If I'm Approved for Disability, Will My Children Get Benefits?

If you've been approved for disability, whether your children will get benefits depends on if you've been approved for SSDI or SSI.

By , J.D. · Albany Law School

Depending on the type of Social Security benefit you receive, your children may be eligible for Social Security monthly benefits as well. If you get Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, your child will also get benefits until age 18 or 19, whether or not they have a disability.

For individuals who support a family, becoming disabled can be very difficult, not only emotionally and physically, but financially as well. Because of this, Social Security provides children's benefits when a disability disrupts the ability of a parent to work and support their family.

Here are some frequently asked questions about children's benefits.

Does your child qualify for benefits based on your disability benefit?

If you worked a sufficient amount of time before you became disabled, you could receive a monthly SSDI check based on the amount of time you worked and how much money you paid into the Social Security system. Your dependents can also get a monthly benefit when you start receiving SSDI.

If you don't have enough work history to qualify for SSDI, or you worked at a job that didn't pay into Social Security, you could receive benefits based on need, from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. But only SSDI provides dependents benefits to your children. SSI provides no benefit to anyone but the disabled individual, though kids with disabilities can receive disability benefits under the SSI program.

What requirements must be met for your child to receive Social Security benefits?

Social Security may provide benefits to your children, depending on their relationship to you, if you become disabled and qualify for SSDI. Social Security considers biological children, adopted children, or dependent stepchildren to be children of the disabled individual.

A child may receive benefits if they are:

  • unmarried, and
  • younger than 18 years old.

Unmarried children who are 18 years old or older may receive benefits in two circumstances:

  • the child is under 19 years old and is enrolled full time as a student in a secondary school, or
  • the child is disabled and the disability occurred before the child turned 22 years old. (For information on the second exception, see our article about disabled adult children receiving SSDI.)

Can grandchildren receive Social Security dependents' benefits?

If you have grandchildren or stepgrandchildren whom you are raising, they may be eligible to receive SSDI benefits as if they were your children. Grandchildren may receive benefits if:

  • their biological parents are deceased or disabled
  • you provide regular support to the grandchild
  • the grandchildren have lived with you for the 12 months before they became eligible for SSDI or, if under 12 months old, they have lived with you for substantially their entire lives, and
  • you provide at last half of their financial support.

If you adopt your grandchildren, they do not need to meet the above requirements. They are covered as your children because you adopted them.

How do you apply for Social Security benefits for your child?

To apply for benefits for your child, call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to set up an appointment. You can't apply online for children's benefits.

You will need at least your Social Security number, your child's Social Security number, and your child's birth certificate. If your child doesn't already have a Social Security number, you'll have to obtain one through Social Security before you can apply for the children's benefit.

Social Security may request other information as well; for example, if you're trying to obtain benefits for a full-time student who is over the age of 18, you will need to provide proof of enrollment in high school. Or, if your child isn't a U.S. citizen, you'll be asked to show evidence that your child is a lawful resident. When meeting with Social Security to apply for these benefits, you will be told if any additional information is necessary.

How much will your child receive in Social Security dependents benefits?

How much your child receives in SSDI benefits depends upon how much money you, the disabled individual, receive as an SSDI benefit. Generally, your child will receive up to 50% of your total SSDI benefit. But there's a maximum amount that a family can receive based on one disabled individual's benefits.

The family limit is usually 150% of the SSDI benefit awarded to the disabled individual. If a family would receive above that percentage, each individual receiving a benefit (with the exclusion of the disabled individual) will have their benefit lowered proportionally until the total benefit is below the percentage limit.

For example, if you're a single mother with four children and you become disabled, each child could potentially receive 50% of your SSDI award. However, if each child received 50% of your award, Social Security would be paying out 300% of your total award (100% received by you and 50% received by each of your four children), which Social Security won't allow. With the maximum family benefit rules, you would receive your 100% as the disabled individual and your children would have their percentages lowered equally until the total family benefit fell below the percentage limit set by Social Security.

How long will your child receive Social Security benefits?

Generally, children will receive dependent SSDI benefits until they reach the age of 18 years old. The benefit will end the month before their 18th birthday.

But if your child is a full-time high student, the benefit will end when they graduate from or leave school, or two months after they turn 19, whichever happens first.

If your child is disabled, and became disabled before the age of 22, his or her monthly dependent benefit can continue indefinitely, if you apply for "disabled adult child benefits."

If I die will my child continue to receive dependent benefits?

Yes, your child could receive a monthly survivors benefit for as long as he or she is eligible (according to the same rules as above). For more information, see our article on survivors disability benefits.

For more information, read our article on the Social Security child's benefit.

Updated August 9, 2022

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