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Childhood disabilities create financial challenges for many families in Illinois. Unfortunately, many parents believe children cannot receive Social Security Disability benefits. Any Chicago disability attorney can explain, however, that it is possible for children to receive benefits if they and their family meet the qualifying criteria.

 Means of qualifying

There are two ways children may receive Social Security Disability benefits. First, the dependent child of an adult who receives benefits may collect benefits. Children are eligible if they are disabled, younger than 18, or taking full-time classes below grade level 12 at age 18 or 19.

Any child of a disabled adult can collect as much as half of the adult’s benefit amount. However, the SSA caps monthly benefits for families, so the award may be reduced if other children also receive benefits. Generally, SSD recipients and their family members can receive up to 150 to 180 percent of the original benefit.

A child’s benefit is also available to adults older than 18 who sustained disabilities before age 22. If the individual was able to work enough in the past, he or she could collect benefits based on a personal earnings record. Typically, though, an adult child will collect benefits based on the earning record of one parent. The parent must currently receive SSD benefits, or the child can qualify based on the record of a deceased parent.

Disabled adult children

Children under age 18 can receive dependents benefits regardless of their physical health. Disabled adult children, however, must meet the Social Security Administration’s general definition of disability:

  • The disabling condition must be expected to last longer than 12 months or result in death.
  • The individual must be incapable of performing jobs he or she has held in the past.
  • The individual cannot reasonably be expected to perform, learn, or adjust to another kind of work.

A disabled adult child can work in a reduced capacity and still receive benefits. The SSA defines “substantial gainful activity” as work with income greater than $1,070 per month. Individuals with income below this threshold still qualify for benefits. The SSA actually encourages employment among disabled adult children, by offering programs providing vocational training and assistance with expenses associated with working.

After adult child’s benefits are awarded, the SSA conducts periodic disability reviews. Benefits will stop if the individual’s condition changes and no longer prevents gainful employment. Benefits also usually cease if the recipient marries. However, the adult child may keep the benefits if he or she marries someone who also qualifies for SSD benefits.