Social Security Benefits for Children

Approximately 4.4 million children receive approximately $2.4 billion each month because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired or deceased. This is a lifeline for those families that makes it possible for their children to complete high school and helps stabilize the family’s financial future.

Who is entitled?

For a child to receive social security disability benefits, he or she must have:

  1. A parent or parents who is/are disabled or retired and entitled to Social Security benefits; or
  2. A parent or Parents who died after having worked long enough in a job where he or she paid Social Security taxes.

That child must also be:

  1. Unmarried;
  2. Younger than 18; or
  3. 18-19 years old and a full-time student (no higher than grade 12); or 18 or older and disabled. The disability here must have started before age 22.

Benefits stop at age 18 unless your child is a student or disabled. If the child’s disability began before he or she reached age 22, then the benefits are payable after the age of 18. So a disabled child can continue to receive benefits after the age of 18 if the disability began before age 22.

Example: John has been in special education classes throughout his early education and received Social Security because his father was disabled. Once John reached 18 he continues to receive benefits because his disability began prior to his age of 22.

How much? Up to one half of the  parent’s full retirement or disability benefit, or 75 percent of the deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefit. However there is a limit within the family.

Common Issues: Let’s say John reaches age 18, is disabled, and his parents are neither retired, disabled or deceased. John then applies for SSI as an adult and establishes his disability that has long existed from childhood. Once his parents become disabled or retired John should apply for benefits on his parents account and should automatically receive the increased benefit on his parents’ account. The problem is that John may not be aware that he can apply for childhood benefits once his parents become retired or disabled. Some authors feel this is a public education problem.