Family benefits based on work record

Farm Forum

Q: If a mother receives Social Security disability benefits, should her twelve year old son receive benefits, too?

A: Benefits to family members are usually, but not always, potentially payable if someone receives Social Security disability on their own work record. This can include benefits to children.

Family benefit amounts are based on the work record of the eligible disabled person. If this work record is very low, it is possible that no family benefits can be paid, even to otherwise eligible family members. This is not the usual situation but it does happen. Potential SSA disability family benefits are in the Disability Planner section at More about Social Security disability is also there.

When family benefits can be paid on behalf of a child, the Social Security Administration selects a person or organization, called a representative payee, to receive the funds. While a parent or family member with custody is preferred, another adult may be selected as payee. Even if a parent, the person or organization selected as representative payee must complete a payee application to help document that they understand how funds for the child are to be used and the various reporting requirements.

More about the representative payee role is on the SSA website at If unable to manage their funds, adults receiving Social Security benefits can also have a representative payee appointed.

Note that the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program does not include family benefits because SSI is only for the eligible person. SSI is an income-based program for people over age 65 and disabled adults or children that is administered by the Social Security Administration but very different from SSA benefits. Learn about SSI at

Q: Where can I learn what supplies Medicare will cover for my chronic condition?

A: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is the agency that runs Medicare so SSA employees can only answer very general coverage questions. However, the Medicare website,, has your information. On that homepage, use the coverage search tool or go to the What Medicare Covers section.

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at Read his online articles at