Benefits for People with Disabilities


A disability is a health issue that limits what you can do. There are public and private sources of benefits for children, adults and veterans with disabilities, and their caregivers.

  • Children. Children under 18 with disabilities may be able to get support. This support involves help with speech, physical therapy and special schooling. They may also get Supplementary Security Income (SSI) payments. Disabled children's health plans include Medicaid, Medicare and plans supplied by your employer. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, employer plans can cover your children, if you so request, until they turn 26. Part of a military family? There is support for military households who have children with disabilities too. These involve childcare programs and help with learning how to plan for costs.
  • Adults. Adults with disabilities have choices for health plans. These choices include private health plans, disability insurance, Medicaid and Medicare. If you've paid enough in Social Security taxes, you could get Social Security Disability Insurance. If you have a disability and low earnings, SSI can give you some financial help. You can also work while getting public disability benefits, though there are limits to how much you can earn.
  • Veterans. If you have a service-related injury or illness, there are some veteran disability benefits you could get. These include Veterans Affairs (VA) disability payments and housing support.
  • Caregivers. Your disabled spouse or partner can often be covered by your health plan. If you're feeling like caring for a disabled friend or person in your family is too much, planning and booking a break with respite care can help.

A disability is a health condition that limits what you can do. It can affect your body, your mind or how you grow and develop. Public and private sources offer benefits, such as payments and services, that help people with disabilities. In this guide, you'll find out about benefits available for children, adults and veterans with disabilities, and their caregivers.

Children with Disabilities: Getting Benefits

Early intervention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting services for very young children with disabilities. These services include speech therapy, physical therapy and others. Is your child under age three? Your state or territory's early intervention program can tell you if he or she is eligible. Is your child over age three? Call the local public school (even if your child doesn't go to school). The school can screen your child to see if he or she can get these services.

Special education. If your school-age child has a disability, he or she is entitled to free and appropriate, special schooling. This special schooling includes many services:

  1. Speech and language services;
  2. Specially designed teaching and physical education;
  3. Travel training, which includes learning the skills needed to move safely within school, home or elsewhere; and
  4. Vocational education to get your older child ready for work

Find out more at the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments for children with disabilities. Children under 18 can get SSI payments if they have a disability, as defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The household must have limited income and resources. SSI payments can help take care of your child's basic needs, like food, housing and clothing. They can also be used to pay for medical costs, such as copays and special equipment. Find out more in this SSA booklet.

Support for military families . There is support for military families who have children with disabilities. This includes childcare programs, financial planning and other resources. Find out more at Military One Source.

Options for children's health plans. If you have health insurance through your job, the Affordable Care Act requires your health plan to cover your children, if you so request, until they turn age 26. Your disabled child may be able to stay on your health plan longer, depending on your plan and the state you live in.

Medicaid gives health coverage to those with low incomes or disabilities and includes the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). People who already get SSI are automatically eligible in most states, as are medically needy children under 18.

Medicare gives health coverage to some disabled adult children. If your child is over 18 but became disabled before age 22, they may be covered by Medicare. A child of any age with permanent kidney failure is also eligible for Medicare.

Aging out of children's benefits. After children turn 18, their disability will be reevaluated by the SSA, based on adult rules. If your child wasn't able to get SSI before turning 18, your child may become eligible once reaching that age. This is because parental earnings no longer apply.

Adults with Disabilities: Coping with Everyday Costs and Paying for Healthcare

Private health insurance. You may have health insurance through your employer. You can also buy it through the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you can't work because of your disability, a marketplace plan can help pay for your healthcare.

Private disability insurance . Disability insurance can help with living costs if you can't work due to illness or injury. Some plans are offered by employers, but you can also buy your own. The plans are most often split into two types: short-term and long-term. Short-term health plans often last for a few months but may pay for up to two years. Long-term plans may last a few years or until you're able to start working again.

Medicaid and Medicare. Medicaid gives free or low-cost healthcare for people on low incomes. Eligibility changes from state to state. Medicare is a health plan for people over 65, or who have permanent kidney failure or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and is the same in every state. Both plans also cover disabled people, but the rules of the plans differ. Medicaid offers benefits, such as nursing home or personal care services, that are not covered by Medicare. It's possible to have both Medicaid and Medicare. See our article: What You Need to Know about Medicare.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). If you've paid Social Security taxes for at least 5 of the last 10 years and haven't worked for at least 12 months due to a disability, you could get SSDI. The monthly amount depends on how much you've paid in Social Security taxes over the years. After getting SSDI for 24 months, you can get Medicare. If you have ALS, however, you can get Medicare right away. See the SSA website for more information.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you have a disability and low earnings, SSI can give you some financial help. In most states, you'll automatically be able to get Medicaid if you get SSI. Find out in which states SSI recipients automatically qualify for Medicaid. To be eligible, you must meet the qualifying income and resource requirements.

Working while getting benefits . Can you work and still get federal disability benefits? It's possible, though there are limits to how much you can earn. However, you can get back to work for a test period, when it won't matter how much you earn. If you're ready to work but need help finding a job or retraining, the SSA can help. You can make an SSA work plan.

After retirement . By law, you can't get federal disability benefits and retirement benefits at the same time. If you're already getting disability benefits, they'll carry on after you retire at the same amount. Your benefits may change if you start working again or if your spouse earns more than what's allowed.

Benefits for Veterans

If you have a service-related injury or illness, there are several veteran disability benefits available to you. These include Veterans Affairs (VA) disability payments and housing support. Check out our Health Insurance for Active-Duty Military and Veterans article for more on veteran health plans.

Caring for Someone Who's Disabled: Healthcare and Respite Care

Healthcare for your partner. Your spouse or domestic partner can often be covered by your health plan. If your spouse or domestic partner is disabled, he or she will be covered as long as you keep up your plan.

Respite care. Caring for a disabled friend or family member can, at times, feel like too much. Planning and booking a break, with respite care, can help. Check out FAIR Health's Help for Caregivers article for caregiver resources.

Your Action Plan: Get Benefits if You or a Loved One Has a Disability

  • Think about benefits that can help your disabled child. These can include early intervention programs, special education, SSI, Medicaid and Medicare.
  • If you're a disabled adult, private and government sources can help. Government sources include Medicaid, Medicare, SSDI and SSI.
  • If you're a disabled veteran, think about applying for veteran disability benefits.
  • If you're caring for a disabled person, consider taking a break with respite care.

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