Can My Family Get Disability Benefits?

disability family benefits
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Becoming disabled can be scary if your family is dependent on your work for income. If you were the main breadwinner, your disability can put a lot of stress on those who depend on you. There’s so much uncertainty about the future, and you may be wondering how to support your family.

You may be having some difficult conversations with your family if your disability significantly shortens your life expectancy. You may be worried about how your family will survive after your life has ended.

Fortunately, if you’ve been working under Social Security for most of your adult work history, there are options for your family. If you qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and have a family, your spouse and children may be eligible to receive family benefits, also called dependents’ or auxiliary benefits.

What is the First Step to Getting Family Benefits?

The first step to getting family benefits is to apply for disability benefits yourself!

Not sure whether you qualify? We have a great article on how to determine your eligibility for disability benefits here. But the best way to find out whether you qualify for benefits is to get an online disability case evaluation.

Getting professional disability benefits assistance can help cut down on confusion as you figure out your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. At, we offer a free online disability case evaluation by legal professionals who specialize in disability law.

You can take the 1-minute survey here and provide your contact information so that we can put you in touch with one of our case evaluation specialists.

If after working with one of the case evaluation specialists you find that you do qualify for benefits, you can easily hire one of the attorneys on our team to help you with your disability claim application.

Getting legal counsel to help you with your application cuts down on errors that could result in your application getting denied. You are far more likely to not only get an approval but receive the full amount of benefits for which you qualify if you work with a disability lawyer.

If you have already been approved for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, keep reading to find out more about getting family benefits for your loved ones.

Which Family Members Can Receive Benefits?

There are a few categories of family members who are eligible for family benefits. They are:

  • Your current spouse
  • A divorced spouse
  • Your children
  • Your adult child disabled before age 22

If any members of your family apply for disability benefits, Social Security asks for their social security numbers and birth certificates. For spouses, they require proof of marriage. If you’ve been divorced, you may be asked for dates of prior marriages.

Benefits for Spouses

Your spouse may receive benefits is they are…

  1. Age 62 or older, if you are the one who is collecting a higher Social Security benefit based on your earnings record. However, if your spouse is collecting a higher benefit than you, they are not eligible for more benefits.
  2. Any age and caring for your child who is under age 16 or who was disabled before age 22.

Ex-spouses can qualify for benefits on your record if they…

  • Were married to you for at least 10 years
  • Are at least 62 years old
  • Are unmarried
  • Are not eligible for an equal or higher benefit on their own record, or on another person’s Social Security record

It’s important to note that the amount of benefits for which your divorced spouse is eligible has no impact on the amount of benefits you or your current spouse may receive.

Benefits for Children

When you are eligible for SSDI, your children may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. These could be your biological children, adopted children, or stepchildren. Dependent grandchildren may also qualify.

The qualifications for a child to receive benefits are…

  • They are unmarried,
  • Under age 18; or
  • Are 18-19 years old and are a full-time student in high school; or
  • Are 18 or older and have a disability that started before age 22

Typically, once a child turns 18 benefits will stop unless they are disabled. However, if a child is still a full-time student in high school (or even middle school) at age 18, benefits will continue until the child graduates or two months after the child turns 19, whichever comes first.

If you have a dependent grandchild, they may be eligible to receive benefits if the following is true for them:

  • The parents of the grandchild are deceased or disabled
  • The grandchild began living with their grandparent before they turned 18 years old
  • In the year before the grandparent became eligible to receive SSDI benefits, the grandchild received at least half of their financial support from the grandparent

If the grandchild is legally adopted by you, their grandparent, they fall under the criteria for adopted children above, not for dependent grandchildren.

For disabled adult children, if they have a disability that began before age 22, they may be eligible if you, their parent, are receiving disability benefits. Because the benefit would be paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record, this is considered a “child’s” benefit.

According to Social Security’s criteria, they must be “unmarried, age 18 or older, have a qualified disability that started before age 22, and meet the definition of disability for adults.”

If a disabled adult child has worked and is trying to apply for disability income themselves, they may not be eligible for dependents’ benefits on your Social Security record.

Benefits for Parents

If you have a disability that lessens your life expectancy and will likely leave your parents without financial support in their later years, you may be wondering how they will be supported after your death.

The good news is that if you worked under Social Security, there can be some financial relief for them. If one or both of your parents are dependent on you for more than half of their support, they can collect a Social Security benefit after your death.

They will be eligible if all the following apply:

  • They are at least 62 years old
  • They have not remarried since you, their child’s, death
  • They are not entitled to their own, higher Social Security benefit
  • They were receiving at least half their support from you at the time of your death. They will have to submit evidence of this within two years from the date of your death.

We hope this information sets you at ease or at least relieves some of the uncertainty that comes with having a disability, especially one that is likely to result in a shortened lifespan.

What Amount of Family Benefits Can Dependents Receive?

Finally, you might be wondering how much your family members will be able to receive in dependents’ benefits.

Whatever disability amount you receive per month, individual family members are eligible for up to 50 percent of that amount monthly. The amount each family member qualifies for depends on whether they are a retirement-age spouse, a young parent caring for minor or disabled children, a minor child, or a disabled adult child.

There is a limit, however.

As a general rule, the total amount you and your family can receive is 150 to 180 percent of your disability benefit. That is, an individual family member can receive no more than 80 percent of the worker’s disability benefit amount.

The total amount of benefits can vary. It depends on your disability benefit amount and the number of qualifying family members on your record.

Getting Disability Benefits Assistance

If you are not sure whether your family members qualify for benefits, it would be a good idea to get connected with a legal professional who can help you.

When you take the survey to get a free disability case evaluation at, you can fill out your contact information so that our team can connect you to a legal professional. You can not only hire help for your disability claim application, but you can also get counsel to determine the eligibility of your dependent family members.

You can also contact us directly by email here.

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