must have been earned in the last 10 years prior to becoming disabled; however, younger workers may qualify with even less credits.

4 Certain expenses required for the adult child to work may be deducted. For more information, see http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf.

5 The Adult Disability Report is available online and can be found here: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ssa-3368.pdf.

I will never forget you and the hard work you did to secure my Social Security Disability benefits. Thank you!

- Christine C.