Can Social Security Benefits Continue After a Child Is 18?

by Linda Richard ; Updated July 27, 2017

Social Security provides benefits for children of workers in case of disability, retirement or death of the worker. A qualifying child receives benefits to age 18, or 19 if in secondary school. A disabled child may receive years of benefits after age 18 based on the work history of the retired, deceased or disabled parent. The child receives a disability evaluation at 18 to meet Social Security adult disability standards.


A child disabled prior to age 22 may continue to receive Social Security benefits after age 18. These are adult child benefits as the amount of the benefit does not rely on the child’s work history but on the parent’s. An individual disabled prior to age 22 who has not previously received Social Security benefits based on the parent’s work history may apply and qualify under the same disability standards as disabled workers. The parent must qualify for Social Security before the child can qualify. The adult child must remain unmarried to collect Social Security benefits.


The adult child must meet disability standards to collect or continue to collect Social Security benefits. The disability determination agency for the state makes disability decisions for Social Security. Social Security reviews disabled claimants periodically to confirm disabled status. The disabled individual is obligated to notify Social Security of earned income in excess of the "substantial gainful activity limit" and of improvements in condition that allow the claimant to work.

Substantial Gainful Activity

Social Security disability requires that a disabled person not be able to perform substantial gainful activity. The definition of substantial gainful activity as of 2011 includes earned income in excess of $1,000 a month. If the disabled person earns substantial income, expenses incurred to earn the income may be deductible to allow Social Security benefits. A trial work period allows the disabled claimant to work some once he qualifies for Social Security disability. A trial work period permits the claimant to earn income above the $1,000 limit for nine consecutive or non-consecutive months during any five years without loss of disability benefits.


In addition to receiving a monthly check, adult child Social Security disability qualifies this group for Medicare benefits after 24 months. A disabled child may also qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits if the Social Security disability benefits are less than $674, the SSI federal payment amount in 2011. Qualification for SSI requires that the claimant have few assets as well as a disability and low income. Qualifying for SSI benefits may qualify the disabled individual for supplemental nutrition assistance or food stamps and Medicaid.

About the Author

Linda Richard has been a legal writer and antiques appraiser for more than 25 years, and has been writing online for more than 12 years. Richard holds a bachelor's degree in English and business administration. She has operated a small business for more than 20 years. She and her husband enjoy remodeling old houses and are currently working on a 1970s home.

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