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Ask the Expert: Navigating Social Security with a disabled adult child

I'm 60 years old and my husband is 57. Our daughter, who's been disabled from birth, lives with us. I'm told that she will qualify to collect half of my Social Security as a disabled adult child. Is this correct? Will she then be eligible for Medicare, too? Must we be her legal guardians for her to collect on my Social Security benefit? And if we die, would her benefit continue?

Half my benefit would be higher than half my husband's benefit. If he retires early, can our daughter collect on his Social Security and switch to mine after I retire? Finally, could I apply early say at 62 so that she can collect, then suspend my Social Security?

Your daughter will be entitled to a Disabled Adult Child (or DAC) benefit when you apply for Social Security retirement benefits, and two years later she'll automatically be enrolled in Medicare.

Yes, she could receive a DAC benefit based on her father's work record, and later switch to one based on your record, if that results in a higher benefit for her, says Linda Lauria, a Social Security Administration spokeswoman. You don't need to be her legal guardians for her to collect her DAC benefit.

Filing and suspending your Social Security application isn't an option. But a disabled adult child's benefit is 50 percent of the benefit amount her parent would receive at full retirement age, even if the parent files for Social Security early. In other words, although your benefit would be reduced if you applied at 62, your daughter's would not be.

At your death, her DAC benefit increases to 75 percent of your full retirement age benefit.

The bottom line

An adult disabled child can qualify for Social Security and Medicare based on her parent's record.

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