6 Government Programs and Assistance for Parents of Children with Disabilities

Jeff Vistica
CFP®, ChSNC®, AIF®
January 25, 2023

Parents of children with disabilities confront many challenges, which compound the more typical issues in parenting.

These challenges can include educating themselves about the disability and available treatments, dealing with the emotional and physical demands of caring for their child, coordinating medical care, and advocating for their child within the educational system.

Among the most pressing issues are financial ones. Special needs parents often struggle with the cost of paying for medical care not covered by health insurance. According to Autism Speaks, raising a child with a disability can cost as much as $2.4 million over a lifetime.

These financial issues may be further exacerbated by the need for at least one parent to give up their career to look after their child.

The accumulation of these factors can cause significant stress. A study found that mothers of adolescents and adults with autism had levels of chronic stress “comparable to combat soldiers and struggle with frequent fatigue and work interruptions.”

For these families, anything that helps alleviate their stress is welcome. A special needs financial planner will not only help you navigate the pressure of being a special needs parent but also build a plan and financial foundation to care for your loved ones with special needs.

Beyond hiring an expert, fortunately, there are a number of government programs that cover children with disabilities. They provide a wide range of benefits, depending on your family’s needs.

Here’s a list of federal government programs. Take note though there may be additional benefits depending on your state.

Government assistance for special needs child

1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

A. Qualifications

To qualify for SSI, a child must be blind or disabled. There is no minimum age. SSI benefits are available until age 18. However, due to parental deeming of income and resources, qualifying can be difficult for some. Once the child reaches age 18 parental deeming stops and a new evaluation will be made.

To check the SSI benefits eligibility, the impairment should meet the following definition. A child is deemed to be “disabled” or “blind” if:

(a) If under age 18, whether or not married or head of household, the child has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or impairments which result in marked and severe functional limitations; and

(b) The impairment(s) has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months or be expected to result in death; or

(c)  If the child is blind, he or she meets the same definition of “blind” as applies to adults.

B. Benefits

Every child and their parents are treated as an individual case. In 2023, the full benefit amount is $914 per month, but this may be reduced depending on the parents’ income or other factors. Some states provide their own additional supplemental amount.

Childhood Disability Benefits

Formerly known as Disabled Adult Child benefits, this provides assistance to a child with a disability onset prior to age 22. The Social Security Administration determines one’s eligibility depending on a number of factors, including:

  • fully insured parent
  • nature of the relationship between child and parent
  • age and marital status
  • dependent status
  • whether or not the recipient is able to perform Substantial Gainful Activity

You can read more about the childhood disability benefits here.

2. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

The TANF program funds states and territories and is designed to help low-income families with children achieve economic self-sufficiency. States use TANF to fund monthly cash assistance payments to low-income families with children and a wide range of services.

Qualification criteria and benefits vary by state.  You can find contact information for your state here.

Typically, you need to be a resident of the state where you are applying, have a child age 18 or younger, be pregnant or 18 years old or younger, and be the head of a household. You must be unemployed or underemployed, with a low income, and need housing, food, utilities, clothing, or medical care.

If you meet these qualifications, you may be eligible for immediate short-term assistance.

3. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Families in need can apply for SNAP to have the financial resources to eat healthily and slowly find footing in sustaining self-sufficiency.

This program is administered by each state. You can find a SNAP state directory of resources here.

SNAP is a program for low-income families who meet federal income eligibility rules and need to supplement their food budget.

4. Benefits for children of veterans

Military veterans who were honorably discharged may be eligible to receive benefits for disabled children. These benefits can include the following:

A.  If you’re the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a service member who died in the line of duty or the survivor of a veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness, you may be able to get the tax-free monetary benefit VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

B.  The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (CHAMPVA) is a comprehensive healthcare benefits program in which the VA shares the cost of covered healthcare services and supplies with eligible beneficiaries.

C.  Children with spina bifida or certain congenital conditions and are the biological children of veterans with qualifying service in Vietnam or Korea may be eligible for a range of VA benefits, including a monthly monetary allowance based on the child’s degree of disability. These can also include healthcare benefits and vocational training.

5. Medicaid

Medicaid eligibility requirements vary by state. You can find contact information for your state here.  

Eligibility depends on household income, family size, age, disability, and other factors. If you qualify, benefits include access to high-quality health coverage programs like physician visits, prescriptions, hospitalization, lab work, X-rays, nursing home care, periodic health screenings, and treatment for Medicaid-covered children under the age of six.

6. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The CHIP program provides health coverage to eligible children through Medicaid and separate CHIP programs. CHIP is administered by states following federal requirements. The program is funded jointly by the state and federal governments.

This program provides health coverage to uninsured children of “families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford private coverage.” You can find more information about income eligibility here.

Benefits vary by state but can include:

  • Routine check-ups
  • Immunizations
  • Doctor visits
  • Prescriptions
  • Dental and vision care
  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital care
  • Laboratory and X-ray services
  • Emergency services

Government programs and assistance are available

You don’t have to face the challenges of being a special needs parent alone. A special needs financial planner can guide you through these programs and assistance provided by the government.  Set up a call with us today to learn more.

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