Your Child’s Benefits – Over 18 Years Old

Definition of Disability

When a child turns 18, Social Security uses a different definition of disability to figure out if a person is disabled. According to Social Security, a person over 18 is considered disabled if the person has a physical or mental impairment that:

  • Prevents the person from any substantial gainful activity (SGA), and that
  • Has lasted or can be expected to last for at least 12 months, or
  • Can be expected to result in death.

This means that the disability must prevent or have prevented the person from working and earning a certain amount of money for more than 12 months.

You can read about Social Security’s definition of disability for adults on the Social Security website.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

When a child who gets Supplemental Security Income (SSI) turns 18, Social Security re-evaluates the child’s eligibility using the adult definition of disability. This review is called an Age-18 Review or Age-18 Redetermination. If Social Security says that your child is not disabled during the Age-18 Review, your child may keep getting SSI payments by filing an appeal within 10 days with Social Security, asking that benefits continue. To learn more about SSI and find out how to apply for SSI and file any necessary appeals, read DB101's SSI article.

When your child turns 18 years old, Social Security does not count the income and assets of your child’s family when figuring out if your child is eligible for SSI. Often a child who was not eligible for SSI while under 18 will be eligible when turning 18.

However, SSI benefits can be reduced if your child is working, even part-time, or is saving for college.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

A child with a disability may start collecting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cash benefits if they are 18, and a parent is retired, disabled, or has died. These are SSDI benefits for adults who have been disabled since childhood. These benefits are also called “child’s” benefits because they are paid based on the parent’s past earnings. As long as your child is disabled, your child will continue getting SSDI “child” benefits. Your child does not need to have worked to get these benefits. You can read more about these benefits on this Social Security webpage.

Health Care Benefits

Unlike cash benefits, your child’s health care benefits will probably not change when your child turns 18. Even if your child starts working and earning more money than Medi-Cal allows, Social Security offers many programs that will let your child keep their health benefits. To read more about the different programs that Medi-Cal offers, click here.

If your child gets Medicare through SSDI, your child may continue to get it for up to 93 months (7 years, 9 months) after your child begins working and completes the 9 months of the Trial Work Period. Here’s the CDB work rulesPopup Link of how this works.

If your child has been covered by employer-sponsored medical insurance through your job, or by a private health insurance policy, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed in 2010, lets a child stay on the parent’s policy until the child is 26 years old. However, when your child turns 18 years old and has a pediatrician as the primary care physician, your child may need to change to another doctor who treats adults. Your child’s pediatrician can make recommendations of other doctors for you when this change is needed.