When an individual is receiving Social Security Disability benefits, those benefits can sometimes also be received by certain family members. In order for your family members to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, those family members must be dependent upon you for their financial survival. For example, your spouse (if he or she is age 62 or older) and any children that you have may be entitled to benefits because these people rely upon you for support, but a sister or brother would not be.
When you have a child who is receiving Social Security Disability benefits due to your disability, that child will receive benefits until they reach 18 years of age. Once your child reaches 18 years of age, they are no longer qualified to receive benefits unless they are a full-time student in elementary or secondary school or unless the child is disabled.
In the case of a marriage involving step-children, the step-children may also receive Social Security Disability benefits if you are receiving benefits. You can apply for benefits for step-children once you have been married to your spouse for 12 months and only if you are responsible for half of the care of the step-children. However, if you divorce, the payments to the step-child will stop the month following the divorce.
The benefits that your dependents receive are in addition to the Social Security Disability payments that are paid directly to you. If, for some reason, something should ever happen to you, your dependents may be entitled to the benefits that were being paid to you in addition to the benefits that they receive themselves. In addition, many people do not realize that ex-spouses may be entitled to benefits if you pass away. Qualification for these benefits will depend on the age of your ex-spouse, how long you were married and whether or not your ex-spouse remarried.
If you do pass away, the amount that your survivors receive will depend on how much your disability payments were each month. As a general rule, survivor payments equal approximately 75 percent of your actual disability payment. Each survivor will receive this payment, but there is a limit to the total amount of money that can be paid each month. This limit usually equates to a total of 150 to 180 percent of your total benefit rate. For example, if you received $1,000 per month then your survivors would receive $794 per month. If you had only two survivors each survivor would receive the $794 per month payment. If, however, you had five survivors that benefit would be reduced to the maximum amount of your total benefit rate divided by the number of survivors who were receiving benefits.
While survivors benefits are usually reserved for a disability recipient’s spouse and children, in some cases a recipient’s parents may also receive survivor benefits. If your parents are dependent upon you for at least half of their income, then they may be eligible for survivor benefits as well.
If you want your benefits transferred to a family member because you feel that you cannot responsibly manage your benefits, you can ask the Social Security Administration to send your payments to a representative payee. A family member can serve as a representative payee, receiving your payments for you, but these payments would still belong to you and the money the representative payee receives would have to be accounted for and would have to be used to pay for your day-to-day living expenses. Your family member would not be able to receive compensation for performing such a service.
If you have questions about how your benefits can be transferred to your family members or which of your family members qualify for benefits, you can contact your local Social Security office or speak to a qualified Social Security Disability attorney.