Social Security benefits for a disabled child

Isaias – Florida: I’ll be 67 in a few months, and read somewhere that for me the retirement age is 67. Is this correct? I have a 13-year-old child with Down syndrome. I make too much money to get help with his care but wondered if I might get Social Security for him? I work for a large company and would like to keep working; my wife is 52 and does not work.

Phil Moeller: As far as retiring at 67, there really is no formal retirement age, unless your employer has a mandatory retirement policy. There is, however, an important date in terms of Social Security rules that might affect you.

It’s called “full retirement age.” It is 66 for someone born between 1943 and 1954, and rises to 67 in two-month increments before reaching 67 for someone born in 1960 or later. Once someone has reached full retirement age, any Social Security benefits they receive would not be reduced by Social Security’s earnings test, which limits benefits for wage earners who have not yet reached full retirement age.

This is important to you because once you’ve filed for your own Social Security benefit, you are eligible to apply for a benefit for your disabled child that he will receive for the rest of his life. This benefit should equal half of your age-67 benefit, so it might provide a lot of help. And when you pass away, the benefit will rise to 75 percent.

While your child can be eligible for a maximum child benefit once you turn 67 and file for your own Social Security, your benefit will not reach its maximum until you turn 70. If you wait that long, it will be 32 percent larger than your age-66 benefit.

Because your son is disabled, he is eligible for a child benefit for the rest of his life. Waiting until 70 to file would deny him a child benefit until then but getting 32 percent more in your payment could be worth a lot to you and especially to your wife. Once you die, she would get that payment as a survivor benefit. Because she does not work and is much younger than you, having that extra 32 percent every month might mean a great deal to her future financial health.