SSDI Dependents

Attention Caregivers:
SSDI Benefits For Dependents With
Special Needs May Not Last Forever!

Caregivers of dependents with special needs who receive Social Security Disability Income
(SSDI) benefits must fully understand the nature, scope and duration of these benefits to
effectively plan for the financial future of their dependent. When SSDI benefits are payable
based on a parent’s working record to their adult dependent with special needs, the Social
Security Administration (SSA) considers this type of benefit as a “child’s” benefit. It is this form
of eligibility that this article will address.

Many caregivers do not understand how this type of SSDI benefit works, and make incorrect
planning assumptions - which could be disastrous for their dependent. Often caregivers assume
that the benefits will last forever, when in fact, they could be reduced and even be stopped by
the SSA. Plans put in place by caregivers could be derailed, short-circuited and fall short of
expectations. Without a clear understanding of SSA benefits and payments, caregivers may not
be able to effectively plan for the financial future of their dependent with special needs.
An adult dependent may be eligible to receive SSDI payments from their parent’s working
record based on their own disability or blindness if certain requirements are met. The parent
must have contributed into the Social Security system a minimum number of qualifying quarters
and some of those taxes must have been paid in recent years. Even then, their dependent is
only eligible to receive SSDI payments if their parent is receiving Social Security disability or
retirement benefits or is deceased.

Next, the dependent must be over the age of 18. Their disability must have occurred before the
age of 22 – which, coincidentally, is the age that a disability must have manifested itself by to be
considered a “developmental disability” by the federal government’s standards. The dependent
cannot be performing any “substantial work” (per definition by the SSA) and must have a
medical condition that has lasted or is expected either to last for at least 12 months or to result
in death. Typically, they must also be single, or married to another social security beneficiary.
SSDI benefits can also be payable to adults who received dependent benefits based on their
parents’ Social Security earnings record prior to the age of 18.
After receiving twenty-four months of SSDI payments, the recipient will become eligible to
receive Medicare Part A hospital insurance benefits, which are premium-free. They will also be
eligible to purchase Part B supplementary medical insurance and Part D voluntary prescription
drug benefits at that time.


SSDI benefit payments made to the dependent are based upon the average monthly indexed
earnings of the wage earning caregiver and reflect that caregiver’s actual contributions into the
system. Since a limited amount of contributions were made into the system, the SSA calculates
the family maximum that can be paid out to the family as a whole.
For example, if the dependent is eligible for SSDI benefits based on their caregiver’s disability,
the family’s maximum monthly benefit can be no more than 150% of the caregiver’s Primary
Insurance Amount (PIA.) The former wage earning caregiver receives his own full benefit, and
any eligible dependents must divide the balance between them, though not necessarily evenly.
Payments to eligible dependents are reapportioned when other dependents are added or
removed, which can create problems for your loved one. This reapportionment could occur
when the caregiver’s spouse reaches retirement age and they draw on the system or the
caregiver leaves behind a widow(er) who is also eligible to receive their benefits.
Therefore, as earlier mentioned, SSDI payments to the dependent with special needs can be
decreased, modified and even stopped. If the SSA determines the parent’s disability has ended
and they are not of Social Security retirement age, the dependent’s SSDI benefit will terminate,
as well, if being paid as a result of their dependent status. This could leave your loved one with
inadequate funds and potential loss of accompanying Medicare coverage. Long-term planning
goals may not be achieved.

Caregivers of dependents with special needs receiving SSDI payments cannot assume that
these benefits will continue uninterrupted throughout their dependent’s lifetime. Caregiver’s
must contact the Social Security Administration and determine if there will ever be a benefit
reduction or elimination at any point in their dependent’s future. Additional special needs
planning can then be undertaken to offset the effects of these potential changes.
Due to the complexity of federal and state laws, you may need to seek advice from your own
legal counsel and also work with a specially trained professional who can help you plan for the
future of your dependent with special needs.

SpecialCare is a program created by MassMutual that provides access to information, specialists and financial solutions to people with disabilities and their families. For more information about
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and its SpecialCare program, please visit
The Special Care Planner title is used by MassMutual financial professionals who have received
advanced training and information in estate and tax planning concepts, special needs trusts, government programs, and the emotional dynamics of working with people with disabilities and other special needs and their families.

The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. Individuals involved in the estate planning process should work with an estate planning team,
including their own personal legal or tax counsel.

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