Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can pay benefits to the family members of someone who is disabled and unable to work. Spouses, children and even ex-spouses of someone receiving SSDI benefits may qualify for their own monthly payments. Each qualifying family member could get up to 50% of the amount the disabled beneficiary is getting. However, the total of payments made to the whole family can't usually be more than 150% of the disabled person's benefit. Consider working with a financial advisor as you develop or modify an estate plan.
SSDI is for people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes on the wages they earned but have become disabled or deceased before reaching age 62, when they can begin receiving regular Social Security benefits. The size of the monthly benefit they are eligible for varies depending on their work and earning history.
The amount of the SSDI benefit also goes up occasionally to make up for inflation. In June of 2022, the average monthly benefit was $1,361.68, according to the Social Security Administration.
SSDI is only for workers who are disabled, which is defined as a condition that will last at least 12 months or will end in the person's death. The condition must also keep the person from working. Numerous medical conditions can qualify, but the government is generally strict about granting eligibility for disability payments.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is another federal program that can provide monthly payments to disabled people. Unlike SSDI, a disabled person does not need an earnings record to receive SSI benefits. And both children and adults can receive SSI payments. However, SSI recipients must have low incomes and few assets. Also, SSI benefits for 2022 are capped at $841 per month for an individual and no more than $1,261 if that person also has an eligible spouse.
Family Members Who Qualify
Once a person has qualified to receive SSDI payments, his or her family members may also be able to get benefits. Possibly eligible family members include:
A spouse, if aged 62 or older
A spouse of any age who is taking care of one of the children who is disabled or under age 16
One of your children who is younger than 18, or younger than 19 and attending high school, including adopted children and sometimes stepchildren and grandchildren
An unmarried child 18 or older who has a qualifying disability that began before age 22
Your ex-spouse may also be able to get payments if you are receiving SSDI benefits. Any SSDI payments to a former spouse won't have any effect on your SSDI benefits. And not all ex-spouses can get them. The divorced spouse must:
Have been married to you for at least 10 years
Not currently married
Be at least 62
Family Benefit Maximums and Rules
Each member of the family of someone getting SSDI benefits can qualify for a separate monthly payment equal to as much as 50% of the disabled person's benefit amount. So assuming a disabled person is receiving the 2021 average amount of $1,282.37, that person's child under 18 could receive $641.18 each month.
That can change, however, if a disabled person has more than one family member who qualifies to receive SSDI. That's because the Social Security Administration has a cap on the total SSDI benefits a family can receive. This cap is generally 150% of the disabled person's monthly SSDI benefit. However, it can go as high as 180% in some circumstances.
If a family's total SSDI benefits exceed the maximum percentage, then Social Security will reduce each person's payment to keep the total below the cap. The reductions are applied proportionately to each individual's benefit to get below the cap, except that the disabled parent's benefit is not reduced. This will reduce each family member's benefit below 50% of the disabled parent's benefit.
Benefit Qualifications for Specific Family Members
Now that we understand how much each family member might be entitled to, let's dive into how the benefits work for each type of family member who might be eligible.
Benefits for Surviving Spouses
Survivor benefits are available to widowed spouses, up to 99.6% of their deceased spouse's benefit. The surviving spouse must have reached the retirement age of 60, or 50 if they themselves are disabled. The individual can even apply for their deceased spouse's benefit at 60 and then apply for their own individual benefit at age 62 if they think that their work might benefit them with a larger amount.
Benefits for Divorced Spouses
If you were married to your spouse for a minimum of 10 years then you'll be eligible to receive up to 50% of your deceased spouse's benefit. A divorced spouse can even start receiving the benefit before their formal spouse starts taking the benefit for themselves. To receive the benefit, you'll need to be 62 years old or older. If you have not yet reached your normal retirement age then the divorce must be finalized for two or more years.
Benefits for Children and Grandchildren
Children can qualify as the survivor of a deceased worker or as a dependant of a living parent who receives disability benefits. To qualify the child must be under the age of 18, unmarried or disabled. The benefit is up to 50% of the parent's benefit if the parent is living, or up to 75% if the parent is deceased. Grandchildren can receive the same benefits if they become a dependent of their grandparent but great-grandchildren can't qualify for this benefit.
Benefits for Disabled Children
A disabled child can qualify for their own SSDI benefits even though they have no earnings record. The same goes for an adult child who becomes disabled before the age of 22. The process can be difficult, however, to qualify. Once approved, the disabled child can receive up to 50% of their parent's benefit.
Benefits for Dependant Parents
Some parents are dependant upon a child either physically, financially or both. The dependent parents of a deceased worker who is 62 years of age or older can receive up to 82.5% of the worker's benefit. If both parents fall into this category then the maximum drops to 75%.
SSDI can not only provide monthly financial assistance to workers who become disabled, but it can also pay benefits to their family members, especially if they become eligible because of a death on the job. Spouses and children are eligible to receive up to 50% of the monthly payment to disable parents, which averages $1,282.37 in 2021. The amount each family member can receive may be reduced, however, if the total benefit paid to the family comes to more than 150% of the disabled parent's benefit amount. Generally, you are not taxed on SSDI benefits.
Tips on Estate Planning
A financial advisor who specializes in Social Security Disability Insurance can help when applying for benefits. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you're ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
If you're planning for the future then it's a good time to think through how you can maximize your social security benefits.
Dealing with social security benefits can be complicated. Check out these ten other secrets you should know about social security.
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