Social Security eligibility for applicants disabled under age 22

Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are an invaluable resource for individuals who develop a disabling disease or condition that prevents them from being gainfully employed. SSD provides beneficiaries with the income they need to provide for a basic standard of living, so that they can focus their energy on taking care of their health.

In addition to proving disability, SSD applicants are generally required to show that they have accrued sufficient "work credits" to qualify for the program. The number of work credits required varies depending on age. Most adults over the age of 31 will need to show that they worked at least five of the last 10 years before the disability started. Younger applicants will have shorter work requirements.

This requirement can be troublesome, though, for people who become disabled at a relatively young age. Oftentimes they have not had a chance to spend a significant amount of time in the workforce before their disability makes it too difficult to hold gainful employment. For this reason, the Social Security Administration uses special eligibility rules for adults who become disabled before age 22.

Qualifying on a parent's record

In most cases, individuals who become disabled before age 22 can qualify for SSD benefits based on their parent's work records. Although the qualifying "parent" is usually a biological or adoptive parent, individuals may also be able to qualify for benefits based on the work record of a stepparent or grandparent.

The most common situation in which this issue arises involves individuals who became disabled in childhood and qualified for benefits as a dependent. These benefits generally stop at age 18, at which point the individual must find a way to qualify as an adult. Although disability as a child is not necessarily required, the disability must have arisen before age 22. In addition, the beneficiary must be unmarried in order to qualify on a parent's record.

There is no requirement for the beneficiary to have ever worked. Beneficiaries are permitted to work if they want to, however they may not have "substantial earnings." In 2013, the income limit for qualifying for benefits is $1,040 per month.

Proving disability

Like all SSD applicants, adults who are seeking benefits on a parent's work record must show that they meet the SSA's definition of "disabled." In addition to proving that their disability prevents substantial gainful employment, applicants must show that their condition is either expected to last at least a year or result in death.

If you are applying for SSD benefits and have questions or concerns about the process, you may find it helpful to consult with an attorney. If your application has been denied, an experienced disability attorney can help you appeal the denial and fight for benefits.