Family Benefits for SSDI Recipients
When disability hits a person in the prime of his/her life, the likelihood this person has a family depending on his/her income is high, and the need to replace this lost source of support is even more important. Disability insurance benefits is the option most people turn to when a physical or mental impairment stops them from working, with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) being the specific program most will try to access. Gaining approval for SSDI benefits is no small task, but when approval is granted, a recipient’s family members may be eligible to collect disability benefits as well. Specifically, close family members (spouses and minor children) who are financially dependent on an SSDI recipient may qualify for benefits. Note that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, though also part of a federal disability benefits program, do not offer similar benefits for family members. These supplementary benefits are intended to account for the lack of other income in a household where the primary earner can no longer work due to a disability. An overview of how family members qualify for SSDI benefits, and how much the additional income a family member could receive, will follow below.
Spouses qualify for family SSDI benefits in three situations:
- The spouse cares for a child under the age of 16 or a disabled child of any age. Note that the benefit may be reduced if the spouse works while receiving benefits, and benefits for disabled children are only offered if the child is directly under the spouse’s care and control.
- The spouse is at least 62 years old at the time disability benefits were awarded, unless the spouse is eligible for higher benefits under his/her own record. Thus, this spousal benefit is based on the earning records of both spouses.
- The spouse is an ex-spouse who is at least 62 years old, was married to the SSDI recipient for at least 10 years, is currently unmarried, and is not eligible for a higher benefit under his/her own earnings record.
Any minor child of an SSDI recipient is additionally eligible for benefits based on the parent’s past earnings. A minor, for purposes of family benefits, is anyone unmarried, 18 or under, or is 19 years old and no higher than a high school senior. In addition, any disabled child is able to receive SSDI family benefits regardless of age. Finally, in a less common situation, the parent of a deceased SSDI recipient can continue to collect benefits if he/she is at least 62 years old, and was financially dependent on the SSDI recipient.
One important point to understand about family benefits is that no matter how many family members receive benefits or the amount, the benefits paid to the person awarded SSDI is never affected and remains the same. The amount given to each family varies, however, based primarily on the SSDI recipient’s earnings record, but is limited to 150-180 percent of the disabled person’s disability benefit amount. Spouses are individually eligible for 50 percent of the disabled person’s monthly benefit, though that amount is reduced to stay under the family maximum, if children also collect benefits. The rules for calculating a family’s maximum monthly benefit amount are very complex and dependent upon the disabled person’s indexed monthly earnings over his/her working lifetime, as well as the Social Security retirement benefit the person would have received if he/she started collecting that benefit at the normal age (65-67, depending upon birth year). Consultation with the Social Security Administration and/or a knowledgeable disability attorney about benefit amounts are the best sources of information on this issue.
Seek Legal Advice
Disability benefits, as anyone who needs them is aware, is an essential source of support that is not taken for granted. Family disability benefits offer an additional level of support that should not be ignored, but these benefits must be approved, just as the underlying disability claim must be. If you have any disability insurance benefit concerns, contact an attorney experienced in this area, like Jacksonville’s Farrell Disability Law. Farrell Disability Law understands how to get a disability claim approved, and is available to evaluate the merits of your case. If you live in Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, Orange Park or the surrounding area, contact the office for a free consultation.