Suffering a disability that puts you out of work can take a significant physical, emotional, and financial strain not just on you but on your family. If you are the primary breadwinner for your family, a disability can potentially keep you from providing for them. And even if you qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, the amount you receive likely will not compensate for all of your family’s expenses. To ease the financial strain on the families of disabled individuals, the Social Security Administration (SSA) allows certain members of the qualifying individual’s family also to receive benefits on his or her record. Such payments can help offset the disabled individual’s medical bills and ensure that his or her family is provided for.
What follows is an overview of the SSDI benefits available to members of the qualifying claimant’s family. For more specific or detailed information, please contact a New York and Long Island disability attorney.
Family Members Who May Be Eligible for SSDI Benefits on Your Record
If you qualify for SSDI benefits, certain members of your family also may be eligible to receive SSDI family benefits. This is known as receiving benefits “on your record,” as it is based on the amount you are eligible to receive based upon your Social Security earnings history. Generally, family benefits are available for spouses and children.
Benefits are available to spouses of SSDI recipients under two circumstances:
- At age 62 or older, unless he or she collects a higher Social Security benefit based on his or her own Social Security earnings record. If your spouse’s benefit that is payable on your record is higher than the amount on his or her record, he or she will get a combination of both benefits that equals the higher amount.
- At any age he or she is caring for your child under the age of 16 or disabled. In this case, your spouse receives these benefits until your child reaches the age of 16. At that point, your child’s benefits can continue, but your spouse’s benefits will stop unless he or she is old enough to receive retirement benefits (age 62 or older) or survivor benefits as a widow or widower (age 60).
If you are divorced, your ex-spouse may qualify for benefits on your record, even if you have remarried. To qualify, your spouse must:
- Have been married to you for at least 10 years,
- Be at least 62 years old,
- Be unmarried, and
- Not be eligible for an equal or higher benefit on their own Social Security record or someone else’s Social Security record.
Children — including biological children, adopted children, stepchildren, and dependent grandchildren — may qualify to receive benefits on your record so long as they are unmarried and meet either of the following two requirements:
- They are under the age of 18, or
- They are 18-19 years old and a full-time student (but no higher than grade 12)
You may apply for benefits for your children on your record if they are unmarried and meet the following two requirements:
- They are 18 years or older, and
- Have a disability that began before the age of 22
While SSDI family benefits for children typically run out when the child reaches 18 or 19, the SSA makes a special exception for adult children with disabilities.
How Much Is Available for Qualifying Family Members?
Each qualifying family member eligible for benefits on your record may receive up to 50% of your monthly benefit amount. However, the total amount that you and your family can receive generally is between 150% and 180% of your individual disability benefit amount. If the sum of your family benefit amount is greater than the family limit, the SSA will reduce benefits to your family members proportionally, but your benefit amount will not be affected.
For example, assume that you receive a monthly SSDI benefit of $2,500, and you have two children under the age of 18. Each of your children would be able to receive up to 50% of your monthly disability amount ($1,250). However, your total family benefit in that scenario would be $5,000 — well over the 150%-180% maximum of your individual benefit. To stay within the limit, suppose that your family maximum is set at 150% of your benefit ($3,750). Each of your children’s benefits would then be reduced proportionally without affecting your benefit amount, which would come out to $625 per child ($3,750 – $2,500 = $1,250/2).
For more information about calculating disability benefits, please contact our Social Security Disability attorney.
The SSI Program for Disabled Minor Children
Disabled minor children have another avenue of receiving benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which is an income-based benefit program that is also administered by the SSA. To qualify for SSI benefits, the child must meet the following requirements:
- The child is under the age of 18
- The child must not be working or earning more than $1,260 a month (in 2020)
- The child must have a medical condition or a combination of medical conditions that result in “marked and severe functional limitations”
- The child’s condition(s) must have been disabling, or be expected to be disabling, for at least 12 months or are expected to result in death
A major caveat to the SSI program for disabled children is that, for purposes of determining income eligibility, the SSA considers both the child’s income and the income or resources of family members living in the child’s household. If the income of the child and family members living in the same household is above the amount permitted by the SSA, the child will not qualify for benefits.
Get Help Applying for SSDI Benefits from a Skilled New York and Long Island Disability Attorney
Applying for disability benefits can be a lengthy, stressful process. While hiring an attorney is not required to apply, you can significantly increase your chances of success by doing so. For more information, please contact a New York and Long Island disability attorney at Turley, Redmond, Rosasco & Rosasco by using our online form or calling 877-693-2529 (New York City), 516-745-5666 (Garden City), 631-582-3700 (Ronkonkoma), or 631-399-0400 (Shirley/Riverhead).