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An adult disabled before age 22 may be eligible for child’s benefits if a parent is deceased, or receives Social Security retirement or disability benefits. The SSA considers this a “child’s” benefit because it is paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. Here is the disability page on the SSA website (scroll down to the section entitled “Adults with a Disability that Began Before Age 22”).

The DAC benefit is almost always higher than the disability benefit based upon the claimant’s own limited work record, and the DAC benefit is more favorable than SSI. The monthly benefit is likely to be higher, and disability comes with Medicare insurance coverage. Further, disability recipients are not penalized if they are able to earn some income each month to supplement their disability check (keep it under SGA), unlike SSI recipients. 

To qualify, the “adult child” must be:

  • unmarried,
  • age 18 or older, and
  • have a disability that started before age 22.

The parent must be disabled, retired, or deceased.

The SSA makes the disability determination using the usual adult disability process.

Sometimes a change in status of a parent makes the child eligible. Suppose a son has been on SSI since age 20, and is now 25. The parent retires or dies. Now the son is eligible for DAC benefits.

Alternatively, a child on childhood SSI, who ages out from that program after age 18, may be eligible for DAC rather than adult SSI, if there is a parent with a work record who is disabled, retired, or deceased.