Last month we began our blog series about dependent benefits, starting with an overview of who qualifies as a dependent and how any dependents would impact your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application. Up next, we will be discussing what dependent benefits are and how to file for them!
What are “dependent benefits?”
As a claimant who is awarded SSDI benefits, you receive a monthly monetary payment from Social Security to care for your needs, pay bills, and handle any other monthly expenses. While the amount you receive may cover all your needs as an individual, if you have dependent children or parents then there may be a gap between your monthly income and the costs of your family’s basic needs. This is where “dependent benefits,” “child’s benefits,” or “parent’s benefits” come in.
In addition to the monthly SSDI benefit that you receive after Social Security awards your claim, any eligible dependents you have may also be entitled to receive up to half of your monthly benefit per month, split between all eligible dependents. For example, if your monthly benefit is $1,200.00 (making half of your monthly benefit $600.00) and you have two children under the age of 18, each of them could be eligible to receive an additional $300.00 per month — bringing the total paid to your family up to $1,800.00 per month. These benefits can be used to provide for the needs of the child(ren) or parents in your care and help pay any expenses surrounding their welfare.
How do I get dependent benefits from Social Security?
As we mentioned in our previous post, you should let the Social Security Administration (SSA) know about any dependents you may have when you file for benefits. This protectively files their application for benefits. When you are awarded SSDI benefits, you can begin the process of formally filing for dependent benefits. You can contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to set up a time to complete a dependent interview once you have received one of the following items:
- Your Notice of Award
- Past-due benefit lump sum (covering all the time that Social Security deemed you have been disabled)
- Your first monthly benefit payment from Social Security
The dependent interview can take place over the phone or in person at any SSA office. The interview consists of a few questions to complete an application for the child(ren) or parent(s) in question and confirm that they would be eligible for benefits. A few key documents are needed to apply for dependent benefits, including:
- The child(ren)’s birth certificate(s)
- Social Security numbers of the child(ren) and parents involved.
- If a child is nearing age 18, or was at any point during your past-due benefit timeframe, Social Security will request a document be completed confirming the child was/is still in high school.
After all the necessary documentation is received, Social Security will upload the application to their systems and award each child and parent as appropriate. Each eligible dependent will receive a Notice of Award that mirrors yours, as well as a lump sum payment. Depending on the age of the child(ren), the Notice of Award may indicate they will continue to receive benefits going forward as well. The process is much simpler than any application you may have to go through to be approved SSDI benefits, and should be approved within a matter of weeks.
It important to remember that if a child is over the age of 18, Social Security will require speaking with them for at least a portion of the dependent interview application. You may still begin the process of the application in this case, but if the child is legally an adult, then he/she must close out the application process with Social Security directly.
We know that dependent benefits can seem like another overwhelming aspect of the SSDI process, but if you do have children or parents who depend on your income, filling out the application is a very important step for you. As we mentioned in our previous post, listing all of your potential children (even if you aren’t sure they qualify as a dependent) on the initial application when first filing for SSDI benefits is very important. Additionally, you must also complete (or at least begin) the dependent interview process within six months of the date on your Notice of Award (or Notice of Decision if your claim was awarded On-The-Record or at the Hearing or Appeals Council level). If this is not done, any dependent past-due benefits will be forfeited, and they can only be paid up to one year prior from when the application for dependent benefits is filed.
We hope this series continues to be a helpful one. Please be sure to stay tuned for next month, when we finish up our series surrounding dependent benefits by answering key questions surrounding the importance of receiving these benefits!
Nothing in this post is intended as advice or a suggestion to elect or not elect to claim benefits of any kind, including Social Security benefits, nor is it intended as financial advice in any way. The decision to claim benefits is a personal one that is contingent upon each individual’s unique circumstances.