What are the Rules about Transferring Disability Benefits to Family Members?

Submitted by Chris on

If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits and are supporting a family, your family members could be eligible for an additional benefit payment on top of the amount that you receive. These are called auxiliary benefits, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) has provided specific criteria that must be met in order for a spouse or child to be able to receive these. Note that auxiliary benefits only apply to family members of those who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance(SSDI), and not Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

For the spouse of a Social Security disability recipient to be eligible for benefits, he or she must meet be age 62 or older, unless they’re caring for a child under age 16 (or a child aged 16 or older who is disabled and receiving Social Security benefits). If the spouse of the disabled worker is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits on their own work record, or receiving a private pension, this could affect their eligibility or the amount they receive.

In some cases, the ex-spouse of someone who’s receiving Social Security disability benefits is eligible to receive auxiliary benefits. For the ex-husband or ex-wife of a disabled worker to be able to receive this benefit, they must:

  • Be age 62 or older
  • Had been married to the disability recipient for at least 10 years
  • Be unmarried
  • Be ineligible for Social Security retirement based on their own work record

If someone who is receiving Social Security disability benefits has an unmarried child (biological, adopted, or dependent stepchild) who is under the age of 18 (or 19, and a full-time High School student), their child is eligible for an additional benefit payment.

The standard amount of auxiliary benefit payments for spouses and children is equal to half of the amount of the disabled worker’s payment. However, the SSA has established a maximum family limit, and the total of the primary disability benefit and the auxiliary benefits cannot exceed this amount (which is generally around 150-180% of the primary benefit amount). If the total is higher than this family maximum, the auxiliary benefits will be reduced proportionally.

Additionally, disabled children under the age of 18 could be eligible for SSI benefits if they meet the SSA’s strict definition of disabled. To be able to receive these benefits, the child needs to have “marked and severe functional limitations” – essentially, extreme difficulties performing everyday activities. Also, because SSI is a needs-based program, the family’s assets (including the parents’ income) must be under certain limits.

Rules regarding spouse and children’s disability benefits, and child’s SSI benefits, are complex. If you have a disabled family member, or are receiving disability benefits and want to know what benefits your family might be eligible for, it’s a good idea to contact a Social Security disability attorney for a free consultation to discuss your options.

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