Social Security Disability Family Benefits Explained

Some of you have applied for disability benefits and learned that some family members might be eligible to receive benefits as well. We wanted to break down exactly what family benefits are so you’re well versed to begin maximizing the amount of the benefits that you can receive for not only yourself but for your family. To start, here is who can receive benefits on your record:

  • spouse
  • divorced spouse
  • children
  • disabled child
  • adult child disabled before age 22

When any eligible member of your family goes to apply for benefits, be prepared to submit their Social Security numbers as well as their birth certificates.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) may ask for proof of marriage and dates of prior marriages, if available when your spouse applies for benefits.

Maximum Allowed Family Benefits

Each member of your family can qualify for a monthly benefit of up to half of your disability benefit amount. However, the SSA imposes a limit on the amount paid to your family in benefits.

The total amount allowed is dependent on your benefit amount and the number of family members eligible for benefits. The amount varies, but typically the total amount allowed for your family to receive is between 150 and 180 percent of your disability benefit amount.

If the total of benefits paid to your family is larger than the family cap, the benefits paid to your eligible family members will be reduced accordingly. Your personal benefit amount will not be changed.

If you have a divorced spouse who is eligible for disability benefits, their amount will not alter the benefits paid to your or your family.

Spousal Benefits

Your spouse is eligible for your spouse when:

  • Your spouse reaches age 62 or older unless your spouse decides to collect a higher Social Security benefit based on their earnings record. The benefits paid to your spouse will be reduced by a percentage dependent on the number of months until their full retirement age, this reduction cannot be appealed or reversed.
  • At any age where your spouse is caring for your child under age 16 or disabled. Your spouse will be paid benefits until the child reaches age 16. When that happens, the child’s benefits continue, but your spouse’s benefits are stopped unless they are old enough to receive retirement benefits (minimum of age 62) or survivor benefits as a widow or widower (age 60).

If Your Spouse Also Worked Under Social Security

If your spouse qualifies for retirement benefits on their own record, the SSA will always pay that amount before anything else. However, if the spouse benefit that is paid on your record is larger, your spouse will receive a combination of benefits that sums to the higher amount.

Your spouse’s Social Security benefit on your record may also be affected if your spouse will receive a pension based on work that is not recognized by the Social Security Administration, such as foreign or under the table work.

Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse

Even if you remarried, your divorced spouse might still be eligible for benefits on your account.

As stated previously, if your divorced spouse will receive a pension based on work not recognized by the SSA, their Social Security benefit on your account may be affected.

To become eligible for benefits on your account, your divorced spouse needs to:

  • have been married to you for a minimum of 10 years
  • be at a minimum of age 62
  • be unmarried and,
  • ineligible for an equal or higher benefit on their own Social Security account, or one someone else’s Social Security account.

Keep in mind, the benefits paid to your divorced spouse do not affect the benefits that you or your current spouse may earn.

Benefits For Your Children

When qualifying for Social Security disability benefits, your children may also be eligible to receive benefits on your Social Security account. Your qualifying child can be either your biological child, adopted child, or stepchild. A dependent grandchild may also be eligible to receive benefits.

To receive benefits, the child must be unmarried and be:

  • younger than 18, or
  • between 18 and 19-years-old and a full-time student (no higher than grade 12), or
  • 18 or older and possess a disability that began before age 22.

Typically, the SSA stops paying benefits when children become 18 unless they are disabled. However, if the child is still a full-time student at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, their benefits will continue until they graduate or until two months after the child becomes 19, whichever is first.

You can learn more about Benefits For A Disabled Child by clicking here.

Applying for Social Security Benefits

The several ways of which you can apply for Social Security disability benefits include:

  • Online
  • Calling the toll-free telephone number 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call  TTY 1-800-325-0778.
  • Scheduling an appointment with a Social Security representative by contacting your local Social Security office.