Social Security provides financial support for elderly, retired, or disabled individuals. It is operated by the federal government. Throughout an individual’s life, if they are employed, they pay a percentage of their income to the government towards this program. They are known as Social Security taxes. 

If an individual becomes retired or disabled, the government will issue monthly checks based on the amount the individual paid into Social Security over the course of their lifetime. Not every individual is eligible to receive these benefits.

What are Adult Child Disabilities from Social Security?

In general, child disability benefits cease when a child reaches the age of 18. Social Security benefit disbursement may continue indefinitely through adulthood if the child is physically or mentally disabiled and is living with a parent who is receiving Social Security.

An adult child is an individual who is 18 years of age or older. Because the benefit paid is based on a parent’s Social Security earnings, the adult is considered a child.

What are the Qualifications?

In order to receive disability benefits as an adult disabled since childhood, an individual must meet the following requirements:

  • The individual must have a disability that began prior to turning 22 years of age;
  • The individual must be unmarried; and
  • The individual must be a child of an individual who receives Social Security retirement, disability, or survivor benefits.

What Criteria Does the Social Security Administration Use?

If an adult child is applying for benefits for the first time or is having child benefits renewed, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will use adult disability criteria to review the application. The adult must have: 

  • A physical condition, a mental condition, or a combination of both;
  • A condition that prevents them from doing a significant amount of work; and
  • A condition will last at least a year or death is an expected result of the condition.

The criteria are further discussed below.

How Does the Social Security Administration Determine If an Adult Child Is Disabled?

In order for an individual to qualify for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits, they must meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability. The SSA follows a five-step sequential disability analysis in order to determine if an individual is disabled. It is helpful for an applicant to be familiar with this analysis prior to filing for disability benefits.

The steps include:

  • Is the individual working?;
  • Does the individual have a severe impairment?;
  • Does the individual meet or equal a listing of impairment?;
  • Can the individual perform past relevant work?; and
  • Can the individual perform other work?

If the applicant is performing substantial gainful activity (SGA), they cannot receive Social Security disability benefits. Every year, SGA thresholds are set by the SSA. If the applicant’s income meets or exceeds the SGA threshold, they are not eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits, even if they meet the criteria. Not all work is considered SGA and a lawyer will be able to better analyze an applicant’s work situation and provide advice on whether their work may be SGA. 

A severe medical impairment is a condition that significantly limits an individual’s mental or physical ability to perform basic work activities. The condition must have existed or should exist for at least one year. These types of conditions must be supported with medical evidence.

If the applicant has a severe impairment, the SSA will analyze whether or not it meets a Listing of Impairment. A Listing of Impairment describes a specific condition and symptoms and includes specific disability criteria. If an applicant meets the criteria for an impairment on the list, their claim will be approved. Most applicants do not meet or equal a listing, so they will proceed to the next steps of the evaluation, which focuses on their ability to work.

The next step in analyzing whether an applicant is eligible based on work ability is analyzing their past relevant work (PRW). PRW includes any SGA-level work an individual has performed within the past 15 years. 

A brief work attempt is usually not considered a PRW because the individual was not employed long enough to learn the job. An individual’s past work will be categorized based on the physical and mental difficulty of the job.

The SSA assigns the applicant a set of functional limitations. These are known as residual functional capacity (RFC). If the individual’s past work can be performed within these restrictions, their disability claim will be denied.

If the applicant cannot perform their PRW, the SSA will analyze whether or not they are capable of performing other full-time work. If the applicant is capable of performing other work in the national economy, their disability claim will likely be denied. However, there are different criteria for individuals over the age of 50, so it is important to seek the assistance of an attorney.

Does Income Factor into Social Security Benefits?

Yes, an applicant’s financial situation may impact their Social Security claim. If the individual has limited financial resources, they may be entitled to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The two types of Social Security disability benefits are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and SSI.

SSDI is based on an individual’s work history and earnings over their lifetime. In some cases, an individual may be eligible to receive both SSI and Social Security disability.

What Happens after Being Approved for Benefits?

Once an applicant’s Social Security benefits are approved, their case will be periodically reviewed. The frequency of reviews will depend on the seriousness of the medical condition.

What if My Application is Denied?

There are many reasons an individual’s application may be denied. There may be a lack of evidence or the application was completed incorrectly. A lawyer can help properly file claims as well as assist with an appeal if a claim is denied.

In order to assist with an appeal, a lawyer will need to review the status of an individual’s claim. If their claim has been denied, a lawyer must know the date of denial in order to file a timely appeal. For this reason, it is extremely important to have any correspondence an individual receives from the SSA.

In many cases an application denial must be appealed within a certain period of time. This will depend on the laws of the state where the individual resides. Usually, an appeal will be rejected if it is filed after the deadline.

In some cases, if an applicant has previously applied and been denied, that may impact their new application or appeal. Especially if the individual had a past hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help with Adult Child Disability Benefits?

Yes, it is essential to have the assistance of an experienced government attorney for any adult child disability benefits issue. These issues are often too complex for you to handle on your own. They require specialized knowledge and medical evidence. A lawyer can review your case and assist you with any aspect of your application, even if it has already begun. Having a lawyer on your case may be the difference between a denial and an approval of benefits.