Can Mother of Disabled 15-Year-Old Continue to Receive Social Security Caretaker Benefits When He Turns 16?
My son and I both receive SSDI survivor’s benefits from my deceased ex husband (neither remarried and my son is his only child). My son is 15 and my benefits will stop when he turns 16. I was once told (by a Social Security representative) that my benefits might continue if my son is special needs. He has a rare genetic disorder that causes learning disabilities, autism, and high anxiety (diagnosed). I have called SSA twice since and have been told that there is no program to continue my benefit until he is 18 (at which time he will go on disability) even though I was told there was an existing program benefit. I have now received a letter stating that my benefits could continue (if my child is disabled) while the SSA representative on the telephone still tells me there is no benefit. I’m completely confused.
I am sorry to hear you received contradictory advice from different Social Security Administration (SSA) representatives. I know firsthand how frustrating that can be.
The short answer to your question is that you can collect after your son turns 16 if he is disabled. The SSA will determine whether your son is disabled and if so, will continue paying you mother’s benefits after he turns 16. So the local SSA local office staff person you spoke to was correct, and the SSA national call center was wrong.
The confusion was probably due to the fact that your son can continue receiving survivor’s benefits until he turns 18 (19 if he is still in high school) whether or not he is disabled. It is only at 18 that he has to prove disability if he want benefits to continue. But if the child’s parent is receiving parental benefits which ordinarily stop when the child turns 16, the SSA will have to make the childhood disability determination at that time, rather than two years later, when the child turns 18.
In other words, while your son normally has to switch to receiving benefits based on his disability at age 18, in your case he needs to do so two years early so that you can continue to receive the parental benefits after age 16. The two benefits—survivorship and disability—just don’t seem to mesh very well.
I suggest that you write a letter to your local Social Security Field Office advising them that your son’s 16th birthday is approaching, but that he is disabled and you would like the SSA to do a childhood disability review to confirm your continued eligibility for mother’s benefits. If the local SSA staff are not familiar with this option, you may want to direct them to their own internal operations manual provision governing this situation—POMS DI 11020.06B (https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0411020060).
This response is provided by Mark Bronstein, Esq., who has been representing individuals in disability-related matters since 1980. In addition to Social Security disability and retirement claims, he handles claims under private and group disability insurance plans and also consults with individuals who have chronic or progressive illnesses and are “still working but worried.” In addition to representing individuals, he regularly consults with other attorneys on complex cases, and provides training and support to legal, chronic illness, and provider organizations. He is based in Newton, Massachusetts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-244-5551.