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Caring for a child with special needs requires many resources, one of which may be Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
When a parent of a child with special needs retires and begins receiving Social Security retirement benefits, the child may qualify for SSDI. A lesser known provision in the Social Security regulation allows the spouse of the retiree to also receive Social Security benefits regardless of whether they are of retirement age or not—so long as they are caring for the child with special needs at home.
Take Bob and Cathy for example. Bob and Cathy have a son, Michael. Michael developed a disability prior to age 22. Bob is now ready to retire and join Cathy at home, taking care of Michael. Michael will begin to receive SSDI benefits upon Bob’s retirement. Cathy is 55—not yet of full retirement age—but since she is caring for Michael at home, she may begin to receive spousal Social Security benefits.
However, Cathy, receiving additional benefits, will raise the family benefit level beyond the Social Security’s limit. As a result, the child’s (Michael’s) benefit will be reduced. Even though it will cause a reduction in the child’s SSDI benefit, the combined benefits between child and parent will result in an additional benefit of over $500 per month. Over the next 7 years—from when Bob began taking Social Security benefits to when Cathy reaches age 62—the family will receive over $48,000 in additional benefits.
According to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) website, in order for a parent to receive benefits in this situation, the parent must exercise parental control and responsibility for a mentally-disabled child. The benefits can also be received if the parent performs personal services for a child who is physically disabled.
If the parent is already receiving spousal benefits before the child turns 16, the SSA will most likely inform the parent of this opportunity. However, if the parent is not receiving these benefits, it is important to contact the SSA when the retiring parent applies for Social Security.
Since special needs planning can be complex, it is advised to contact an attorney who specializes in special needs planning. After all, we would not want one mistake to result in a significant reduction in Social Security benefits. Contact us today with questions or comments.
Russo Law Group, P.C.
100 Quentin Roosevelt Blvd., Suite 102
Garden City, NY 11530