Can a Child of Disabled Parents Receive Disability Benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays monthly benefits to millions of children each year whose parents are disabled, retired, or have passed away. For the children of disabled or deceased parents, these benefits can help provide the financial stability needed to allow them to graduate from high school.

Disabled father in a wheelchair playing with his young children at a playground.

Who Is Eligible for Children Auxiliary Benefits?

In North Carolina, children who are unmarried and financially dependent on disabled parents are generally eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if they are:

  • Younger than 18 years old, or
  • Between 18 and 19 years old and are full-time high school students (Note: Once children graduate from high school, they are no longer eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance unless they become disabled before turning 22 years old.)

These benefits are called auxiliary benefits, and the child is known as an auxiliary beneficiary. Auxiliary benefits are specific to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and do not extend to Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Can Stepchildren and Grandchildren Receive SSDI as Auxiliary Beneficiaries?

Dependent biological children, adopted children, and stepchildren of disabled adults receiving SSDI are eligible for SSDI benefits.

A grandparent who is raising a grandchild or step-grandchild may also qualify their grandchild for auxiliary SSDI benefits if:

  • The grandchild’s parents have died or are disabled.
  • The grandchild had lived with the grandparent before he or she turned 18 years old.
  • The grandchild had received at least half of his or her financial support from the grandparent in the year before the grandparent was eligible for SSDI.
  • If the grandchild is less than a year old, he or she must have been living with the grandparent since birth.

If the grandparent legally adopts the grandchild, the child’s eligibility for SSDI follows the requirements for children instead of for grandchildren.

How Much Can a Child of Disabled Parents Receive in Disability Benefits?

If approved, the child’s benefit amount is based on the disabled parent’s Social Security lifetime earnings record. Generally, the child is eligible for half of the parent’s monthly SSDI benefit. However, if other family members are receiving Social Security benefits based on the same disabled parent’s lifetime earnings record, the child’s benefit amount will be subject to a family maximum amount and may be less than 50% of the disabled parent’s SSDI benefit.

For assistance applying for the child’s benefit, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, or visit www.ssa.gov. Be sure to have the Social Security number of both the child and the disabled parent and the child’s birth certificate or proof of birth or adoption on hand. For more information about Disability benefits for children, read this SSA document, Benefits for Children, or Chapter 3 of the Social Security Handbook.

How Long Can a Child of Disabled Parents Receive Disability Benefits?

Generally, children of disabled parents can continue to receive SSDI benefits until the month before their 18th birthday. However, if they are still in high school at this time, their Disability benefits can continue until they graduate, or leave school, or two months after they turn 19 years old – whichever of these events comes first.

If a child becomes disabled before the age of 22, their disability benefits may extend past the age of 19. Contact a Social Security Disability attorney with your specific questions concerning this complicated topic.

At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, several of the members of our Disability team have worked inside the Social Security Administration. We have the experience, resources, and dedication to help you apply for Social Security Disability benefits and navigate the Disability appeals process if your application is denied. Contact us for a free evaluation today.

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Rick Fleming

About the Author

Rick Fleming practices Social Security Disability law at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. In addition to heading up the firm’s Social Security Disability Department, he is a North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law and fluent in English and Spanish. Rick has received multiple Order of Service awards from the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and he is an active board member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR). He currently holds the board-elected position of NOSSCR Treasurer, after completing a year serving as the organization’s Secretary.