August 14, 1935 marks the day Social Security came into existence. The original Social Security Act of 1935 did not provide for dependent or survivor benefits, but a 1939 amendment to the Social Security Act added these two categories. With regard to minor children, the Social Security Administration reports they now provide about $1.6 billion to 3.8 million qualifying children.
The first requirement is that the child is either your biological or adopted child, or a dependent stepchild or grandchild. In the case of a dependent stepchild, Social Security regulation J 600 requires proof that you provide at least one-half the support for the dependent child. In the case of a dependent grandchild, Social Security regulation J 700 states the child must live with you or you must prove you provide at least half the support for the child.
Additional requirements include a set of criteria for both you and each minor child. One parent must be retired or disabled and meet general eligibility requirements for Social Security benefits. Alternatively, if one parent dies, he or she must have enough credits earned by paying Social Security taxes to qualify for benefits. The Social Security Administration bases the number of credits required on the age of the parent at the time of death.
For your child to be eligible, his marital status must be single and he must be under the age of 18, or age 18 to 19 if still a full-time high school student.
In addition to providing your Social Security card, you will need cards for each minor child--if they don't have them, you can apply for them at the time you request benefits. In addition, you need the child’s birth certificate and supporting documentation, such as the parent’s death certificate or your child’s medical records.
Benefits for minor children depend on the benefit amount you qualify for, the way your child becomes eligible and how many children receive benefits. One child can receive up to 50 percent of your retirement or disability benefit, or up to 75 percent of your retirement benefit if you die. Families with more than one child cannot receive in total more than 150 to 180 percent of the determined benefit amount.
Minor children do not directly receive monthly benefit checks. Until your child reaches the age of 18, monthly benefits go to the remaining parent or legal guardian on behalf of the child. If your child works, monthly benefit payments depend on how much your child earns.
If your minor child has a functional disability, she may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income benefits if she comes from a low income family. Eligibility is not automatic, however, and requires an extensive investigation, followed by a review and final decision. The Social Security Administration defines a disabled child as one having a condition that limits activity and a diagnosis that this condition will continue for at least one year or will result in death.