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A Parent’s Situation Can Shift Child’s SSI to SSDI Benefits

Feb 15, 2024 | Special Needs

Because of their disability, a person receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may not have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits on their own work record. Therefore, once they meet the government’s strict physical or mental disability requirements and fall under SSI’s income and asset caps, the SSI recipient might assume that they will never obtain SSDI benefits in the future.

However, this is not always the case. In fact, many SSI recipients who became disabled prior to turning 22 years old may begin to receive SSDI benefits when one of their parents retires, becomes disabled, or passes away.

Can a Grown Child Collect Parents’ Social Security?

SSI recipients (and anyone else, for that matter) may qualify for the Disabled Adult Child (DAC) Program if they became disabled prior to turning 22 and if one of their parents paid into the Social Security program for the required number of quarters.

If the parent retires or becomes disabled, the child will receive 50 percent of the parent’s Social Security benefit. If the parent dies, the payment increases to 75 percent of the parent’s benefit. These payments trigger when the parent applies for Social Security, or someone informs the Social Security Administration (SSA) of the parent’s death and about the child with disabilities. Once informed, the SSA will begin making SSDI payments directly to the disabled adult child.

What to Watch Out For

If an SSI recipient suddenly begins receiving an SSDI payment, those additional funds could cause them to lose SSI if the amount they receive from their parent’s work record is greater than their current SSI benefit. Fortunately, SSI recipients in this situation do not lose access to Medicaid so long as the beneficiary is single or married to another person who is also receiving DAC benefits.

The receipt of additional SSDI funds does disqualify them from Medicaid, which would normally result from a loss of SSI. In addition, after the individual with SSI benefits receives two years of SSDI payments, they will also begin to receive Medicare benefits. As a result, although they might not receive their SSI cash award, they will have a larger SSDI payment and gain access to more insurance options – a win for the SSI recipient.

There is one other situation where an SSI recipient could acquire SSDI in the future. That is when they work for enough quarters while receiving SSI to eventually qualify for SSDI on their own work record. Although this situation is extremely rare, it does happen, so SSI recipients who are working limited hours should track their employment history carefully to find out when they are eligible for SSDI instead.

Butcher Elder Law can help you and your family navigate these complicated transitions. As always, you should consult your attorney in advance of retirement or any other major life change to determine the effect of your actions on your loved one with disabilities.