Disabled adult children


This morning, while reading a release linked from Recovery.gov, I ran across one of those government terms that make no sense. As part of the stimulus efforts, the Railroad Retirement Board, an independent agency that manages federal benefits for railroad retirees and their dependents (more details on why this board exists here) will send additional checks of $250 to most of its beneficiaries, “including disabled adult children.”

A disabled adult child is a dependent of a railroad pensioner–or Social Security beneficiary–who, because of his disability, is eligible to continue receiving his benefits based on his parent’s or parents’ earnings after their deaths. The Social Security Administration defines the term this way: “An adult disabled before age 22 may be eligible for child’s benefits if a parent is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits. We consider this a “child’s” benefit because it is paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record.”

There must be better ways of describing this–disabled child adult at least acknowledges that the individual is an adult rather than a child, while the slightly longer “eligible adult disabled in childhood” would seem even more precise, until we recall that 22 is the upper limit of childhood–when children are eligible to marry, vote, borrow, drink, smoke or even join the military.