If you're eligible for Social Security disability benefits, the people who rely on your income (your "dependents") might also qualify for family or dependent benefits from Social Security. Whether a particular family member or relative is eligible for dependent benefits depends on the type of Social Security disability benefits you receive, how that person is related to you, and the person's age.
First, there are two types of Social Security disability benefits available:
You can only get SSDI benefits if you've worked enough years to qualify. (Learn more about SSDI work history requirements.) If you're getting SSDI, your children, your spouse, and sometimes even your parents can collect Social Security dependent benefits.
If you have limited assets and income, you might be eligible for SSI. Unlike SSDI, there's no minimum work requirement to qualify for this disability benefit. But your dependents or survivors can't get Social Security dependents benefits based on your SSI. (Learn more about how the SSI program works.)
If you're disabled and eligible to collect Social Security disability benefits, some of your family members will likely qualify for dependents' benefits (also called auxiliary or family benefits).
If you're collecting SSDI benefits, your spouse might also be able to get SSDI dependent benefits. To be eligible, your spouse must meet one of the following requirements:
Note that your spouse might face a penalty for collecting retirement benefits before full retirement age or for working while receiving benefits. Learn more about the rules for SSDI dependent benefits for your spouse.
If you're divorced now but were married to your ex-spouse for ten years or more, your ex-spouse might be eligible to receive benefits if you're disabled and have enough work history to receive SSDI benefits.
For your ex-spouse to qualify for dependent Social Security disability benefits, you must be eligible for SSDI, and your ex-spouse must be:
If your ex-spouse is entitled to receive retirement benefits based on their own work history, the dependent benefit amount must be more than the retirement benefit they could get.
Whether or not you've remarried doesn't affect your ex-spouse's eligibility to receive benefits. And when your ex-spouse receives dependent benefits based on your SSDI, it won't affect the benefits you or your current spouse get.
Children whose parent collects SSDI benefits due to disability are usually eligible to receive benefits. Social Security includes biological children, adopted children, and dependent stepchildren in their definition of children. To be eligible for SSDI dependent benefits, in most cases, your child must be:
Learn more about getting Social Security dependent benefits for children.
If you're collecting SSDI benefits, your adult children (18 or over) can receive dependent benefits in the following circumstances:
It's possible for your grandchildren or step-grandchildren to receive dependents benefits if you're collecting disability. For your grandchild to receive dependents benefits based on your SSDI claim, all of the following must be true:
If you've adopted your grandchild, the above requirements don't apply. Instead, your grandchild would need to meet the requirements found in the "Minor Children" section above, which includes adopted children.
If you were eligible for SSDI benefits (you were fully insured), your parents could qualify for Social Security survivors benefits if you die, if they were dependent on you financially.
Under Social Security rules, the dependent parents of an insured worker who dies can collect Social Security survivors benefits. But to be eligible, all of the following must be true:
Your other dependent family members might also be eligible for these dependent benefits. Learn more about Social Security survivors benefits.
Your dependents could be eligible for up to 50% of the disability benefit you receive. For instance, if you're receiving $1,600 each month in SSDI benefits, your eligible spouse or minor child could get up to $800 per month in dependent benefits.
But there's a maximum family benefit (MFB)—a limit on the total amount of benefits you and your family can receive. Social Security won't pay more than 150% of your SSDI benefit amount for the entire family. Social Security uses a formula to determine the exact percentage.
If the total amount that your family would receive is more than the MFB limit, Social Security will reduce the benefits it pays to your dependent family members equally. But Social Security won't change the amount of your own SSDI payments. And any dependent benefits your ex-spouse is getting won't count towards your MFB.
You or your family members can't apply for Social Security dependent benefits online. Instead, you'll need to call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) or visit your local Social Security office to apply for family SSDI benefits. There are several documents you must provide to Social Security for each dependent seeking benefits. That includes the following:
If you or a family member apply for SSDI dependent benefits and Social Security denies the claim, you have the right to appeal. And you might consider hiring a disability lawyer. Working with an attorney greatly improves your chances of winning your appeal.
Some family members are eligible for Social Security dependent benefits for as long as you're receiving SSDI benefits. But there are some circumstances under which family members will lose SSDI dependent benefits.
For instance, minor children will eventually age out of the program (see above). And your spouse, ex-spouse, or dependent parent will lose SSDI dependent benefits when they reach full retirement age if their retirement benefit would be as much as or more than their dependent benefits.
There are other times when Social Security will stop SSDI dependent benefits. Any of the following would cause your family member(s) to lose benefits:
As with all Social Security determinations, if your family member loses dependent benefits, they have the right to appeal the decision.
Updated November 4, 2022