Understanding Disabled Adult Child’s Benefits: What Parents Of Autistic Children Need To Know

If you have an autistic child that has reached adulthood, it's important to learn more about disabled adult child's (DAC) benefits. This is a particular type of benefit that most people don't realize is available -- but with the increasing number of autistic children in the United States, it is a benefit that's going to have equally increasing importance as the parents of those children age and become eligible either for retirement benefits or disability benefits of their own. This is what you need to know.

1. The benefit is only available for disabled adults whose parents are on Social Security.

The only people who can receive DAC benefits are disabled adults who have a parent that is already on Social Security retirement or disability. In order to quality, however, the DAC must be 18-year-old or older, have a disability that began prior to age 22, and must never have been married. This is why it is likely to become increasingly important to autistic adults -- and their parents -- to know about the benefit. Since autism is a developmental disorder that starts in infancy or early childhood, many autistic children will go on to have significant disabilities as adults and remain dependant on their parents. DAC benefits allow the adult autistic to receive an income that can help with his or her support.

2. The benefit is not based on need.

Many parents of autistic children file for benefits when their children are younger and are told that they may meet the definition of "disabled" under Social Security's rules -- but they aren't eligible due to other rules that take into consideration the family finances. That's because, as a minor, your child was only eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). DAC benefits are not part of the SSI program -- so there is no financial test involved when it comes to determining eligibility. 

3. Supplemental Security Income may fill the gap.

What if neither you nor the DAC's other parent is disabled or old enough for retirement? In that case, Supplemental Security Income may be able to provide the adult autistic with an income until DAC benefits become available. This is important to remember because many working parents who try to file for disability benefits for an autistic child are denied based on the family's income alone. That family income stops being important once the autistic turns 18 -- but many parents don't realize that and don't attempt to collect SSI for their disabled child once the child becomes an adult.

Proving that your autistic child meets the requirements for Social Security's or Supplemental Security's disability programs can be difficult to do -- often, you have to obtain updated documentation and testing needs to be redone as an adult in order for it to be given much merit by the Social Security claims examiners. It can be a deeply frustrating experience. If you've already been denied, seek legal help from an attorney, such as at Waycaster & Allred, who understands what evidence Social Security needs to see in order to approve the claim.