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Family Maximum (FMAX)

When an individual who is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits has a spouse or dependents who rely on them, those individuals may qualify for benefits as well. These are known as auxiliary benefits. These benefits may also be available to family members of deceased Social Security Disability applicants. However, there is a limit as to how much a family can receive regardless of the number of children or dependents within the family. This is known as the Family Maximum or the FMAX.

Many people do not understand how the FMAX or Family Maximum can affect a family member’s benefit. What happens is that when the FMAX is reached, the family members that are entitled to benefits must split the available benefit amount.

For example, if a spouse is eligible for 60 percent of the disabled worker’s benefit amount and each child is entitled to 15 percent, if there are more than 3 children entitled to benefits the children in the family would actually receive less than the full 15 percent of the benefit amount due to the limits set by the Family Maximum. In most cases, the FMAX amount is a minimum of 150 percent of the wage earner’s PIA (primary insurance amount).

Spouses and dependents who are receiving benefits up to the FMAX limit are entitled to annual COLA (cost of living adjustment) increases, but the amount of the increase will vary depending on the amount that the beneficiary is receiving. For example, the COLA provided to a spouse that is receiving 60 percent of the PIA would be more than the COLA provided to the dependents who were receiving 15 percent. Although the percentage of the COLA would be the same, the actual dollar amount would vary depending on exactly how much the recipient’s monthly benefit payment was.