In the Children, Social Security, and SSI post of last week I discussed that a child under age 18 could receive both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if the different rules for these two separate programs were met. To receive both, a child under age 18 would first have to be receiving Social Security through a parent. Then, for SSI, this child would have to be disabled plus in a low income and resources home. Today I am extending the information past age 18.
Upon reaching age 18, rules change for both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income. At 18, a child eligible for either program might continue receiving benefits or benefits might end.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Assuming all requirements remain met, a child can remain eligible for Supplemental Security Income until becoming an adult at age 18. SSI then ends. SSI can continue past age 18 only if the child, now considered an adult, meets the different medical and nonmedical rules that apply to an adult.
A major nonmedical change at age 18 is that income and resources of family members such as parents or siblings are no longer included for SSI eligibility. Only the former child’s, now adult, personal income and resources count for SSI once age 18. If countable income and resources of the disabled child and his or her family did not prevent SSI eligibility before age 18, it is probable that the income and resources of the former child at age 18 would continue to be within SSI rules.
Where this change becomes very important is when the combined countable income and resources of a disabled child and the family prevented a child from receiving SSI prior to age 18. If a disabled child was not eligible for SSI before age 18 due to income or resources, he or she may become eligible at age 18 when only his or her own finances are considered. This applies even when the person is still living at home and nothing has changed in his or her situation other than reaching age 18.
A medical change for Supplemental Security Income is that at age 18 adult definitions of disability now apply. The child’s medical condition is reviewed to determine if adult definitions of disability are met. If not, benefits end. If yes, benefits can continue. Once age 18, the adult disability definitions apply even if the person had not previously received SSI.
Social Security benefits for a child under age 18 are based on the work record of a parent who is receiving SSA retirement or disability or is deceased, and are payable because of the parent-child relationship. Being disabled is not an issue. Until age 18, a child can receive Social Security through the parent’s record just by being alive.
Three months before the child’s 18th birthday a notice is sent stating that Social Security benefits will end at age 18 unless he or she is a full-time student in secondary or elementary school. Child benefits to a student can continue until graduation, or until two months after reaching age 19, whichever comes first, as long as all requirements continue to be met. SSA student benefits are not paid to college students.
The same notice mentioned above also has information about disabled adult child benefits. If a child was already receiving Social Security benefits through a parent, receipt of this notice is often the time when an adult disabled child application is completed, if applicable. The disability is evaluated the same way as it would be for any adult.
When a parent is receiving Social Security retirement or disability or is deceased, SSA disabled adult child benefits are possible starting at age 18 but could be payable to a disabled adult child of any age if disabled before age 22. Although paid to people over age 18, this SSA benefit remains a child’s benefit because it is paid through a parent’s Social Security earnings record.
A key point to remember for Social Security disabled adult child benefits is that the disability must be established as having begun before age 22, not that the adult child is currently younger than age 22.
See Benefits for Children With Disabilities, publication 05-10026, for more Social Security and SSI information.