Disability Benefits 101 – What Do We Mean When We Talk about Disability Benefits?

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Disability Benefits 101What Do We Mean When We Talk about Disability Benefits?


The term “cash benefits” most commonly refers to benefits paid by Social Security. The two cash benefits youth receive from Social Security are:

  1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  2. Title II benefits

1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits

The Social Security SSI benefit is for people who are elderly, blind or have a disability and who limited or no income.

SSI benefits provide cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. Eligibility is based on disability AND income and resources.

Youth vs. Adult SSI


For youth under age 18, the income and assets of a child and of the parent(s) they live with are used to determine eligibility for SSI. Using the parents’ income and assets is called deeming.

Benefits before age 18 (all ages before age 18)

Because the income and assets of parents count toward a child’s eligibility for SSI, here are some of the most important things families must report to Social Security:

  • Monthly wages and self-employment – more about work reporting.
  • Changes to child support paid into or out of the home
  • Income of all children in the home
  • Changes of household size like marriage, new children, or when someone moves out.
  • Address changes.

It’s always important to respond to requests from Social Security.

2. Title II Benefits

There are different types of Title II benefits and the benefits available differ based on a person’s age.

Before Age 18

The Title II benefits children may receive are called Auxiliary benefits.

Auxiliary benefits are for children who have a parent who has died, retired, or has a disability benefit.

The parent must be insured for Social Security based on their work history.

This benefit is paid to children until the age of 18 unless they are still in high school.  It is not based on disability. Even if the kid has a disability, this is not related to eligibility.  There is an income test, but it almost never comes up because of how high it is.


18 and Older

  • The rules change for this benefit:
    • The benefit becomes a Childhood Disability Benefit (CDB) after age 18. To be eligible, a person must have a disability determination.  Other rules too, but don’t know how deep to go?
    • At age 18, teens and adults can also become eligible for a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit if they have worked enough in the past.

Remember, if you or your child need help with navigating some of the decisions, reviewing information received from Social Security, or understanding how working impacts benefits, contact a benefits specialist to answer your questions.