When a parent becomes disabled, the federal government offers benefit programs to help families financially. Although a child doesn't receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if a parent is disabled, she may qualify on her own if she's blind or disabled. The federal government also offers Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which provides monthly benefit payments to eligible disabled workers and their children.
The children of an individual claiming SSI benefits can only receive similar assistance if they meet the qualifications for SSI-eligible status.
No Qualifying Dependent Benefits
Children whose parents get SSI payments don’t receive dependent benefits. Available benefits are limited because the program is meant to help those with little or no income. SSI recipients receive monthly benefits to pay for food, housing and clothing. Whether or not a parent is disabled, a child may qualify for SSI benefits on his own if he meets the criteria for being disabled.
Qualifying for SSI Benefits
Children eligible for SSI benefits on their own must qualify under the program’s guidelines. Like an adult, a minor must meet the financial requirements, which takes into account a portion of parental income and resources. The parents’ income must be low enough to qualify for SSI, even if the dependent is disabled. To qualify medically, a disability must last at least 12 consecutive months and seriously impair the daily ability to function, according to program rules. An unmarried disabled person under age 22 attending school full-time may also qualify.
Evaluating SSDI Benefits
Some children are eligible for dependent benefits under the SSDI program. A dependent child must be the biological or adopted child or stepchild of a parent receiving SSDI payments. A child can receive up to 50 percent of the parent’s monthly benefits, if approved. If a parent has more than one dependent child, the program divides a total family maximum benefit among the children. However, if a parent had low earnings or didn’t work long enough to pay Social Security taxes before becoming disabled, there might not be enough credits on his work record to pay dependent benefits, according to the Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center's website.
Benefits can continue beyond age 18 for a child receiving SSDI dependent benefits in some cases. As long as a child is attending secondary school, she can receive assistance until two months after she turns 19 or graduates, whichever occurs first. A child can receive SSI benefits after age 18 if she becomes disabled before age 22, according to the SSA disability definition. Benefits usually stop if a disabled adult child gets married or becomes the head of a household. Social Security often makes an exception if the individual marries someone who has been disabled since childhood.
- Social Security Administration: Supplemental Security Income Home Page
- Social Security Administration: Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI for Children -- 2013 Edition
- Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center: If You Get Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits, Will Your Dependents Get a Check?
- Social Security Administration: Benefits for Children
- DisabilitySecrets.com: Qualifying for SSI as a Child -- How Family Income Deeming Works
- Social Security Administration. “Retirement Benefits.” Accessed July 13, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. “Disability Benefits.” Accessed July 13, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. “Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Eligibility Requirements.” Accessed July 13, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. “Disability Benefits | Family Benefits.” Accessed July 13, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. “Parents and Guardians.” Accessed July 13, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. “Benefits for Children,” Page 1. Accessed July 13, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. “Benefits for Children,” Page 2. Accessed July 13, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. “Survivors Benefits,” Pages 2, 6. Accessed July 13, 2020.
- Social Security Administration. “Grandchildren and Step-Grandchildren.” Accessed July 13, 2020.
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.