If you’re the relative of an individual with special needs, that person may be eligible for government benefits. However, many of these options are often confusing. Some families believe their relative or child is not eligible for benefits, or that everyone is turned down the first time they apply. While the process of applying for these benefits can be arduous, they are worth looking into.
Here is a brief explanation of government benefits that your loved one may or may not become eligible for, but you may want to investigate:
- SSI – Supplemental Security Income. A Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). Its purpose is to help the aged, blind and disabled who have little or no income. It currently provides a maximum of $698* per month to be used for basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Not everyone receives the same amount. The assets an individual or family can own are limited, in order to qualify for this benefit. Basically, the allowable assets for a person applying are a home, one car, a pre-paid funeral, and $2,000. Of course, understanding what is an asset is important, as well as which is the appropriate asset for your own family member to own.
- SSDI – Social Security Disability Insurance. Social Security Disability Insurance is a federal cash benefit that may be available if a person is disabled. It pays benefits to the individual and certain members of the individual’s family if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. Social Security statements can be obtained via the Internet at http://ssa.gov/mystatement.
- Medicare – A federal health insurance program. Medicare is for people 65 years of age or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure with dialysis or a transplant). Medicare does not cover everything, and it does not pay the total cost for most services or supplies that are covered.
- Medicaid – This program provides medical assistance for certain individuals and families with low incomes and resources. Medicaid eligibility is limited to individuals who fall into specific categories. Although the Federal government establishes general guidelines for the program, the Medicaid program requirements are actually established by each state. In addition to paying for some medical services and prescriptions, Medicaid may also pay for residential facilities, workshops and other programs. This program has asset limitations similar to the SSI limitations.
When exploring government benefit options, it’s important to evaluate your family member’s entire picture and take a few more things into consideration:
- If you are dealing with a child at this time, what do you see for him/her in the future? Supported employment? Workshop employment? Residential living?
- Does your existing health insurance remain in effect when your child turns 21 and is no longer a full time student?
- What assets are presently in your relative’s name? Example: savings bonds, life insurance, stocks, mutual funds, homes, etc.
- Is there a possibility of inheriting any money or assets?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can then look at what benefits he/she may be eligible to receive and how to best position his/her assets and income.
*SSI Award is effective through 12/31/2012. Refer to Social Security and Medicaid Benefits for the most current data.