As a general rule, when you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), certain other family members may qualify for benefits as well (sometimes referred to as “auxiliary benefits”), including your children, spouse, and ex-spouse.
Each qualifying family member may be eligible for up to 50% of your monthly benefit, but there is a limit to how much in total one family can receive. The total amount that your family can receive is based on the number of family members who qualify on your record and is generally between 150% and 180% of your disability benefit.
If the sum of benefits for which your family qualifies exceeds the family benefit limit, your benefits will remain unaltered, but your family’s benefits will be reduced proportionately.
In order for your children to qualify for benefits on your record, they must be under age 18 (or between 18 and 19 if a full-time student not higher than 12th grade) or over 18 if disabled and the disability commenced before your child reached age 22.
Sometimes, disabled children qualify for disability benefits under SSI in their own right. To apply for benefits, the SSI application and a child disability report needs to be completed. The child disability report collects information about the disabling condition and demonstrates how it affects the child’s ability to function. At this time, the report can only be completed online.
The monthly SSI benefit amount that disabled children are entitled to varies from state to state. Although the federal government sets a monthly SSI benefit amount, the individual states have the option to add to that amount.
In order to qualify for child disability benefits, the child must have a medical condition or combination of conditions that results in “marked and severe functional limitations” and must be disabling for at least twelve months or be expected to result in the child’s death. If the child is not blind, he or she cannot earn more than $1,260 per month in 2020; if the child is blind, he or she cannot earn more than $2,110 per month in 2020.
It usually takes states between three and five months to decide if a disabled child is entitled to benefits. But there are some medical conditions that are so severe that SSI will be awarded immediately. Such conditions include down syndrome, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, total deafness, total blindness, and severe intellectual disability.
When the Social Security Administration (SSA) approves a child for disability benefits, they make the payments to a responsible person or organization called a representative payee (often abbreviated to “rep payee”). The rep payee’s first priorities are to provide medical care, food, shelter, clothing, and personal comfort items for the child. After that, the rep payee can use the money to provide for medical equipment, dental care, school expenses, life insurance, burial arrangements, and renovations needed to make the home safer and more accessible.