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An overview of children's Social Security benefits

More than 4 million children in the United States receive monthly Social Security benefits of $2.5 billion. These may be due to the disability, death or retirement of a parent. However, Missouri residents may be surprised to know that many eligible people are missing benefits. The most common benefit that people are aware of is that for surviving children when a parent dies. However, with issues such as parental retirement and disability benefits, awareness is much more limited about the eligibility for related spousal and child benefits.

Several rules of eligibility are in place for a child to receive parental retirement or disability benefits through Social Security. A child must be unmarried and under the age of 18. A student may receive the benefits at age 19 if still attending secondary school through grade 12, but this exemption does not apply for college studies. A disabled child whose disability began prior to the age of 22 may also qualify for such benefits. If these conditions are met when a parent applies for retirement or disability benefits, the eligible child may qualify to receive 50 percent of the parental benefit. In cases involving multiple children, the total family benefit is limited to between 150 and 180 percent of the parental benefit.

Spousal benefits may also be affected when children are involved. An early application for spousal benefits at age 62 would provide 35 percent of the primary benefit whereas at full retirement age, the spousal benefit would be 50 percent. However, a spouse who cares for a disabled child or a child under the age of 16 may obtain full benefits without any limitations on the spouse's age.

A family dealing with the Social Security Administration and seeking benefits for retirement or disability may find the assistance of legal counsel helpful. This may ensure that maximum benefits are sought based on a family's composition.

Source: Marketwatch, "Social security benefits for kids", Stephen Williams, June 26, 2014

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