A special needs child requires special consideration when estate planning. You'll need to assess how…
Special needs individuals have access to a number of federal programs and services. These programs are vital to parents and guardians supporting loved ones with disabilities. Parents raising children with special needs require nearly twenty percent more income annually to care for their child, with that cost often going into the child’s adulthood.
The highest indirect cost of raising a child with special needs is income lost when a parent must remain in the home to provide their care. Government financial assistance programs can partly offset these extra costs and potential lost income and provide tax breaks for parents. Many government programs transition into adult disability benefits after the age of 18.
Major Government Benefit Programs
Government language uses the term disability, and a person with special needs is a person with a disability, making the terms interchangeable. States administer many federal government programs in partnership. While all states must follow federal guidelines, available benefits may vary significantly from state to state.
- Medicaid – This joint federal and state program provides basic medical coverage to low-income persons, including those with disabilities. It provides access to medical services, therapies, medications, and long-term care. Many states also support waiver Medicaid programs that cover residential, daycare, career, and other services.
- Medicare – This federal health insurance program is primarily for individuals aged 65 or more. However, it also covers individuals with certain disabilities who are under 65 and receive social security disability benefits.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – This program provides financial assistance for families with a child with special needs who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. Benefits vary from state to state, but all states provide well-baby and well-child care, behavioral health care, dental coverage, and vaccines.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – To qualify for SSDI, you must meet earnings requirements for disability benefits. It provides income support to those with disabilities who have worked and paid social security taxes. Eligibility is contingent upon the person’s work history and the severity of their disability.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – This needs-based program provides financial assistance to persons with disabilities, including children with special needs experiencing limited income and resources. Income, assets, and disability status determine eligibility.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps) – Eligibility guidelines for this program are similar to SSI. The program provides an electronic benefits transfer card that functions like a debit card to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores.
- Disabled Adult Child (DAC) – This program requires a determination that the onset of the person’s disability occurred before age 22. It’s a secondary benefit program, meaning the adult child must also be unmarried with a parent who either has a disability, is retired, is deceased, or qualifies for social security themselves.
- Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) – This program subsidizes residential rents for low-income individuals and families, which may include those with special needs. Eligibility is on a sliding scale, considering the income and size of the family. The program helps to provide affordable, safe, and decent housing in the private rental market.
Other Programs and Protections for Persons With Special Needs
Specific laws provide crucial legal support systems for individuals with special needs. Becoming familiar with them can enhance the lives and protect the rights of persons with special needs. The programs include the following:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in various areas, including employment, public accommodations, transportation, and government services. It ensures equal rights and access to opportunities.
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – This program ensures that children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. It mandates special education and related services for eligible students aged three to 21.
- Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) – VR programs assist individuals with special needs to obtain and maintain employment. These programs provide career counseling, job training and placement, and assistive technology.
- Tax Breaks – Tax credits are available as deductions for home improvements that accommodate a disability, medication, medical equipment, and transportation related to medical care.
There are more government programs and initiatives that aim to support individuals with special needs. Eligibility criteria, benefits, and services may vary, so research specific programs or contact relevant government agencies for detailed information.
How a Special Needs Attorney Can Help
A special needs attorney can identify relevant programs for your loved one with special needs and provide valuable assistance when qualifying for government aid. They’re familiar with the eligibility requirements of various government programs and evaluate an individual’s unique situation. This process may include identifying their special needs as a qualifying disability and their financial circumstances to determine which programs are the right fit.
Applying for government benefits can be complex, involving extensive documentation and paperwork. A special needs attorney gathers supporting evidence, such as medical records and evaluations, which strengthens the application. They ensure all necessary information is correctly provided and submitted. Correct first-time applications streamline the approval process.
Advocacy and Appeals
If the initial application for government benefits receives a denial, a special needs attorney helps file appeals and represents the individual in administrative hearings or court proceedings. They advocate for the individual’s rights and provide legal arguments supporting eligibility for benefits.
A special needs attorney knows the intricacies of the rules and regulations of government benefits programs. They can strategize ways to maximize the benefits an individual may be entitled to receive for the full range of assistance available.
Disability laws are a complex legal framework surrounding government assistance and protections for those with special needs. Updates and changes to regulations and policies routinely occur, which is why a special needs attorney is useful when applying for government benefits.
Our special needs attorney can provide you with the most accurate and relevant advice and help your family plan for the future by creating special needs trusts and other estate planning tools. We ensure that your loved one maintains eligibility for government benefits while preserving their assets and financial security.
We hope you found this article helpful. If you’d like to discuss your legal matters, please don’t hesitate to contact our Guntersville office at 256-486-3407. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.