Social Security and Disabled Adult Child benefits: What to know

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My husband and I, both 61, are thinking about how our future retirements will affect our son. He’s 31 and has received Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and Medicaid since age 18. When we retire, we know he’ll qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare. But what happens to the services he now gets on SSI? Also, will he qualify for Medicare when we do at 65, even if we postpone Social Security until we’re 67?

Your son can claim SSDI — aka a Disabled Adult Child benefit — based on a parent’s work record when one of his parents applies for Social Security. Two years later, he’ll automatically qualify for Medicare even if you aren’t yet 65.

Taking Social Security early reduces your retirement benefit, but not your son’s Disabled Adult Child benefit. That’s 50% of the amount you’d receive at 67 (subject to a family maximum, which limits the total benefit amount based on one work record). For example, if your benefit at 67 is $1,000, your benefit at age 62 is only $700. But your son’s benefit is still $500.

His benefit can be based on either parent’s record. One parent could greenlight that benefit by taking Social Security early, while the other delays until age 67. If the second parent’s application means a bigger benefit for your son, he’ll start receiving the larger amount.

His current SSI benefit is based on financial need. Disabled Adult Child payments might disqualify him for SSI, which would automatically terminate his SSI-linked Medicaid coverage, said Vincent Russo, a Garden City elder law attorney. But by law, he’d still be Medicaid-eligible if his Disabled Adult Child benefit is all that disqualifies him for SSI. If so, his Medicaid benefits would be restored. Indeed, Russo added, depending on the variables involved, a person can receive SSDI, SSI, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

The bottom line:

To learn all the benefits available to your disabled child, visit your local Social Security office and consult an elder law attorney.

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