Disabled With Children: How Can Social Security Disability Help?

If you've recently suffered an injury or illness that has left you unable to work or care for your family, you may have already begun to investigate the steps you'll need to take to apply for federal disability benefits. However, under certain circumstances, your minor children may also be able to receive disability payments on your behalf, lessening the financial burden of your disability. Read on to learn more about the circumstances in which your minor children may be eligible for federal disability benefits on your record.

Do you have sufficient work credits to receive Social Security Disability?

There are two types of disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration -- Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Although these programs share many similarities, they have some important differences as well.

SSD is a disability payment made if you have suffered a disability that prevents you from working -- not only at the job you held when you first became disabled, but any type of job you could reasonably perform. For example, if you worked as a postal carrier and suffered a severe knee injury, it's unlikely you could return to this job, but you could perform a more sedentary job at the same employer. In that situation, you'd likely be ineligible for SSD, unless you had other limitations that would prevent you from working more sedentary jobs.

Your eligibility for SSD and the amount of benefits you'd receive are highly dependent upon the number of work credits you've accrued during your career. As with Social Security retirement benefits, you'll only qualify for SSD benefits after working a certain number of "quarters" and earning (and paying FICA taxes on) a certain threshold of wages during these quarters. If you're disabled at a young age or early in your career, your SSD award may be relatively low, whereas if you're disabled at the peak of your earning years, you may be able to obtain an SSD award that comes closer to replacing your pre-disability salary.

If you haven't worked enough to qualify for SSD (or if you're a minor), but your disability prevents you from working, you could instead receive SSI benefits. These are subsistence payments available to those who are disabled and ineligible to receive SSD or other federal disability benefits. Because these payments are made to individuals who have paid low (or no) taxes into the Social Security system, they are generally lower than the average payments to SSD recipients.

In what situations can your children receive disability benefits on your behalf? 

If you do qualify for SSD benefits, you may also be able to receive benefits through this program for any minor children who live with you. Through the dependent benefits or auxiliary benefits program, minor children whose parents are disabled or deceased are able to receive up to 50 percent of the parent's SSD or Social Security retirement benefits award. 

This means that if you qualify for SSD and will receive a monthly award of $2,000, your minor child can receive an additional $1,000 per month until he or she turns 18. Although these payments are made for your child's benefit, they will be made payable to you as the parent or legal guardian. You can use these funds to help defray some of the costs of raising a child while dealing with your disability, such as childcare, cleaning or lawn services, or private transportation.

If one of your children is also disabled, he or she may be able to receive SSI benefits until he or she turns 18, in addition to SSD benefits as a dependent of a disabled adult. When your child turns 18, he or she can apply for SSI benefits as an adult -- however, the SSD payments will cease. These SSI benefits should help your child be able to live independently. Click here to get more information about this topic.