SSA Benefits To Adopted Children / Employed Children & Benefits

Two questions about children and Social Security benefits arrived today. Here they are: 

Q: Can my adopted child receive Social Security survivor benefits from my deceased spouse?

A: Perhaps. Did your spouse adopt the child too?  

Assuming that the deceased had worked enough to be insured for Social Security survivor benefits, his or her adopted child can be eligible for survivor benefits. Once established, SSA benefits to children are the same whether though SSA retirement, survivors or disability. The child must be unmarried, under age 18, age 18-19 (approximately) and a full-time student no higher than grade 12 or became severely disabled before age 22.  

Adopted child eligibility largely depends on state law. A parent-child relationship is established when the adoption is effective under State law and an adoption must be valid under the law of the State or foreign country where it took place.  

If not adopted by your spouse, the child could potentially receive survivor benefits as his or her stepchild. Contact Social Security to discuss your situation.

Q: Can children work while receiving Social Security?

A: Yes. Under the annual earnings test, children can be employed and receive Social Security benefits just as adults can. 

The earnings test applies whether receiving as the child of a retired or disabled parent or as a surviving child, unless the child is disabled. Since the child is younger than his or her own full retirement age, once earnings reach a yearly limit, $14,640 in 2012, there will be a benefit reduction of one dollar for every two earned above the annual limit. Only gross wages and net income from self-employment apply towards the annual earnings test.

Whether adult or child, annual earnings test amounts apply individually to those receiving benefits. For example, assume two children receive benefits. In 2012, each can earn up to $14,640 before benefits to that specific child are reduced.  Since the earnings test is per individual, amounts remain the same even if only one of the children is employed.