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Disability benefits: not just for disabled workers

A serious injury or illness doesn't just affect the person with the condition; it also affects that person's spouse, children and other immediate family members who share a home with or depend on that person.

There are physical, emotional and financial adjustments that must be made by several parties when someone is mentally or physically disabled, and these adjustments aren't made overnight. Bills can start piling up without the income of a disabled worker; family members may need to help a loved one care for themselves or have workers in the home to provide care; the stress, fear and frustration of the situation can be overwhelming for everyone involved. Because of how an injury affects others, there are benefits available to certain family members.

The Social Security Administration allows children, spouses and other dependents to receive benefits when a loved one is disabled and also qualifies for these benefits. For example, if you have recently suffered a disabling injury or illness, here is what your family members may be able to expect.

  • Children: Children who are unmarried and under 18 or a full-time student (in either secondary or elementary school) can collect benefits. They may also be eligible for benefits if they also have a disability that started before the age of 22. Generally speaking, a child can collect about half of the amount of your benefits, though there is a limit on overall benefits that family members can collect in total.
  • Spouses: If your spouse is at least 62 years old and does not already collect a higher benefit, he or she may be eligible for benefits if you are disabled. At any age, your spouse can collect benefits if he or she is caring for a child under the age of 16.
  • Others: Benefits may also be available to ex-spouses, widows or widowers, adult children and caretakers in some cases, though there are certain factors that must be considered.

Whether you are disabled or have a loved one who is disabled, you need to understand if benefits are available to other people in your family and how to pursue them. This can be possible with the help and guidance of an attorney who understands the Social Security disability system and how to navigate it.

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