Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal benefits program through the Social Security Administration that offers monthly payments to people who have disabilities or special health care needs.
SSDI gives monthly cash benefits to those workers – or children of workers – who have paid enough Social Security taxes to get disability earnings they can use when they are no longer able to work.
Our adult children with disabilities or special health care needs can collect SSDI benefits in 2 ways. The first is when your child gets benefits based on their own employment record if they are approved for these benefits. The second is by collecting child’s benefits, which is when an adult child gets benefits through their parent’s Social Security retirement and disability earnings. While both ways can give your child financial help, there are different rules for each.
In either case, once your child has been receiving SSDI benefits for 24 months, they can get Medicare health insurance too.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and SSDI are completely different government benefits. You are approved for them in different ways, following different rules. Yet, they can impact each other, impacting your child’s monthly payments. Having Medicaid can too. Sometimes you can receive benefits from all 3 programs. It is best to check with the Social Security Administration when you have more than 1 benefit, known as "concurrent benefits." It can also be good to talk to an attorney or case worker before your child applies for SSDI to see how it will affect other benefits your child is getting.
For adult benefits, any worker who has a disability that keeps them from working as they once did may be able to get SSDI. This includes adults with disabilities or special health care needs.
An adult applying for SSDI must have worked for a specific number of quarters (meaning they worked at any time during a defined 3-month period) and earned a certain minimum amount of money per quarter. You (or your child) can find these amounts at the Social Security Administration’s Benefits Planner page.
Your child must also have a disability or special health care need that prevents them from working, and their condition must meet the Social Security Administration's definition of an adult disability for SSDI. There are hundreds of medical conditions on the Listing of Impairments, including epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and diabetes.
The Social Security Administration looks at areas of your child’s life and situation before approving (or denying) SSDI benefits for your child. The decision is largely based on whether the following 3 statements are true:
To receive the child’s benefits, your child, stepchild, or grandchild who depends on you financially must be unmarried, at least 18 years old, and must have had disabilities or special health care needs that started before the age of 22. And you must be collecting either Social Security retirement benefits or SSDI yourself as a parent.
Here is an example:
A worker starts collecting Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. He has a 38-year-old son who has had cerebral palsy since birth. The son will start collecting a disabled child’s benefit based on his father's Social Security earnings record.
In general, SSDI pays monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for 1 year or more because of a disability. After that time, the Social Security Administration will continue giving benefits until it does a review, called a “redetermination,” to decide if your child needs to keep getting disability benefits.
The SSDI disability benefit comes in a monthly payment, and each person will receive a different amount based on their “work credits” and total yearly income.
It’s important to note that worker’s compensation and other public disability benefits can impact your child’s SSDI benefits, but getting lawsuit settlement payments from a private insurance company will not.
Using the SSDI benefit, a child can receive up to half of their parent’s full retirement or disability benefits, or 75 percent of their deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefit. But the actual amount your child receives will depend on:
The child’s benefit does not pay anything until the parent begins collecting disability or retirement benefits, or is deceased and worked long enough to draw Social Security. If a parent passes away before collecting Social Security retirement or disability benefits, their child would not be able to get SSDI based on the parent’s earning record.
Your child can stop getting any SSDI benefits if they:
If your child is applying on their own work record or on yours, you can start the process by downloading and reviewing the Adult Disability Starter Kit to learn more about filing (applying) for adult disability benefits. You or your child can also visit your closest Social Security office to find forms or ask questions. You can find it using the Social Security Office Locater.
When you apply for SSDI, you will need to show or send important documents. You can view the Social Security Administration’s checklist for online SSDI applications at the Adult Disability Starter Kit page for more information. Here are some examples:
You can apply in person at your local Social Security office:
If your child is applying for adult SSDI benefits, they can also apply for SSDI online. It should take 1 to 2 hours to complete the application. At this time, you cannot apply for SSDI child’s benefits online.
Once your child has applied, they should expect to get a letter in the mail to let them know if they were approved.