The 2021 Guide to Government Resources for Special Needs

The 2021 Guide to Government Resources for Special Needs

Do you have a disabled child or one with other special needs? Are you having trouble with the financial impact of caring for your special needs child? Or maybe you care for yourself or another adult with a disability?

We have gathered government resources for special needs, including financial assistance, in this guide for 2021. Read on to learn about the current government resources for special needs individuals and their disability benefits.

Overview of Special Needs

Both children and adults who have disabilities are qualified for various government resources for special needs. Parents who have children on the autism spectrum could very well qualify for financial assistance. There are also some autism benefits for adults.

 There are benefits available for many other special needs as well, but first, it is important to understand how the government defines a disability. 

What Qualifies as a Disability to the Government? 

In the government’s eyes, an adult or child has a disability if they have mental or physical impairments that eliminate their ability to participate in one or more “major life activities.” 

A person who has a recorded history of this type of impairment may be qualified to receive government benefits. 

Some major life activities that a disabled adult may not be able to participate in include: 

  • Walking
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Working
  • Self-care
  • Learning
  • Conducting manual duties

Special Needs Children: Four Categories

There are many special needs children in the United States – in fact, in 2019-2020, 14% of all public school students were considered special needs. The four major types of special needs children involve the following disabilities:

  • Physical- such as multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy
  • Developmental- including dyslexia, autism, and Down Syndrome
  • Behavioral/emotional- such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD)
  • Sensory impaired- including blindness, deafness, visual weakness, and deficient hearing 

If your child has any of the four types of special needs, they may be entitled to government resources. Adults with these disabilities are also entitled to federal and state benefits. 

Keep reading to learn more about various benefits for parents caring for a disabled child and financial assistance for disabled adults.

Government Programs for Disabled and Special Needs

There are multiple government programs for disabled children and adults, including those that provide financial assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and those that cover healthcare costs, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Payments and Monetary Assistance

Government programs that provide monetary assistance include Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program sends monthly payments to adults and children who have a disability and whose income or resources are below certain monetary levels. The amount you’ll receive varies based on your individual situation. 

Unlike traditional social security benefits, this program is funded by general taxes to provide monetary benefits to help with basic necessities. To be eligible for SSI, you must:

  • Be at least 65, blind, or disabled
  • Have limited income or resources
  • Be a U.S citizen or a national of the U.S. (some noncitizens may qualify)
  • Live in one of the 50 states, DC, or the Northern Mariana Islands (some exceptions)

With proper planning, a family can support their child without reducing their SSI payments. For example, parents who have a special needs child still living at home, can create a contract with their child that requires them to pay rent. Also, income received from a special needs trust should exclude housing and food.  

To learn more about the process to apply, click here.

Social Security Survivor Benefits / Disability Benefits


A spouse, parent, or child of an employee who passed away may be eligible for social security survivor benefits. Any worker can earn up to four credits per year. The older a person is when they pass, the more financial benefits their family members will receive upon their death. 

While eligibility for this payment includes children under 18, any child of the deceased who is disabled (and disability began before age 22) is eligible for payment, regardless of age. 

To learn more about these benefits, click here.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program also provides assistance to those with disabilities. 

If you worked enough years and in recent times, the SSDI program will provide financial benefits to you and your close family members if you are insured. Working will earn you up to four credits per year, and in order to qualify, you need 40 credits, 20 of which you earned in the last 10 years before becoming disabled.

Like the other Social Security government programs, you must meet their definition of disabled, which you can find here. 

Some children with special needs will qualify for this benefit after their parents retire and have claimed their own Social Security benefit. SSDI benefits may be payable as long as you are disabled or until age 65 when retirement benefits start.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – or the TANF program – provides financial assistance on a time-limited basis to families with children whenever parents or guardians cannot cover the costs of providing for their children’s primary needs.

The TANF program is state-dependent, which means each location can have its own set of rules. To obtain information for your state, click here and select where you live.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides financial assistance to meet families’ nutritional needs by augmenting their food budget. This program ensures that children do not go hungry. 

Like TANF, eligibility requirements vary by state and you’ll need to contact the agency for where you live. Some examples of requirements may include an income limit compared to the federal poverty level (FPL), proof of identity, citizenship, residency, and may include special circumstances for the disabled. To get the rules for your state, click here.



Several government programs help people with special needs by covering their healthcare costs. Two such programs are Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

Medicaid and Medicare

Medicaid is an expansion of Medicare. While Medicare provides health coverage for those over 65, and certain people under 65 with disabilities, Medicaid also offers medical coverage for low-income adults, children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Most states use a “waiver” Medicaid program to gain access to services. The waitlist for waiver programs can be years and varies by state. Florida’s Medicaid waiver program, iBudget Florida, has a waitlist approximately seven years long, with priority preference for people in crisis. The household’s income is not counted in determining eligibility; only the individual’s income is used. The limits are $2,130 in monthly income and $2,000 in total assets per individual. 

 To apply for either coverage, click here.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) offers healthcare coverage to children who lack other means for medical coverage and whose families are low-income. The state governments administer this program, while the funding comes from state and federal levels. 

To be eligible, a child must be:

  • Under the age of 19
  • Uninsured (and not eligible for Medicaid)
  • A citizen and resident of the state
  • Income eligible, according to state

To research your state and apply for coverage, click here.

Financial Planning Considerations

ABLE Act for Tax-Free Savings

In 2014, the United States government passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, enabling states to develop tax-advantaged savings programs for anyone with a disability. The funds in these programs are tax-free and allow the disabled person to spend the money on qualified disability products or services. 

This program allows the eligible disabled person to designate a beneficiary as well. The number of financial planning considerations within the disability community has been steeply rising over the years. As such, we advise hiring a financial planner, such as our experienced team at Castle Wealth Management. 

Hiring a Financial Planner to Help Navigate Special Needs Eligibility

A financial planner could help you find the right programs and discover which government resources you are eligible for. Castle Wealth Management has more than two decades of experience helping families and individuals by providing wealth management solutions. 

Our team has a strong background in the financial and investment industries with knowledge specifically regarding those with special needs. We will help you get the government resources you are entitled to and work closely with your attorney and accountant so you can understand all the options available in your state. 


There are numerous monetary assistance programs from the government that disabled adults and families with disabled children are eligible for. In addition, both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program provide healthcare coverage for the disabled community. 

At Castle Wealth Management, we can develop a multi-generational plan to help finance future disability-related needs while incorporating needs-based benefit eligibility requirements.  Contact us today.

Read more about our Special Needs Financial Planning here

Lori Headshot 2021

Lori Fernicola, CFP ®

Lori Fernicola joined Castle Wealth Management in April 2021 as a Financial Planner. Lori began her career in New York City as an analyst for Morgan Stanley’s options and equity swaps institutional trading desk. She later joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a vice president and relationship manager in Prime Brokerage.

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