Understanding SSDI benefits for children of disabled parents

This article looks at what types of benefits are available to the children of parents on Social Security disability.

Losing one's job or being unable to work because of a disability is difficult enough for most people. When a parent suffers a disability, however, a lack of a job can threaten not only their own quality of life, but that of their children as well. Fortunately, as the Palm Beach Post points out, Social Security offers disability benefits for the children and dependents of those who are disabled. These benefits can prove a lifeline for parents who are both struggling with their own disability and trying to raise a family. It is important, however, to first understand the eligibility requirements and other restrictions affecting SSDI benefits for children.

Eligibility requirements

For a child to be eligible for disability benefits, he or she must be the disabled or deceased parent's biological or adopted child, or a dependent stepchild. In limited cases, grandchildren may also be eligible. The child's parent must also be entitled to Social Security benefits through either his or her own disability or retirement. In cases where the parent is deceased, that parent must have previously paid Social Security taxes through his or her job.

The child must also be unmarried and younger than 18, unless he or she is still a full-time elementary or secondary student, in which case he or she is eligible until age 19. Disability benefits can also continue past 18 if the child is disabled, but in such a case the disability must date from before the child's 22nd birthday. Some children may also be eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits if their parents are low-income earners.

Maximum amounts available

Every month Social Security distributes about $2.5 billion to 4.4 million children who have at least one parent who is retired, disabled, or who has passed away. While these figures help ensure that millions of children get the care and quality of life they need, there are limits to how much each child and each family can receive from SSDI benefits.

Children of parents receiving SSDI benefits can receive up to half of the value of their parents' benefits. If the parent is deceased, then that figure goes up to 75 percent. In some cases, however, the maximum amount may be even less since families themselves are also subject to a maximum overall limit on SSDI benefits. Family benefits are limited to between 150 to 180 percent of what the parent receives in benefits, meaning that if his or her children altogether receive a total amount exceeding the maximum family benefit, then the children's benefits (but not the parent's) will each be reduced in order to comply with the maximum family amount.

Claiming SSDI benefits

With the livelihood of one's family at stake, it is important for parents who may be eligible for SSDI to make sure they and their children receive the full benefits they are entitled to. Successfully claiming SSDI benefits, however, is not always easy. An experienced disability claims attorney can help anybody with their SSDI claim and may be able to maximize the chances that a claim will ultimately prove successful.