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Can children receive Social Security Disability?

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  Illinois residents must be at least 18 years old to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. However, this does not mean SSD benefits are never available to children. Depending on age and other factors, children with disabilities may be eligible for specialized SSD benefits.

Benefits for minors

Disabled children under age 18 cannot independently qualify for SSD benefits. However, these children may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits. To qualify, a child must have a mental or physical condition that severely limits his or her activities and is expected to endure more than a year. The child and his or her family must also meet the Social Security Administration’s income criteria.

If a child has a parent who qualifies for SSD benefits, the child may collect dependents benefits. These benefits are awarded regardless of whether the child suffers from a disabling condition or demonstrates financial need. To receive benefits, the child must be younger than 18 or younger than 19 and enrolled in full-time education at a secondary school.

After disabled children turn 18, they can still collect benefits. Rather than receiving dependents benefits, these children collect adult child’s benefits. The benefit is called a child’s benefit because it is collected based on the earnings record of a parent, rather than the disabled child’s own earnings record.

Benefits for adult children

To qualify for adult child’s benefits, a disabled adult child must first meet the following criteria:

The child must have a parent who is currently eligible for SSD benefits or a deceased parent who worked long enough to qualify for benefits.

  • The disabling condition must have started before the child turned 22.

  • The disabling condition must be expected to last at least one year or to result in death.

  • The condition must prevent the adult child from performing past jobs or adjusting to new work.

  • The child cannot be married.

An adult child may be employed and still qualify for SSD benefits. However, the child’s monthly earnings must fall below $1,070.

An adult child may qualify for benefits in a few ways. The child may prove he or she suffers from a recognized disability that appears in the SSA’s book of impairment listings. The child may also “equal” an impairment listing if he or she has an equally debilitating condition. Alternately, the SSA may directly evaluate the child’s disability and find that the child’s residual functional capacity does not allow gainful employment.

Since adult children are evaluated under the SSA’s disability criteria for adults, providing proper proof of the disabling condition is critical. Inadequate documentation of the disability and its effects could result in the child losing benefits after age 18.


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