Finding yourself out of work due to a disability can be a struggle when you have children to support. Many government programs provide income to disabled workers if you don't have private disability insurance. But will your children receive dependent aid as well if you’re approved?
Social Security Disability vs. Supplemental Security Income
The U.S. government has two programs for adults who can no longer work due to disability. Both are administered through Social Security, but they come from different revenue sources and their rules are not the same.
Social Security Disability (SSDI)
SSDI is an earned benefit that you receive because you worked long enough to earn credits toward it. You pay into the fund while you're working, much as you do with the retirement income program. You have a right to receive aid if you meet the work credit rules when you become disabled.
The number of work credits you need is based on how old you are when you must stop working. The younger you are, the less time you've had to work, so you'll need fewer credits.
Both you and your children may qualify for aid while they're dependent on you.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is paid for by tax revenues. It kicks in if you don’t have enough work credits for SSDI. You can receive SSI if you're age 65 or older, blind, or disabled. You can’t own assets of more than $2,000 as a single person or a child, or greater than $3,000 as a married couple.
Only you can receive benefits if you collect SSI. Your children can't receive them, although disabled children may be entitled to their own SSI aid.
Your children may qualify for benefits in other ways if you're on SSI, but not based on your disability.
Further Rules for SSDI
Only biological and adopted children and stepchildren can receive SSDI benefits based on your disability. They must also be your dependents, younger than age 18, and unmarried. Children receive aid until they finish school or reach age 19, whichever is sooner.
Grandchildren and step-grandchildren might also be eligible for aid if both their parents are deceased or disabled. You must provide support for the child and you must receive disability benefits, or they must be younger than 18 years-old and have lived with you most of their life while getting at least half their support from you.
Children must have valid birth certificates and Social Security numbers. You can apply for a Social Security number if your child doesn’t have one.
How Much Will the Child Receive?
A child's aid is based on the amount received by the person who is disabled. A child can receive as much as 50% of the disabled person’s total SSDI benefit. It's determined based on a few factors.
There’s also a limit on family benefits. A single family is often capped at 150% to 180% of the disabled person’s SSDI benefit. Each child's aid may be reduced to stay within this limit in households with more than one child.
The disabled person's benefit won't change even though the children’s aid may be adjusted to stay within the household limit.
Here’s how the math works based on a disabled parent with four children. The disabled parent would receive 100% of the SSDI benefit. Each child would receive 50% of that.
100% + 50% + 50% + 50% + 50% = 300%
This total is greater than the 150% to 180% limit, so each child's benefit would decrease to 20% or less. The parent's benefit would remain unchanged.
100% + 20% + 20% + 20% + 20% = 180%
This brings the total family payout to within the family cap.
Children may receive survivor benefits of up to 75% of the deceased parent’s benefit until they reach the age of 18, or age 19 if they’re still in high school.
Grandchildren may also receive survivor benefits if they meet the same eligibility requirements as they did to qualify for aid when the person was living but was disabled. Qualifying grandchildren will receive 75% of their grandparent’s SSDI benefit.