How Social Security Helps Young People

3.2 Million Minor Children Got Average Benefit of $543 in 2013

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Social Security is for children, too. William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

People who think Social Security is all about helping retired senior citizens might be surprised to learn that the nation’s main federal benefit and assistance program protects and assists millions of children and young people even though they have never worked.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), about 3.2 minor children got an average of $534 a month in Social Security benefits in 2103 because one or both of their parents were disabled, retired, or deceased.

Also See: Should You Get Your Baby a Social Security Number?

In the event of the death, disability or retirement of a parent, Social Security provides the children with monthly benefits to help ensure the family’s financial stability.

According to the Social Security Administration, in 2013:

  • About 325,700 minor children of retired workers received an average benefit of $615 a month.
     
  • About 1.2 million children of deceased workers got an average benefit of $806 a month.
     
  • About 1.7 million children of disabled workers got an average benefit of $382 a month.

In addition to helping families of deceased, disabled or retired workers with the necessities of everyday life, Social Security benefits help make it possible for the children to complete high school. In 2013, for example, almost 150,000 high school students ages 18 and 19 got an average monthly benefit of $684.

And of course, the many young people who do work are protecting their own futures through their payments of Social Security tax.

Helping the Disabled “Adult Child”

According to the SSA, adults who become disabled before they reach age 22 may also be eligible to receive children’s Social Security benefits as an “adult child” – if – one or both of their parents is deceased or begins receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

An eligible “adult child,” as defined by the SSA, can also include adopted children, or, in some cases, a stepchild, grandchild, or step grandchild -- must be unmarried, be age 18 or older, and have a disability that started before reaching age 22.

Also See: Does Social Security Have a Future?

Benefits are paid even if the “adult child” has never worked, since SAA bases the amount of monthly benefits paid on parent’s earnings record.

In 2013, about 1 million disabled adult children were receiving an average monthly benefit of $735 each, according to the SSA.

Benefits for Disabled Minor Children: SSI

Long one of the mainstays of Social Security, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly benefit payments to the parents or legal guardians of disabled children less than 18 years of age.

No current or prior employment is required to qualify for SSI benefits. However, children younger than 18 must meet Social Security’s definition of disability for children, and their income and resources – if any – must be under eligibility limits.

Also See: How to Appeal a Social Security Decision

According to SSA, a child may be eligible for SSI disability benefits beginning as early as the date of birth, and there is no minimum age requirement.

SSA considers children under 18 to be “disabled” if they a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, (including an emotional or learning problem) that:

  • results marked and severe functional limitations; and
  • can be expected to result in death; or
  • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

In March 2014, about 1.3 million disabled children under age 18 received an average monthly SSI payment of $637.

Unlike other Social Security benefits, SSI benefits are funded by general funds from the U.S. Treasury generated by income taxes paid be individuals and corporations. Total SSI funding, along with maximum monthly amounts to be paid to SSI recipients, are set annually by Congress as part of the federal budget process. Unlike Social Security retirement benefits, SSI benefits are not taxable.