Public Benefits and Eligibility

Many public benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are means-tested programs. This means the programs serve people who have low incomes and few assets. In order to be eligible to receive these public benefits, people cannot exceed certain income or asset limits. The services available through Medicaid programs vary by state, but can include supported employment, day services and programs, and other services to support community-based living.

Waiting lists for Medicaid are common and depend on your state of residence. Check with your state I/DD agency to get information for your state.

Public Benefits Programs

It is important to learn what public benefits the person with I/DD is eligible for and apply for the appropriate benefits. Programs that may be available include:

  • Vaya Health: provides services and support that allow people with an intellectual or developmental disability to live as independently as possible within their communities—rather than in an institution such as a developmental center.

  • Medicaid: Provides health coverage to people with I/DD, children, pregnant women, parents, and seniors. There are certain basic federal criteria for eligibility and each state can add additional people to its Medicaid program. In some states, additional low income adults may be eligible.

  • Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS):Provide people with severe disabilities with long-term services and supports in home and community settings rather than in institutional settings. Check with a chapter of The Arc or an I/DD state agency for information.

  • Medicare: Health insurance for people with I/DD who receive disability benefits from Social Security (SSDI or Disabled Adult Child benefits).

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI provides monthly benefits to help children and adults with severe disabilities meet their basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Benefits are very modest. For a person age 18 or older to qualify, he or she must have a significant disability and little income or resources.

  • Social Security Disabled Adult Child (DAC): An adult with I/DD who became disabled before age 22 may be eligible for “disabled adult child's” benefits. These benefits are only available if a parent is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): A benefit for people with severe disabilities who have earned sufficient Social Security “work credits” and who are not able to work at a substantial level. Many people with I/DD who use the SSI program’s work incentives earn work credits. They can also become eligible for SSDI benefits and for Medicare benefits 2 years later.

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Food assistance for eligible, low-income individuals and families.

  • Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8): Assists people with I/DD, very low-income families, and the elderly to afford safe housing. Contact your local Public Housing Authority.

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