Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Much has been written about the question “When should I start taking my social security benefits?” The pros and cons have been well discussed, but those discussions have left out one element that could make a critical difference in the answer to this very important question. That element is the little known social security benefit called “Disabled Adult Children,” a social security disability income program.

Social Security considers this to be a “child’s” benefit, because it is paid on a parent’s earnings record, not the child’s. To receive benefits under this program, the child need not ever have worked. The qualifications for these benefits are:

The adult child must have a disability recognized by social security and have been diagnosed before age 22.
The adult child must be at least 18 years old.
The adult child must be unmarried.
The adult child’s parent (sometimes step-parent or even grandparent or step-grandparent) must be deceased or receiving social security retirement or disability benefits.

Once qualified, even though the adult child must be “totally” disabled, he or she is allowed to earn up to $980 per month. (This figure changes from year-to-year.) Further, since this disability income payment will likely be higher than the current Supplemental Security Income benefit, the adult child should apply as soon as qualified to determine which benefit is higher.

Further, and perhaps more importantly, once the adult child has been receiving Social Security Disability Income benefits for 24 months, he or she qualifies for Medicare, no matter how old he or she is. Hypothetically, then, the adult child could be receiving both Medicaid and Medicare, as well as SSDI benefits, and still only be in his or her twenties.

Moreover, the parent only needs to apply and qualify for social security benefits. The parent still may be employed and even earning too much money to actually receive any social security cash benefit. (IRS calculates your retirement benefit based upon your age and earnings record. For example, assume an individual is entitled to $1,400 per month at age 62. If that individual earns approximately $50,000, he or she will not receive any cash benefit. [These figures are not exact but a rough approximation of a hypothetical situation.] If the individual does not receive any cash benefit prior to full retirement age, qualifying for social security at age 62 will have no negative affect on that individual’s full retirement age monthly cash benefit.)

It is, therefore, critical for all adults who have children with disabilities to understand the Disabled Adult Children benefit program of Social Security. Deciding to apply for social security benefits at age 62 seems to be a “no-brainer” for parents of children with disabilities who qualify for DAC benefits.


A former social security claims representative who wishes to remain anonymous. She frequently clashed with her supervisors by applying the law the way it was supposed to be applied.



Anonymous said...

I used to work for SSA. Nidich's comments are right on

The new people do not have the experience to recognize this situation

Glenn said...


I was told that if the parent earned too much money to actually receive SS benefits at 62, the DAC would not be entitled to benefits. Do you have a cite to the POMS that contradicts what I was told?

Mindy Stein said...

Valuable social security benefits for adult disabled children are too frequently missed due to lack of awareness and information. Thank you Paul for this important post.