Can a Child Get SSI If the Parent Is Disabled?

Finding yourself disabled is bad enough but many times worse when you have children who rely on you for financial support. If you’re approved for disability benefits, will your children be eligible as well?


The answer, as always, is that it depends. First, it depends on the type of disability you receive. The federal government has 2 programs. Both are administered through Social Security but come from different revenue sources and have very different requirements.

SSDI or Social Security Disability Insurance is an earned benefit that you receive because you worked long enough to earn the credit necessary. Much like Social Security retirement income, you paid into the fund and if you’re deemed disabled for at least 12 months, you are entitled to benefits.

SSI or Supplemental Security Income is paid for by tax revenues and kicks in if you don’t have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. You also can’t have assets of more than $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple.

If you receive SSI, only you can receive benefits but SSDI may also qualify for benefits. If you’re on SSI, your children may qualify for benefits in other ways but not based on your disability.

SSDI Benefits

The second way “it depends” is the child’s or children’s relationship to you. Only biological, adopted, or dependent stepchildren can receive SSDI benefits based on your disability providing they’re unmarried and younger than 18 years old. If the child is still in high school at age 18, they will continue receiving benefits until they graduate or reach age 19, whichever is sooner.

Grandchildren and step-grandchildren might also be eligible for benefits if both of their parents are deceased and the disabled person provides regular support for the grandchild.

The grandchild must have lived with the person beginning before age 18 and for at least the past 12 months or if they’re younger than 12 months, the child must have lived with them substantially their entire life. Finally, the disabled person has provided at least half of the financial support.

For all children, they must have a valid birth certificate and Social Security number. If your child doesn’t have a Social Security number, you can apply for one.

How Much Will the Child Receive?

The benefit the child or children receive is based on the benefit amount of the person who is disabled. Normally, the child will receive as much as 50 percent of the disabled person’s total SSDI benefit although the actual percentage is determined based on individual factors.

There’s also a maximum family benefit. A single family is normally capped at 150 percent to 180 percent of the disabled person’s SSDI benefit. For households with multiple children, each child may see their benefit reduced to satisfy this family maximum requirement.

Although the children’s benefits may be adjusted to stay within the household maximum, the benefit of the disabled person will not change.

Here’s how the math works based on a hypothetical you as the disabled person and your 4 kids:

YOU—Disabled person receive 100 percent of your benefit

Each of your 4 kids receives 50 percent of your benefit.

Under this arrangement, Social Security would pay 300% of your total award. (Your 100% + 50% for each of the 4 children equals 200%. 100% + 200% = 300%) Since the maximum is between 150% and 180%, the children’s benefits would be decreased to well below 50% each and your benefit will remain unchanged to get the total family payout to within the acceptable range.

What If the Disabled Person Passes Away?

Children may receive survivor benefits of up to 75 percent of the deceased parent’s benefit until they reach the age of 18 or 19 if they’re still in high school.

You may also receive benefits if you’re disabled and you became disabled before the age of 22. You can continue receiving benefits as a disabled adult child as long as you remain disabled and you do not get married.

Grandchildren may also receive survivor benefits if they meet the same eligibility requirements as they did to qualify for benefits when the person was living but disabled. Qualified grandchildren will receive 75 percent of their grandparent’s SSDI benefit.

Article Sources

  1. Social Security Administration. “Retirement Benefits.” Accessed July 13, 2020.

  2. Social Security Administration. “Disability Benefits.” Accessed July 13, 2020.

  3. Social Security Administration. “Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Eligibility Requirements.” Accessed July 13, 2020.

  4. Social Security Administration. “Disability Benefits | Family Benefits.” Accessed July 13, 2020.

  5. Social Security Administration. “Parents and Guardians.” Accessed July 13, 2020.

  6. Social Security Administration. “Benefits for Children,” Page 1. Accessed July 13, 2020.

  7. Social Security Administration. “Benefits for Children,” Page 2. Accessed July 13, 2020.

  8. Social Security Administration. “Survivors Benefits,” Pages 2, 6. Accessed July 13, 2020.

  9. Social Security Administration. “Grandchildren and Step-Grandchildren.” Accessed July 13, 2020.