Social Security Benefits for Children .


There are three main ways that children can receive benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA):

  1. Social Security Income (SSI)
  2. Social Security Disability Insurance (through the parents)
  3. “Adult Children” or adults who have been disabled between the ages of 18 and 22

Requirements for Consideration

First, in order to be considered a “child” to the Social Security Administration (SSA), you must meet the following requirements:

  • Single (unmarried)
  • Not the head of household
  • Under the age of 18 OR Under 22 and regularly attending school as a student

As you will learn by continuing to read below, children do not have to be disabled in order to be considered for Social Security benefits. Adults can also be eligible to receive benefits if their child is disabled.

1.) SSI

The needs-based SSI program offers help for disabled children who come from low-income families. Because there is no minimum age limit, disabled or blind children can qualify for SSI from birth. The SSA will evaluate the financial needs of the child and the income of the family in order to determine if the child qualifies (he or she cannot be making over a certain dollar amount and must be considered as having “marked or severe functional limitations”). This process of evaluating the income sources available to the child is called “deeming.” During the deeming process, the SSA considers the guardians’ (this includes parents, step-parents, adoptive parents or other responsible care-taking adults responsible for the child) income, unearned income, and any assets that can be used to support the child. Children who qualify for SSI can also receive medical benefits through the Medicaid program. Benefits do not have to stop when the child turns 18, but he or she must reapply to the SSA program as an adult.

2.) SSDI for Children (Disabled or Not)

It is possible for children who do not qualify for SSI, whether they are disabled or not, to receive benefits from SSDI. According to the SSA, around 4.4 million children collect nearly $2.5 billion in benefits each month in SSDI. These benefits, called dependent benefits, can be received if one or both parents  are receiving SSDI payments or retirement benefits. If the child’s parents are deceased, he or she can also receive payments if one or both parents had earned enough Social Security work credits before passing away. The payments include up to 50% of the parents’ monthly benefit payment or 75% of the deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefit. The SSA has determined a “family limit” for how much dependent family members can receive.

3.) Disabled Young Adults or Adult Children

Who qualifies as a disabled adult child? The SSA considers you an “adult child” if you are over 18 and became disabled before the age of 22. You can receive the same SSDI disability benefits as those children listed above. This is conditional, however, on having a parent who collects SSDI or retirement, or one who were entitled to such benefits before passing away. If you get married, you are no longer eligible to receive SSDI benefits.

Photo courtesy of: Jônatas Cunha