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How can I get benefits for my grandchild?

Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are available through the Social Security Administration (SSA) for workers who become disabled and are unable to work. It is also possible for benefits to be paid to their dependent family members, such as children, a spouse, or even grandchildren. This type of SSD benefits is called auxiliary benefits.

Auxiliary Benefits

It is important to note that auxiliary benefits are only available for a certain type of SSD benefits, called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. SSDI benefits are accumulated through a worker’s payroll taxes. To be eligible to receive SSDI benefits, the worker in question must be under 65 and have earned a minimum number of “work credits” based on their work history.

SSDI is a completely different program than Supplemental Security Income (SSI), in which benefits are provided to disabled workers who are low income or do not have a significant work history. This type of program is funded by general taxes. The dependent family members of recipients of SSI benefits are not eligible to receive auxiliary benefits; these benefits are only available to the family members of SSDI benefit recipients.

Requirements for Grandchildren

Grandchildren are a type of dependent family member that are eligible to receive auxiliary disability benefits based on the work history of the grandparent in question. Step-grandchildren are just as eligible as grandchildren to receive auxiliary benefits.

The grandchild must be under 18 years old to receive benefits, or under 19 if they are enrolled in high school as a full time student.

To be eligible, the grandchild must completely meet the following qualifications:

  • The grandchild’s parents are deceased or also disabled
  • The child had been living with the grandparents before they turned 18 years old
  • In the year before the grandparent was eligible for SSDI benefits, the child received at least half of his or her financial support from that grandparent
  • If the child is under 12 months old, he or she must have been living with the grandparent since birth

The exception to the requirements above is if the grandparent receiving SSDI benefits has legally adopted the grandchild. In this case, the grandchild needs to meet the requirements for children receiving benefits, as they are legally seen as the child of the grandparent. These requirements include:

  • The child is unmarried
  • The child is under 18 years old

If the child is over 18 years old, they are seen as an adult child and could still qualify to receive auxiliary benefits through their grandparent’s SSDI benefits. To qualify, an adult child must:

  • Be enrolled full time in school and be under 19 years old. The child must only be enrolled in a school up to grade 12. College students do not qualify for these types of benefits.
  • Be disabled themselves, and have suffered the disability before turning 22 years old

Note that the child must either meet the requirements for a grandchild listed above, or the grandparent must have legally adopted them. A grandparent being granted custody of the child is not the same as legal adoption, and in these cases the child will not qualify for auxiliary benefits.