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Adopted children can receive Social Security benefits

Q: Can my adopted child receive Social Security survivor benefits from my deceased spouse?

A: Perhaps. Did your spouse adopt the child too? Assuming that the deceased had worked enough to be insured for Social Security survivor benefits, his or her adopted child can be eligible for survivor benefits.

Once the parent-child relationship is established, benefits to all children are substantially the same. An exception is for benefits to a stepchild if the parent and stepparent divorce. The child must be unmarried, under age 18, age 18-19 (approximately) and a full-time student no higher than grade 12, or became severely disabled before age 22.

Adopted child eligibility largely depends on state law. A parent-child relationship is established when the adoption is effective under State law and an adoption must be valid under the law of the State or foreign country where it took place.

If not adopted by your spouse, the child could potentially receive survivor benefits as his or her stepchild. Contact Social Security to discuss your situation. See Benefits For Children, at

Q: Can children work while receiving Social Security?

A: Yes. Under the annual earnings test, children can be employed and receive Social Security benefits just as adults can.

The earnings test applies whether receiving as the child of a retired or disabled parent or as a surviving child, unless the child is disabled. Since the child is younger than his or her own full retirement age, once earnings reach an annual limit there will be a benefit reduction to that child of one dollar for every two earned above the limit. This limit is $14,640 in 2012.

Only gross wages and net income from self-employment apply towards the annual earnings test. Details are in How Work Affects Your Benefits at

Whether adult or child, annual earnings test amounts apply individually to those receiving benefits. For example, assume two children receive benefits. In 2012, each can individually earn up to $14,640 before benefits to that specific child are reduced.

Q: I receive SSA retirement and work a part-time job. I reported my estimated earnings to Social Security but I am working fewer hours than expected, and will earn less for the year. Can I change my estimate now?

A: Yes. Update your 2012 earnings estimate with Social Security if your original estimate is no longer accurate. This question refers to the annual earnings test. Your own earnings from gross wages or net self-employment can reduce the amount of SSA benefits payable to you during a year until you reach full retirement age (FRA).

Annual earnings test amounts involved vary with your age. Details are at

See also "How Work Affects Your Benefits" (SSA publication 05-10069) at or from any SSA office.

If your current estimated earnings for 2012 are higher than originally expected, updating your estimate now can help prevent or reduce the chance of your being incorrectly paid and needing to return benefits to Social Security. If your current estimate is lower than originally expected, updating your estimate now can help release any withheld benefits to you faster.

You can revise your earnings estimate up or down as needed during the year. Keeping your earnings estimate current helps ensure accurate payments but you will probably still need to report your actual earnings at the end of the year.

Pensions, investment income and other non-wage or self-employment earnings are not included for earnings test purposes.

People receiving disability benefits do not have an earnings test and should contact Social Security to learn about available incentives if returning to work.

Immediately as they occur is the best time to report changes to Social Security. Important changes include your address, earnings or change in marital status.