Kotlikoff: What you should know about Social Security disability benefits

Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff writes a regular column answering questions about your Social Security benefits.


Sarah: I filled in that I have a disabled child on your Social Security calculator. My son receives Social Security Income but has earned over the SGA ​(substantial gainful activity ​amount)​ of $1,090​ per month about three times this year and may receive over this amount again. He works as a software tester with a company that trains and pays people with autism.

From reading your columns, am I correct to understand that he is permanently not entitled to the disabled child benefits when my husband or I file for retirement? If so, should I recompute the benefits by leaving my son off the calculation, as the maximized benefits are based on my and my son’s child-in-care benefits? I was trying to find the answer online, but it is so confusing. Thank you.

Larry Kotlikoff: I want to issue a general warning to you and other parents with disabled children. If your disabled children earn too much money, they can become ineligible to collect either child or child survivor benefits on your work record.

Parents with disabled children may feel that getting them to work and be independent is in their best interest. And it certainly is. But the Social Security system will penalize them, potentially big time, for the rest of their life if they earn a bit too much in a given year.

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Laurence Kotlikoff

Laurence Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version. His new book, “Get What’s Yours—the Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits,” (co-authored with Paul Solman and Making Sen$e Medicare columnist Phil Moeller) was published in February by Simon & Schuster.

Find a complete list of Kotlikoff’s columns here.


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