Ask Larry

Is It True That The Work My Son Did When He Was 30 Will Prevent Him From Qualifying For Disabled Adult Child Benefits?

Hi, my son is 36 and has cerebral palsy since birth. It severely affects his ability to use both arms and hands and has overall general fatigue/weakness. He also has neck and back pain documented and treated since age 10 or so. We have never applied for SS for him because he wanted to work. He had one job when he was 20-21 earning well below the SGA. When he was 30, a family friend got him a hired at an automotive plant, he tried very hard and had to have reduced hours and responsibilities but was able to work for about a year before getting hurt and eventually had to leave. He earned more than the SGA during his year there. I'm retiring and want to apply for DAC benefits but since he worked that one year I fear he's no longer eligible. Is this correct, even if his condition meets the SSA's definition and it's a documented condition he was born with? I feel so stupid for not applying when he was 18 but we just didn't know.


I'm sorry to hear about your son's health problems. Unfortunately, you're likely correct that if your son earned more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit after turning age 22 on a job that lasted for more than 6 months, he probably won't be able to qualify for disabled adult child's (DAC) benefits. It wouldn't have done any good for him to have applied at age 18, though, unless he could have qualified for benefits at that time. And, in order to qualify for DAC benefits, at least one of his parent's must either be deceased or drawing Social Security disability or retirement benefits.

Probably the only way that your son could qualify for DAC benefits when you file for your benefits is if you can establish that the true value of his past work was below SGA level even though he was paid more than that. Employees are sometimes paid more than the true value of their services when special circumstances are involved, and such 'extra' wages are referred to as a subsidy. If you think that your son's earnings were subsidized, you'll want to be sure to point that fact out to Social Security if and when your son files for DAC benefits. You may want to try reading the following reference from Social Security's operations manual to get an idea of circumstances that indicate the involvement of a subsidy:

Also, before filing for your benefits you may want to strongly consider using our software to explore and compare your filing options in order to determine your best strategy for claiming your benefits.

Best, Jerry

Mar 3 2019 - 8:38am
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