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What qualifies a child for social security benefits?

Social Security Benefits don’t just provide for those who have retired, they also help stabilize family finances so children can finish high school.

Social Security Benefits don’t just provide for those who have retired, they also help stabilize family finances so children can finish high school.

Social Security Benefits don’t just provide for those who have retired, they also help stabilize family finances in the event that one or both parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. The Social Security Administration in 2020 provided $2.8 billion in monthly financial assistance to around four million children.

Children could be eligible to receive aid from three different programs depending on their situation; Social Security Benefits, Social Security Survivors Benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Here’s a look at who qualifies.

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What children qualify?

In order to meet the criteria for child benefits from Social Security the child must be unmarried. Children that are younger than 18, or 19 if they are attending high school or elementary school full-time, can qualify for dependents benefits. Also, children 18 and older that are disabled, but only if the disability began before they turned 22.

This includes biological and adopted children as well as stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren but some special conditions apply for non-biological children.

A child is eligible for benefits only if the parent financially supported the child before becoming disabled or dying. Meaning that the child must have been receiving at least one-half of their support from the parent whose Social Security insurance is being tapped.

Additionally, the parent must be eligible for Social Security Benefits in the case of disability or retirement. Or for a parent who died, have earned enough Social Security credits.

How much can children receive?

A child can get up to 50 percent of a parent’s full disability or retirement benefits. If the parent is deceased, the surviving child is eligible to receive up to 75 percent of the parent’s basic Social Security retirement benefit.

The total amount that can be paid to a family is limited though. Within a family, the members can receive between 150 percent to 180 percent of the parent’s full benefit amount based on the earnings record of the worker. Any amounts in excess of the maximum will be reduced proportionately for each member of the family, except for the parent who is still receiving benefits.

If the parent is receiving disability benefits the calculation is different. The family can’t receive more than 85 percent of the worker's Average Indexed Monthly Earnings. However, it can’t be less than their Primary Insurance Amounts, nor greater than 150 percent.

Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI)

American adults and children who are disabled or blind and have limited incomes or resources may be eligible for another Social Security program. Supplemental Security Income provides monthly payments generally to those who are 65, but is also available in some cases to children under 18.

Qualifying children must have a physical or mental impairment, including blindness, that severely limits their activity. Additionally, the disability must have lasted or be expected to last at least 12 months or could result in death.

Contacting the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration recommends using their online platform for the most convenient way to interact with the agency. Opening a My Social Security account gives users more capabilities to handle matters related to your account. Those who don’t have access to the internet or a smart device can call the agency toll-free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-772-1213 or at their TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, for the deaf or hard of hearing.


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