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Disabled adult children and Social Security benefits

Social Security provides much-needed benefits for young people who become disabled, yet many people aren't even aware the program exists. If you have a child who suffers from autism, cerebral palsy or another medical condition present either from birth or at a young age, there are certain things you should know.

Supplemental Security Income provides some benefits

If you tried to file for Social Security benefits for your child when he or she was under the age of 18 and were told that you didn't meet the financial eligibility requirements, you likely filed for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

It is a needs-based program only available to people with low income. When income levels are being evaluated, a parent's income is partially designated for the care of any children in the home, which often leaves children ineligible. If the financial requirements weren't met, no disability decision would have even been made.

However, once your child is over the age of 18, your income no longer matters. That means that you can refile for benefits.

Social Security provides an additional benefit

If you or your adult child's other parent are on Social Security due to your age or disability status, your child is entitled to file for an additional type of benefit.

Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits are only available to those people who became disabled prior to the age of 21. The benefit exists because the government recognizes that some people essentially never have an opportunity to pay into the Social Security system and gain insured status on their own.

However, there are restrictions. Your adult child is only able to claim DAC benefits prior to marriage. Your child will also eventually become eligible for Medicare as a DAC, but not until being entitled to benefits for two years.

Only one disability decision is necessary for both programs

The good news is that you only have to go through the disability decision process with Social Security one time to file for both programs. While the Social Security representative that works with you should automatically see if your child is eligible for both programs, make sure that you inquire if nothing is said.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Disability Planner: Benefits for A Disabled Child," accessed Feb. 23, 2018

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