The Little Known SSA Disability Benefit for Disabled Adult Children (DAC)

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Authored by Anjel Burgess, Esq.

As the baby boomers enter retirement, some are discovering that all of their hard work has not only entitled them to retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), but has also entitled their disabled adult child(ren) to their own disability benefits from the SSA.

The Social Security Administration offers disability benefits to individuals through two traditional programs: (1) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and (2) Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). SSI benefits are payable to those disabled individuals, regardless of age, who meet certain income and asset requirements. SSI benefits include a monthly payment of up to approximately $750 as well as Medicaid health insurance. On the other hand, DIB benefits are payable to adults who have worked and paid enough into Social Security so as to be insured for disability purposes. DIB benefits include a monthly payment (which varies depending on the adult’s average lifetime earnings) which can range up to approximately $2687. Medicare insurance (rather than Medicaid) is also included with DIB benefits.

However, there is also a third type of SSA disability program, and it provides benefits to a Disabled Adult Child (DAC) based on the work record of the retired parent of the disabled adult child. Social Security’s rules allow a retiree’s disabled adult child to receive disability benefits through the program based solely upon the retiree’s work record. The DAC disability benefits include not only a monthly payment of up to one-half of the retiree parent’s full retirement benefit, but also Medicare health insurance. It is important to note that the disability payment to a DAC will not decrease the parent’s own retirement benefit.

In order to qualify for DAC benefits, the adult child must be (1) unmarried, (2) age 18 or older, (3) have a documented disability that began prior to age 22, and (4) must not have any substantial earnings through their own work history during the time frame that they wish to qualify for DAC benefits.

Example 1: Johnny starts collecting Social Security retirement benefits at age 66. He has a 24-year-old son, Michael, who is single, suffers from IH, and has been receiving extensive treatment since age 20. Michael has never worked, but he is eligible to start collecting DAC benefits based on his father Johnny’s Social Security record.

Example 2: Johnny has just celebrated his 62nd birthday and has decided to retire early. Michael has been receiving SSI benefits since age 21, which currently consists of a payment of $750 per month and Medicaid. Michael has been notified by the Social Security Administration that Johnny’s early retirement has entitled him to benefits as a DAC. Michael’s new monthly benefit amount as a DAC will be $1100 per month, and he will also start receiving Medicare.

Example 3: Johnny is 60 years old and still working. Michael has also been working, part-time, at a grocery store making $450 per month since he was 18 years old. He has no assets. Michael is not currently eligible for benefits under the DAC program, but he he may be eligible for benefits under both the SSI and DIB programs. When Johnny turns 62 and decides to retire early, Michael may still be able to reap the benefits of the DAC program if he will get a higher monthly payment under Johnny’s Social Security record than what Michael might receive under the SSI or DIB programs.

As explained above, DAC benefits may be available to those disabled adult children who have at least one parent who has paid into, and is eligible for, Social Security retirement (Please note that, in this regard, DAC benefits are also available if the parent of the disabled adult child is deceased or is disabled.) Therefore, a parent’s decision as to when to retire and start drawing his/her SSA retirement benefits, may be influenced by the knowledge that, upon the parent’s retirement, his/her disabled adult child may be eligible to receive their own disability benefits and Medicare coverage from the SSA.

Anjel F. Burgess, Esq, is a Partner in the law firm of Burgess & Christensen, which specializes in helping people with disabilities to obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

For more information on Disabled Adult Child benefits, please contact your local Social Security office or a qualified Social Security disability attorney.

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