When most of us think of Social Security benefits, we think of old age pension payments for retired people. But there is much more to Social Security benefits than Granny’s monthly check. Under some circumstances, children can receive Social Security benefits.

How Does It Work?

The first step is knowing which children may qualify. Biological children adopted children and stepchildren may be eligible, under certain circumstances, for Social Security benefits. To qualify, the child has to meet these conditions:

  • must have retired or disabled parent(s) who is eligible for Social Security benefits
  • married children do not qualify
  • must be under the age of 18 or up to age 19 if a full-time high school student
  • a disabled child is age 18 or under. Documentation shows the disability began before the individual reached the age of 22.

As the person responsible for the child, you must make the application in person. You’ll need the child’s birth certificate, the parents’ Social Security numbers, and the Social Security number for each child for which you’re making an application. Depending on the circumstances, other documents, such as a parent’s death certificate, may be necessary. Documentation of a parent’s or child’s disability from a doctor is frequently requested.

What Type of Disabilities Qualify a Child?

In order to receive benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program through the Social Security Administration, a child has to have a documented physical or mental condition – or combination of conditions – that meet the definition of disability for children under Social Security’s guidelines.

For a disabled child to meet eligibility requirements for SSI, the child must demonstrate each of these conditions:

  • The child’s condition(s) has been or is reasonably expected to be disabling for at least 12 months. Alternatively, a condition predicted to result in death is a qualifying disability.
  • The mental or physical condition, or combination of conditions, results in substantial, severe and persistent functional limitations. In other words, the child’s condition(s) must present serious limitations to your child’s activities.
  • A non-blind child cannot earn more than $1,220 a month through working or self-employment. If the child is blind, he or she must not earn more than $2,030 monthly.

The Social Security Administration will take your child’s income and resources under consideration when deciding eligibility.

What Social Security Benefits Are Available for Children?

Some children may qualify for dependent benefits under regular Social Security rules. Others may meet the requirements for disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program especially for children with special needs.

The different circumstances under which a child or a parent of a child could receive Social Security benefits include the following:

  • Survivor benefits
  • Dependent of a living parent receiving SS retirement or disability payments
  • The child has a documented disability

The road to obtaining these benefits can be arduous and confusing. Preparation is highly recommended before wading into the turbid waters of the Social Security Administration.

Immediate Payments Are Possible

In some cases, and under certain specific medical conditions, Social Security payments may begin right away and continue for up to six months. During this time, the state agency will make a determination on your child’s disability qualification. You must make an application to begin the process, of course.

Specific medical conditions that trigger payments right away include:

  • Total blindness and/or total deafness
  • Down syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Symptomatic HIV infection
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Severe intellectual impairment in a child age four or older
  • Low birth weight below 2 pounds, 10 ounces

If the state’s ruling on your child’s case does not find sufficient qualifications for Social Security payments, you do not have to reimburse the payments you already received.

Survivor Benefits

When a parent dies, the child may, under certain circumstances, qualify for survivor benefits. A stepchild, an adopted child, grandchild or step-grandchild may also qualify for benefits. In order for survivors to be eligible for benefits, the parent must have at least 10 years of work history in which he or she paid into the Social Security system.

Survivor benefits may go to a parent’s disabled child(ren) as long as the child(ren) became disabled before age 22 and remains disabled. An unmarried child under age 18, or up to the age of 19 if he or she is still attending high school, may be eligible for survivor benefits.

The Dependent of a Living Parent

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you’re earning Social Security credits. Your accumulated credits, along with your work history, determine your eligibility for retirement and/or disability benefits as well as your family’s survivor benefits.

Though it changes each year, for 2019 you earn one credit for each $1,360 of earning you accrue. The maximum number of credits earned per year is four. If you were born after 1929, you’re required to have 40 credits accrued in your SS account in order to receive full benefits at retirement or if you become disabled.

Children of parents who begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits, or who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, may qualify for children’s benefits. In order to receive these funds, the child must be under the age of 18. If the child is still in high school, he or she may continue to receive benefits to age 19.

A child with a disability has no age limit on benefits if the qualifying condition occurred before age 22.

Child has a Documented Disability

There are two programs under which a disabled child and his or her parent(s) may receive Social Security benefits.

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): These are monthly payments made to help those caring for a disabled child who is under the age of 18. The child’s documented disability must meet Social Security’s definition of disability. The child’s income and resources are a part of the eligibility criteria.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): This program provides benefits to adults who became disabled before they reached the age of 22. SSDI is a “child’s” benefit because the payments depend on the earning credits accrued by a parent. A child under the age of 18 may draw payments equal to a percentage of a parent’s monthly benefit if the parent is receiving SSDI payments.

It’s a Jungle Out There

Navigating the waters of the Social Security Administration’s disability programs can feel like you’re fighting a tsunami at times. If you’re overwhelmed by the process, or simply want to make sure you’re getting it right the first time, make a call to the Good Law Group. They’ll calm the seas for you.