Disability Benefits for Disabled Adult Children

Adults who are disabled may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits based on their parents' earnings.

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If you are disabled and one of your parents receives Social Security benefits, you may be able to collect Social Security disability benefits based on your parent's earnings record. If you are over 18, you could qualify for benefits as a "disabled adult child." (Disabled children and teens under the age of 18 can receive SSI disability benefits for children.)

Who Qualifies as a Disabled Adult Child?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers someone a disabled adult child if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are over the age of 18
  • You are not married
  • You have a disability that began before you were 22, and
  • One of your parents receives Social Security benefits or is deceased but at the time of death was insured for Social Security benefits.

If you qualify as a disabled adult child, you will be eligible to receive monthly payments through the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI). Even though you must be over the age of 18 to qualify, the SSA will consider you a disabled adult “child” because you will be collecting SSDI based on your qualifying parent’s Social Security earnings. (Social Security benefits that are based on a parent's earnings record are called auxiliary benefits, or dependents benefits.) 

What Does it Mean to Be Disabled? 

In order to be eligible for SSDI as a disabled adult child, you must have a disability that began before you were 22. The SSA will determine if you qualify as disabled by using the same eligibility standards that they use with any adult that is applying for disability. You must show the following in order to be considered disabled for purposes of collecting SSDI:

  • You have a disability that has lasted 12 months, is expected to last 12 months, or is expected to result in death, and
  • Your impairment, or the treatment for your impairment, causes you to be unable to perform substantial work.

There are a few different ways you can should that you can't perform substantial work.

Qualifying as Disabled by Having a Listed Impairment

The SSA publishes a list of medical impairments and a list of criteria for each impairment to qualify for disability. If your impairment is on that list, and your condition is as severe as the criteria set forth in the listed impairment, it means you qualify as disabled for purposes of SSDI. 

Qualifying as Disabled by “Equaling” a Listing Impairment

If your condition is not on the listing of impairments, or if your condition does not meet the criteria for the listed condition, you can still be found disabled if your condition is considered equivalent in severity to a listed impairment (in SSA terms, “medically equals” a listed impairment). This means that if your impairment is similar to and as limiting as one that is on the list, you may be found disabled based on your impairment being “equal to” a listed impairment.

Qualifying as Disabled by Having Limited Functional Capacity 

If your impairment does not qualify as a listed impairment and does not medically equal one of the listed impairments, the SSA will look at how much your impairment reduces your ability to function. The SSA will conduct an assessment of your residual functional capacity (RFC) to find out what kind of work you are capable of despite your impairment. 

What If I Get Married?

If you were receiving SSDI as a disabled adult child and you get married, in most situations you will not be able to receive SSDI benefits any more. However, if you get married to another disabled adult child, you may still be able to receive SSDI benefits. For more information on your specific situation, contact your local Social Security office.

What If I’m Receiving SSDI Based on My Own Earnings?

If you have worked enough to be eligible for SSDI based on your own earnings, but you think you cold qualify as a disabled child, you should contact your local Social Security office. If you are eligible as a disabled child, you could receve a higher amount of monthly payments based on your parent’s earnings.

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