Social Security operates disability and retirement programs, as well as the Supplemental Security Income program. For dependent children, the agency offers benefits on the Social Security record of a natural or adoptive parent, or a step-parent. Although these benefits normally end when a child reaches the age of 18, there are circumstances in which the benefits may continue, as long as the beneficiary stays in school.
To qualify for dependent benefits, you must have a natural, adoptive or step-parent who is also entitled to retirement or disability benefits. In addition, survivor's benefits are available if your deceased parent had sufficient "work credits" to be eligible for Social Security retirement or disability. Visit the nearest Social Security office, or call the agency's national toll-free number (800-772-1213) to apply for benefits.
Age and Education Status
Your eligibility for dependent benefits ends at age 18, but if you continue as a full-time student, Social Security extends your eligibility to age 19. You must be attending either elementary or secondary school. To prove full-time attendance, you must also provide your Social Security administrator with a certified statement or record from the school. High school graduation ends eligibility for your dependent or survivor's benefits. Enrollment in a college, even full time, does not maintain eligibility.
If you are less than 18 years old, you are not eligible for Social Security disability; however, you may draw Supplemental Security Income if you are disabled. Social Security will continue these benefits past age 18 even if you are no longer attending school, as long as the original disability continues. SSI benefits are means tested; if your income or resources, or those of your household, exceed the guidelines, then SSI eligibility ends.
Once you reach 18 years of age, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The agency requires proof of a medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months or to result in death. In addition, the agency requires sufficient "work credits" for eligibility; for those under the age of 31, an applicant must have worked and paid in to the system during roughly half the time period between his 18th birthday and the date of application. College students may apply, but keep in mind that the process determines your ability to work and function normally and takes into account your medical records, age and educational background.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.