Child Disability Benefits – Better than SSI
By: Barbara A. Isenhour and Sean R. Bleck
If you have a special needs child receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, there may be a point when your child will be eligible for a disability benefit based upon your social security account. The benefit is called Child Disability Benefits or CDB.
Who is Eligible for Child Disability Benefits?
CDB is only available to a disabled person age 18 or over who is:
· the child of a parent who is currently receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Social Security Retirement Income (SSRI) or;
· the child of a deceased parent who was insured for Social Security benefits at the time of the parent's death; and
· the child was disabled before the age of 22 and remained continuously disabled until the parent became disabled, retired or died; and
the child does not marry, unless the spouse is
also receiving social security benefits.
If the CDB is based upon the parent's disability, the
child's benefit will end if the parent no longer qualifies for SSDI benefits
because the parent's disability ended. Natural and adopted children can be
eligible for this benefit and in some cases a step-child or grandchild can
qualify depending upon whether the stepparent or grandparent supported the
disabled child/grandchild before qualifying for SSDI or SSRI benefits (or
The CDB benefit for the child of a disabled or retired
worker is 50% of the parent's benefit amount.
The CDB benefit for the child of a deceased worker is 75% of the
parent's benefit amount. If both parents
are insured and either disabled, retired or deceased, the child's benefit
amount will be calculated based upon the higher account of the two parents.
In some cases the CDB benefit may be reduced by the Family Maximum Amount (FMA). This is a cap on the total benefits that the Social Security Administration will pay to the family, including the insured worker, the spouse and other children if applicable. The FMA cap is usually between 150% to 200% of the insured worker's benefit amount.
Typically the CDB benefit is higher than the SSI benefit amount ($698 for 2012). Unlike SSI there is no asset limit for the CDB benefit. If the CDB benefit is less than the SSI benefit amount, a child could receive both SSI and CDB to bring the total monthly income up to the SSI benefit amount plus an additional $20 ($718 for 2012).
The child will be eligible for Medicare 24 months from when the CDB benefits began, so the earliest a child could receive Medicare based upon the parent's account would be age 20.
Medicaid and CDB Benefits
If a child was receiving SSI and Medicaid at the time the child qualified for CDB, they can continue to receive Medicaid as long as the child's assets remain below the Medicaid asset limit. Medicaid will not count the CDB income in calculating if the child has a co-payment or "spend down” for medical coverage for most Medicaid programs.
The standard to be considered "disabled” by the Social Security Administration is the same as to qualify for SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration must agree that the child was unable to work for at least the next 12 months in standard gainful employment. In assessing disability the Social Security Administration takes into account the person's age, education, and prior work history. Substantial gainful employment occurs if the child earns gross income of at least $1,010 per month ($1,690 if blind) for 2012. This amount is adjusted annually.
In some cases it can be difficult to prove that the child was disabled before age 22, especially if they did not apply for SSI and Medicaid benefits before that age. School records and medical records can be important to establish the date of disability in many cases.
For the CDB it is important that the child be continuously disabled before age 22. If for example, a child worked in substantial gainful employment for a year after graduating from high school and then applied for CDB benefits at age 20, they will not meet the requirement of being continuously disabled before age 22. If a child is receiving CDB benefits, however, and is then able to work after age 22, they can reapply for CDB benefits if they cannot maintain employment. If a child is able to work successfully at substantial gainful employment and is earning sufficient income the Social Security Administration may eventually terminate the CDB benefit on the basis that the child is no longer disabled.
The following are a few brief examples of the CDB program:
Where to Apply
You apply for CDB benefits through the Social Security Administration. You can call them at 1-800-772-1213. You can also get more information on the CDB program from the Social Security Administration's web site at www.ssa.gov.