Social Security pays benefits to unmarried children of parents who paid into Social Security and then retired, died or became disabled. In 2016, we distributed an average of $2.6 billion each month to benefit about 4.3 million children because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. Those dollars help to provide the necessities of life for family members and help make it possible for those children to complete high school. When a parent becomes disabled or dies, Social Security benefits help stabilize the family’s financial future.
Who can get child’s benefits? Your unmarried child can get benefits if they’re:
• Younger than age 18;
• 18-19 years old and a full-time student (no higher than grade 12); or
• 18 or older with a disability that began before
Under certain circumstances, we can also pay benefits to a stepchild, grandchild, stepgrandchild, or adopted child.
To get benefits, a child must have:
• A parent who’s disabled or retired and entitled to Social Security benefits; or
• A parent who died after having worked long enough in a job where they paid Social Security taxes.
Most people are familiar with children who receive benefits while under age 18 or from 18-19 while completing their last year of school (but for no higher than gade 12). People may not be as knowledgeable about children receiving benefits after age 18 because the child has a disabling condition.
Disabling conditions are not considered for child beneficiaries until they reach age 18 under the Social Security program. (Rules for Supplemental Security Income are different.) Children are paid because they are the minor children of the person whoi paid into Social Security. Benefits will continue at age 18 to a child who’s disabled. Childhood disability benefits are also payable after reaching age 18, if the disability began before age 22. At age 18, we make the disability determination using the disability rules for adults. SSDI disabled adult “child” benefits continue as long as the individual remains disabled. The child doesn’t need to have worked to get these benefits. The child is being paid based on their deceased, retired or disabled parent’s work record.
If your child is age 18 or older, we will evaluate his or her claim and determine disability in the same way we would determine disability for any adult. We send the application to the Disability Determination Services in your state that makes the disability determination for us. For detailed information about how we determine disability for adults, read Disability Benefits (Publication No. 05-10029 www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10029.pdf).
If you are applying for benefits for your child based on your own earnings record, please have your own Social Security number with you, or the Social Security number of the retired, disabled, or deceased parent on whose record the claim is being filed, in addition to the child’s Social Security number and birth certificate.
You can help us make a determination by:
- Telling us as much as you can about your child’s medical condition(s);
- Giving us the dates of visits to doctors or hospitals, the patient account numbers for any doctors or hospitals, and any other information that will help us get your child’s medical records; and
- Providing us with copies of any medical reports or information you have in your possession.
You don’t need to request information from your child’s doctors. We will contact them directly for reports or information that we need to make a decision about your child’s disability. You will need to provide us with the dates they saw the doctor, what condition they saw the doctor for, account numbers, and the doctor’s address and phone.
We also will ask you to describe how your child’s disability affects his or her ability to perform daily activities. In addition, we will ask for the names of teachers, day care providers, and family members who can provide information about how your child functions. If you have school records, you should bring them to the interview. Your cooperation in getting records and other information will help us finish our job more quickly.
There are several ways to contact Social Security, including online, by phone, and in person. If we have been paying your child benefits already before they reach age 18, several months before they reach age 18, we send out a form asking about continued education after age 18 and whether the child is disabled. When you answer the question about disability “yes”, we will contact you to pursue a disabled adult child application for your child. You can also contact us in the month before the child reaches age 18 to complete the paperwork about your child’s disabling condition. Call us at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. whereever you are in the U.S.