If one or both parents in a family qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, then their dependent children who meet certain criteria may also be eligible for benefits. Specifically, if you are a parent who receives SSDI because of a disability that prevents you from working, your minor child can also receive a monthly cash benefit until the child turns 18.
When a child collects benefits based on the Social Security record of a disabled parent (that is, a parent who is disabled and who has earned sufficient credits based on his or her past earnings record to qualify for SSDI), the benefits are technically known as auxiliary benefits, and the child is known as an “auxiliary beneficiary.” (Note that children of parents who collect SSI (Supplemental Security Income) are not entitled to auxiliary benefits. See our article on the difference between SSI and SSDI.)
Here are the details.
To be eligible for dependents benefits, the dependent child can be related to the disabled person receiving SSDI in any of the following ways:
Both children born during a marriage and those born out of wedlock are eligible for benefits; however, paternity must be established in the disabled parent in order for a child born out of wedlock to qualify for benefits.
The child must be a financial dependent of the parent (or grandparent).
The child can receive these benefits until turning 18, or if the child is a full-time secondary school student, he or she can receive benefits until turning 19. If a child marries before turning 18, however, the dependents benefits will stop.
A dependent minor child whose parent died while receiving SSDI disability benefits (or whose parent had earned enough Social Security credits to be eligible for retirement benefits before dying) is eligible for a survivors benefit.
A minor dependent child can receive a benefit based on the record of a disabled parent whether or not the child is disabled. However, children over 18 who became disabled prior to the age of twenty-two are eligible to continue to draw SSDI benefits based on their parent’s earnings record. For more information, see our article on Filing for Benefits for a Disabled Adult Child.
You can file for dependents benefits for your child at the same time that you file for disability benefits for yourself, or you can do so separately. If your disability claim has already been approved, call the Social Security Administration (SSA) at (800)772-1213 to set up an appointment to get the child’s insurance benefit. You'll likely have to fill out an application at your local SSA office, but an SSA repersentative can provide you with some assistance in applying. You must provide the SSA with your child’s birth certificate, both the disabled parent’s and the child’s Social Security numbers, and your bank’s routing information for direct deposit. If you are applying for survivors benefits, you will also need to provide proof of the parent’s death; for example, by bringing a death certificate.