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Does my family qualify for child SS disability benefits?

Appealing for benefits is best done under the guidance of an experienced disability lawyer.

Can a disabled child or the child of a disabled parent get disability benefits?

Author Attorney Greg Reed:
Updated: 12/19/2023

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Does my family qualify for child disability benefits? Social Security Disability is not available for children the same way it is for adults.

When an individual is approved for Social Security Disability Insurance their children may also qualify for monthly payments, provided the children meet certain criteria.

These benefits, are called child’s benefits because they are based on the Social Security earnings record of the disabled parent – in other words, the parent must have earned sufficient work credits based on their past earnings to qualify for SSDI. The child can be a biological child, an adopted child, or a stepchild. Dependent grandchildren may also qualify for auxiliary benefits. Children with disabilities whose parents are not disabled may qualify for Supplemental Security Income or SSI. The eligibility requirements for SSDI and SSI differ, but both programs provide much needed financial support to families.

Social Security Disability Benefits for Children

In order to qualify for SSDI child’s benefits, a child must have a parent who’s disabled or retired and entitled to Social Security benefits or a parent who died after having worked long enough in a job where they paid Social Security taxes.


  •    The child must be unmarried; and
  •   The child must be under 18; or
  •   The child must be 18-19 years old and a full-time student in a grade no higher than grade 12; or
  •   The child must be 18 or older and have a disability that began before age 22.

Benefits stop when the child reaches age 18 unless the child is disabled, or if the child is still a full-time student at a secondary or elementary school.

In the latter case where the child is still in school, benefits will continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child reaches age 19, whichever occurs first.

Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits for a child. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!

Children who are disabled and receiving benefits as a minor child on a parent’s Social Security record may be eligible to continue benefits on their parent’s Social Security records when they reach 18 if they are still disabled.

This SSDI benefit is considered a “child’s” benefit because it’s paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. To qualify for a “child’s” benefit, one parent of the disabled adult “child” must be receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, or have died and worked long enough to qualify for Social Security. Social Security will evaluate the child’s disability in the same way it determines disability for an adult, by sending an application to Disability Determination Services. SSDI disabled adult “child” benefits continue as long as the adult child is disabled, but if the disabled adult child marries, the benefit may be affect their eligibility. The child doesn’t need to have worked to receive these benefits.

An insured worker who is applying for Social Security Disability benefits can file for benefits for their children at the same time they file for benefits for themselves, or separately.

A child of a disabled worker is eligible for a monthly payment up to 50% of the disabled parent’s benefit amount. However, the amount of benefit a family can receive depends on the monthly benefit of the disabled worker and the number of family members who qualify for benefits. A family can receive 150% – 180% of the insured worker’s benefit. If the sum of benefits paid to family members exceeds the family limit, each family member will receive a proportionately reduced amount. The insured worker’s benefit is not reduced.

Supplemental Security Income for Children

Children of parents who are not disabled but have a disability themselves may be eligible for Social Security Income or SSI.

Social Security makes monthly payments to people with low income who are blind, disabled, or 65 or older. A child that is younger than 18 may qualify if they are not married or the head of a household and have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability for children:

  •    he or she has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or combination of impairments); and
  •   the impairment(s) results in marked and severe functional limitations; and
  •   the impairment(s) has lasted (or is expected to last) for at least one year or result in death.

Social Security also considers a child’s income and resources when deciding eligibility for SSI.

The child who is not blind must not be working or earning more than $1,550 a month in 2024; the child who is blind must not be working or earning more than $2,590 in 2024. If a child is disabled and under 18 and their parents are working, Social Security considers some of the parents’ income and resources as available to the child. The process Social Security uses to determine how much of that income is available is called “deeming” and may affect whether the child is eligible for SSI. Deeming applies if a child is under 18 and lives at home with their parents, or lives away at school, but comes home on weekends, holidays and vacations. Social Security makes deductions from deemed income for parents and for other children living in the home. After subtracting these deductions, Social Security uses the remaining amount to decide if the child meets the SSI income and resource requirements for a monthly benefit. Deeming stops when the child reaches 18, at which point Social Security decides whether to apply adult disability rules. A child who does not qualify for SSI because their parents’ income is too high, may become eligible when they reach age 18.

If a child is disabled, they may collect SSI.

The process for determining eligibility for benefits is different for children than it is for adults. For an adult, disability is defined as a condition which results in an inability to earn over a certain amount. For a child, the SSA defines disability as a mental or physical condition that seriously limits activities.

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There are unique challenges in proving a childhood disability claim.

Proving financial eligibility is challenging due to the complications of the “deeming” calculation. Establishing Medical eligibility requires proving severe impairment. It can be hard to demonstrate how conditions which are not physically obvious, such as ADHD or Autism, cause severe limitation of daily activities. The majority of childhood applications are for mental health issues. Roughly 70% of children receiving SSI are receiving benefits on the basis of a mental health condition. If there is not enough evidence to prove the condition is severely disabling in the initial stage, the claim is unlikely to win in the hearing stage.

You can apply for SSI for your child by calling 1-800-772-1213 or by visiting your local Social Security office.

You will need to provide detailed information about the child’s medical condition and how it affects their daily functioning.

This information should include:

  •   Child’s Social Security number and birth certificate;
  •   Social Security numbers for parents and stepparents or grandparents (if applicable);
  •    Child’s medical records, including dates of visits to doctors or hospitals and patient account numbers;
  •   Names of teachers, day care providers, and family members who can provide information about your child; and
  •   School records.

Social Security may also request a medical exam if it can’t make a determination.

It generally takes three to five months for Social Security to reach a decision, but some impairments qualify for immediate payment while Social Security is evaluating a case. Those conditions include:

  •   total blindness
  •   total deafness
  •   cerebral palsy
  •    downs syndrome
  •   muscular dystrophy
  •   severe intellectual disorders
  •   HIV
  •   birth weight below 2 lbs.

Proving childhood disability is very difficult.

While children are ultimately awarded at rates similar to adults, they are more likely to have their claim approved in the initial application stage. However, in the hearing stage, only 20.4% of childhood disability claims were successfully appealed compared to 39.2% for adults in 2013. Childhood disability claims are most commonly denied because the impairment does not cause “severe functional limitations”.

Because childhood disability claims are usually won on initial application (nearly 40% compared to 26.6% for applicants between 18 and 64), and the initial application is relatively easy to fill out, it is usually best for parents seeking benefits for their children to fill out the application themselves.

Because childhood claims are difficult to appeal and attorneys work on a contingency basis, most attorneys do not handle childhood disability claims. However, Soarworks and NOSSCR offer resources to parents seeking SSI for their children.

Social Security benefits can help stabilize a family’s financial future.

If you are disabled and have children, or if you are a parent with a disabled child and have limited income and resources, your family could be eligible for Social Security benefits. Contact your local Social Security office today.

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Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.

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