How Will I Know if My Child is Eligible for Government Benefits

Question:  I heard that government benefits are something we should be considering for my daughter, but I have also been told that our family will not qualify.  Should we apply, and if so, how?

— Ben

How Will I Know if My Child is Eligible for Government Benefits

Access to government benefits can be beneficial due to the fact they can help pay for services that your daughter needs today or may need in the future.  The reason you may not be able to qualify for certain government benefit programs is because your daughter is under the age of 18.  If that is the case, many government benefit programs consider your income and assets in your daughter’s qualification.

If that is the case, and you have more than $2,000 in assets then your daughter will not qualify for certain benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid; however, you may still qualify under your individual states’ waiver program.  Each state has their own program that “waives” the income and asset limits for Medicaid qualifications and base their decision solely on your daughter’s individual and specific needs.

These waiver programs can provide home and community based supports including a one- on-one worker, additional therapies, and even respite care for parents [and caregivers].   You will need to search out the waiver programs that are available in your state, and complete the necessary application.  We suggest you begin your search with your state’s Department of Health and Human Services, as well as asking other families you may know, and even your child’s school.

At age 18, your daughter can qualify for benefits such as SSI and Medicaid based upon her own income and assets.  The ability to qualify for these benefits will provide your daughter a monthly income and access to Medicaid services.  Medicaid services will include healthcare, but she will also access day programs, supportive employment which can help her find and be successful at a job, supported living outside of your home, and more depending on your daughter’s situation.

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In order to access these array of services, your daughter will have to be eligible, which means she cannot have countable assets of more than $2,000 in her name, and to remain eligible she must never allow her countable assets to increase over that $2,000 number.  This means that you have to be careful on how you save for her future, and how you expect to care for her when you are no longer here.

It is critical that if you plan on accessing government benefit programs that you plan to do so. Otherwise, it is inevitable that assets will flow to your daughter in the incorrect way, whether that is from extended family like grandparents or from you, which very well may mean that she will forfeit her eligibility for these services.  As you plan, you will need to understand how to use the proper financial and legal tools in conjunction with the correct tax and communication strategies in order to secure your daughter’s future.  In future issues we will discuss the utilization of the necessary tools in Special Needs Planning.

For more information on how to prepare for the future, be sure to contact a financial advisor who specializes in serving families with special needs. A Special Needs Plan is driven by what they call Unleash L.I.F.E.™L.I.F.E. meaning Lasting Independence For Everyone™.  This is accomplished with education, action, and support in the creation, implementation, and continued monitoring of a specifically-designed lifelong and integrated plan for your family of parents, caregivers, your loved one with special needs, and their siblings.

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This article was featured in Issue 59 – Top Strategies, Therapies and Treatments for Autism

Ryan Platt

Ryan F. Platt, MBA, ChFC, ChSNC, completed his Special Care Planner Certification in 2005 at the American College in Bryn Mawr, PA, in which he received advanced training in estate and tax planning, special needs trusts, government programs, and the emotional dynamics of working with people and families with special needs loved ones. In 2013, he went on to complete the Chartered Special Needs Consultant designation. A pioneer in his field, Ryan is one of only a few planners certified through Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and the American College in Special Care Planning in Charlotte. He is the founder of A Special Needs Plan.