Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Government Benefits for Children with Special Needs

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Government Benefits for Children with Special Needs

Article excerpt

Do you have a child with special needs who receives government benefits? Have you applied for all the programs and services he or she may be eligible to receive? The federal government has many programs to help improve the quality of life for your family.

What's available?

It's best to educate yourself about what's available, then work with a Social Security Administration (SSA) representative who can provide further explanation and ensure you apply for everything your child may be eligible to receive. The SSA website,, is teeming with information about programs. Here's a list with brief descriptions (1).

Social Security retirement benefits

You may be eligible for a monthly benefit when you reach retirement age. A benefit may also be made to eligible spouses (including ex-spouses) and children. A one-time payment may also be made to qualifying spouses and children when you die, whether or not you were receiving retirement benefits at the time of death.


This health insurance program is for individuals age 65 or older and individuals who've been getting Social Security disability benefits for at least two years. (Certain disabilities may allow for immediate eligibility.)

Medicare survivor payments

After a Medicare recipient dies, his or her spouse (including ex-spouses), children (including adopted and step-children), and dependent parents who meet eligibility guidelines may qualify to receive Medicare benefits.


This health care program is for people with low incomes and limited resources. Benefits and eligibility vary by state.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

A monthly benefit (based on the recipient's earnings) is paid to individuals who meet the SSA definition of "disabled" and meet other eligibility criteria. Children who qualify for SSDI receive a payment based on a parent's earnings and other eligibility requirements.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

This program provides a monthly benefit to individuals with low income and limited resources who are 65 or older, blind, or "disabled." Some states supplement the federal payment. Children with special needs (including adopted and dependent stepchildren) whose parents have little income or resources may also be eligible. In some cases, a child could be eligible for benefits on a grandparent's earnings.

Other health care services

Children who receive SSI benefits (and some who aren't) may qualify for health care services at clinics, private offices, and hospitals managed by state health agencies. Ask about the Social Security Act's "Children with Special Health Care Needs" provision.

Extra Help prescription program

Individuals who participate in Medicare's prescription drug program may qualify for help in paying monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and co-payments for medical care.

State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)

This program provides coverage for prescriptions, vision, hearing, and mental health services for families with income too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford private health insurance.

Employment benefits

The SSA offers some programs to help individuals who receive SSI or SSDI who want to work. Earning limitations and other guidelines apply.

Where to find information

Here are some helpful websites.

A page within SSA's website that's devoted to programs specifically for children with special needs.

Five questions to determine if your child is "disabled" by SSA definition.

The Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool found here helps you determine which benefits your child may be eligible to receive. …

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