Can Social Security Benefits Continue After a Child Is 18?

Approximately 4.3 million children in the United States will receive Social Security benefits this year. If a child has a parent who died or is disabled or retired, he or she may qualify for benefits based on the parent’s Social Security record. The AARP reports that 98 percent of American children could potentially qualify for Social Security benefits if their working parent dies. As of 2018, the monthly payment for a child who has lost a parent averages $816. In most cases, these children no longer qualify for benefits once they reach age 18, but there are exceptions.

Eligible Children

Social Security does not require that eligible children are the biological offspring of the parent whose benefits they receive. Adopted children, stepchildren and dependent grandchildren, as well as those whose legal custodians are their grandparents, also qualify for Social Security benefits until age 18.

Still in School

Many people are still in high school on their 18th birthday. Three months prior to that date, Social Security sends a notice informing the parent that the child’s benefits end at 18. However, benefits do not end for a child who is still in high school, or any secondary school. If a child is under 19 and still in high school, they must notify Social Security. A statement of attendance certified by a school official is required. The young person continues to receive benefits until high school graduation, or two months after their 19th birthday, whatever comes first. Social Security benefits do not cover those who are enrolled in college, nor does it cover young people who have married.

Disabled Children

If the child, or young adult, is disabled, they may continue receiving benefits as long as their disability began before the age of 22. Every few years, Social Security will review the individual’s medical status, to ensure they still meet the standards for disability consideration under Social Security regulations.

Family Benefit Maximum

Children may receive up to half of a parent’s full retirement Social Security benefit. In general, the total amount a retiree and his or her family may receive is between 150 and 180 percent of the total retirement benefit.

Supplemental Security Income

If a disabled child comes from a low-income household, he or she may qualify for Supplemental Security Income. Once they turn 18, they may continue to qualify, but as adults, not children. SSI is designed to help those with limited income and resources. In order to file for SSI online, the person cannot ever have been married and must not be blind. They cannot have received SSI payments in the past, but they may apply for SSI at the same time they are applying for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration offers young people who qualify for SSI or Social Security disability benefits various job training opportunities. Taking advantage of these programs allows these young people to keep more of their work earnings should they reach limits that would ordinarily exclude them from receiving disability benefits.

Working While on Social Security

Just because a young person is disabled and on Social Security disability does not mean they cannot hold a job. Their earning capacity is limited if they are to remain eligible for benefits, but as of 2018 they may earn a maximum of $1,180 per month without jeopardizing benefits. The amount is $1,970 for blind individuals. Should they exceed that maximum in a particular month, they will not receive benefits for that month, but that does not mean they are not eligible for benefits in the long term. If a person starts regularly earning amounts above the Social Security maximum and loses benefits, the Social Security Administration will allow benefits to be reinstated within a five-year period if the disability forces them to stop working.

About the Author

A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt's work has appeared in dozens of publications, including PocketSense, Financial Advisor, Sapling, nj.com and The Nest.


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