Which Family Members Are Eligible to Receive My Social Security Disability Benefits?

Portrait multi-generation family outdoors

When your disability interferes with your ability to work, the Social Security Administration (SSA) understands that it doesn’t just affect your income, it affects your entire family’s income.

Many people rely on your earnings to survive, and it’s stressful enough worrying about your medical condition, let alone wondering how you’re going to support a family.

Fortunately, if you are currently receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits (or qualify and are currently applying), your dependents may be able to receive a percentage of your benefits. This in no way will affect the amount you receive each month. It is meant to support those who depend on you.

Family members eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits on your record include:

Spouses

If your spouse is at least 62 years of age or older, or caring for one of your children who is under 16 years old or disabled, they may be eligible to benefits on your record.

However, it should be noted that if your spouse is not currently caring for one of your children, he or she could be hit with an early retirement penalty for collecting benefits before their full retirement age. They would also not be eligible for benefits on your record if they qualify for significantly higher earnings on their own.

Children

Any unmarried biological children, adopted children and dependent stepchildren who are under the age of 18 years old are also eligible to receive benefits on your record.

“If a person is approved for Social Security disability benefits and has children under the age of 18, those children can receive benefits until the age of 18,” said Sharon Christie, a Social Security attorney in Maryland. “Those children can receive benefits until the age of 18. When you put in your initial disability application, you should include information about the children. However, Social Security may not always automatically calculate those benefits. For our clients, we call the local office after the case is approved to make sure the child’s claim is also being processed.”

Adult Children

You children over the 18 years old can qualify for benefits on your record in two different ways:

  1. They are a full-time student (no higher than grade 12) and are under the age of 19. Your child will receive benefits on your record through graduation or two months after their 19th birthday, whichever comes first.
  2. Your child is disabled and became disabled before their 22nd birthday.

“Children will only be approved for benefits on the disabled person’s record until they turn 18. The only exception is an adult disabled child. In those cases, there must be proof that the child is disabled prior to age 18 and has a parent who is collecting Social Security disability, Social Security retirement or is deceased but has sufficient work quarters under Social Security for the child to collect on that earnings record,” Christie said.

Grandchildren

In certain circumstances, your grandchildren (or step-grandchildren) may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits on your record. In order to qualify, your grandchildren’s parents must be deceased. They also must have moved in with you before they turned 18 and had to have received at least half of their financial support from you in the year before you became disabled.

Ex-Spouses

If you were married to your ex-spouse for 10 years or more, they may qualify to receive benefits on your record. Your current marital status will have no bearing on their eligibility, and the benefits they receive will have no impact on the amount you receive each month.

To qualify, your ex-spouse must be age 62 years or older and not married. If they qualify to receive benefits on their own record that are significantly higher than what they would receive on yours, they will not be able to collect benefits on your record.

Elderly Parents

If you are the primary supporter of an elderly parent, they may be entitled to SSDI benefits on your record only in the event that you pass away. In order to receive these monthly benefits, your parent must:

  • Be at least age 62 years old; and
  • Not have remarried since your death; and
  • Not be entitled to their own, higher Social Security benefits; and
  • Had to have received at least one-half of their financial support from you at the time of your death.

As always, benefit amounts vary between each individual disability applicant and their various dependents. If you have specific questions regarding which dependents are eligible for benefits and the amounts they will receive, the best advice we can give you is to consult with an attorney.

“There is no limit to the number of family members who can claim benefits, but there is a limit on the maximum amount paid,” said Christie.  “In general, dependents can receive a benefit with a value up to 50% of the disabled person’s monthly benefit. The amount each person receives depends on the number of dependents who qualify for benefits.”

You earned these benefits when you paid Social Security taxes during the course of your career. Don’t be afraid to maximize them to support you and your family.