Monday, July 09, 2012

The “Secret” Disability Program

Disabled Adult Child – someone who is disabled by Age 22

The two programs that come to mind when people think about Social Security Disability are Title II (“regular”) and SSI (needs-based).  But there is also another less-known program: Disabled Adult Child (DAC).
How does someone qualify for Disabled Adult Child benefits?  You need to prove to Social Security that the individual was disabled before his or her 22nd birthday.  You must also have a parent who is collecting Social Security Disability benefits, or a parent who is on SS retirement benefits or a parent that has deceased. This does not mean that the decision must be made by the 22nd birthday, but just that Social Security accepts that the disability existed by that time.
Why would someone want Disabled Adult Child benefits? In a situation where a claimant has worked in the past, the amount of his or her disability benefit is based on what they had earned. (This is the Title II program.) Where there are no earnings or limited earnings, benefits are based on financial need. (This is the SSI program.)  Younger people generally have no earnings or low earnings and so the cash amount of their disability benefits is low.
The DAC program calculates benefits based on a parent’s earnings.  In most situations, the dollar amount of benefits from a parent will be greater than the amount paid by the SSI program. Medicare (rather than Medicaid) is included under the DAC program, as well.
When can someone receive Disabled Adult Child benefits?  DAC benefits are paid when a parent qualifies for Social Security benefits (either through retirement or the parent’s own disability), or if the parent is deceased.  But this does not mean that people should wait to apply for disability benefits!  An individual should apply for disability benefits as early as possible.  Social Security will pay under the applicable program (Title II or SSI) until it is time to transfer the benefits to a DAC claim.
What should I do?
• Apply for disability benefits as soon as possible under all programs that you qualify for.
• Try to prove that you were disabled before you turned 22 years old. 
Use medical records, school records, and letters from relatives, friends and clergy/youth group leaders, employers or volunteer opportunity supervisors, etc. 
• Shortly before a parent retires, or when a parent begins receiving Social Security Disability benefits or dies, tell Social Security that you need to file a Disabled Adult Child’s Application. The Application is just a formality and does not involve as much paperwork as your first disability application. (You will need to know the Social Security number of your parent.)   Make sure to file a DAC Application as soon as you can. If you wait, you might not get all the benefits you are entitled to, since Social Security looks at the date of the Application when it processes payments.
By Risa Rohrberger, Esq.

Risa is an attorney at Kazmierczak & Kazmierczak, LLP. a Social Security Disability law firm.