Navigating government benefits for special needs financial planning can be overwhelming – especially with so many different requirements. Even so, these benefits provide valuable resources and can serve as the foundation of your broader special needs financial plan.
The government benefits available to you or your loved one can be classified into four main categories:
- Income benefits
- Medical and healthcare benefits
- Residential and housing benefits
- Educational and vocational benefits
Administered by the Social Security Administration, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are two of the largest income assistance programs, and it’s possible to receive both benefits at the same time if eligible.
SSI provides income benefits to your loved one with qualifying special needs or disabilities if they fall below a certain income level. To qualify for SSI, their resources cannot be more than $2,000, and their monthly income generally cannot exceed the Substantial Gainful Activity income limits.
SSDI offers income benefits for people with special needs or disabilities who have a work history and have contributed to Social Security – but have been unable to work for a minimum of a year. After your loved one with special needs has received SSDI for two years, they may be eligible for Medicare.
Did you know? If a child’s parents retire, become disabled or deceased, the child can qualify for SSDI based upon the parents’ lifetime earnings.
Medical and healthcare benefits
If you care for a loved one with disabilities or special needs, Medicare and Medicaid are two different government-operated programs designed to help cover all or a portion of their healthcare costs.
Medicare is a federal program for people with disabilities, those 65 and older as well as those under age 65 with End-Stage Renal Disease. Keep in mind that if under age 65, your loved one must receive SSDI for more than 24 months to be eligible.
Medicaid, on the other hand, is a federally-funded, state-administered health insurance program for low-income individuals. As a means-tested benefit, Medicaid is offered to those whose income fall below a certain level. In contrast, Medicare is an entitlement offered to anyone who meets the eligibility requirements.
Residential and housing solutions
Part of creating a lifetime of care includes having short- and long-term housing solutions for your loved one. Whether they require around-the-clock care or occasional task-based assistance, there are multiple programs available:
- Medicaid offers waiver programs that may cover long-term care needs, including senior housing for qualified individuals as well as in-home and long-term personal care.
- Section 8 vouchers may allow your loved one with mild special needs to live independently in a community. This housing option subsidizes rent based on a sliding scale that considers family size and income.
- Group or assistive living homes are designed for more intensive special needs. These housing solutions may offer counselors who help residents become more independent.
- Skilled nursing facilities are available if your loved one requires around-the-clock care. In many cases, those with limited assets can qualify for skilled nursing facility assistance through Medicaid.
Educational and vocational training
Early intervention programs offer special accommodations for your loved one’s educational and vocational needs through Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 Rehabilitation Act.
IDEA ensures appropriate educational services are offered to children with special needs or disabilities. IDEA covers kids from infancy through 21 or graduation of high school — whichever comes first. This legislation is broken up in two different sections:
- Part C of IDEA is for the early intervention of babies and toddlers with special needs.
- Part B of IDEA provides special education and related services to school-aged children between the ages of 3 and 22.
Children who are not eligible for IDEA may qualify for support through the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Under Section 504, school districts must offer students with special needs a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in their jurisdiction. This education must be delivered in a manner equivalent to the way students without disabilities are educated.
Did you know the definition of a disability is much broader under Section 504 than it is under IDEA?
Laying the foundation for the quality of life you envision for your loved one should begin with strategic government benefits planning.
Connect with a trusted financial advisor to learn more.
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