Of all the hardships that come with being handicapped, financial worries are arguably the worst. High healthcare costs from having a disability combined with countless auxiliary costs (for adaptive technologies, social services and so on) can overstretch anyone’s budget. For this reason, disabled individuals and their caregivers must start securing their finances as early as possible.
Understanding the Problem
Financial planning for people with disabilities is a special challenge. Persons with special needs require special services, and special services require money. Unfortunately, generally low employment among the handicapped means cash is in chronically short supply. Combined with a lack of funding for public programs, often the very resources designed to give disabled people financial stability are financially beyond their reach. However, these obstacles may be overcome with a mix of workarounds and solutions.
Taking Proactive Measures
Given the large sums involved, it’s important to save as much money as possible to manage expenses as they occur. Guardians of individuals unfit to work may set aside savings in a Special Needs Trust to provide for their loved ones when they no longer can. Legal trusts include a “Letter of Intent” naming the trustees and detailing how the funds should be used. A trustee could be a trusted friend, attorney or financial advisor.
Disabled people with full-time employment can apply for disability income insurance in the event their worsening handicap leaves them too sick to work. DI benefits in conjunction with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can compensate disabled workers for lost wages.
Employed or not, those with qualifying conditions can save money in an ABLE account while staying eligible for public assistance. Anyone can contribute cash gifts to an ABLE account, and withdrawals for disability-related expenses are tax-free.
Working With the Government
Though limited in what they provide, state and federal programs are available to help the handicapped. The Social Security Administration offers Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a modest allowance for disabled individuals with no work history, no income and no other assets. SSI recipients also automatically qualify for SNAP benefits (formerly called food stamps) and Medicaid coverage.
Even at their full amount, SSI can’t compare to payments received from a real job. State vocational rehabilitation agencies assist the disabled in their search for meaningful work. VR offices can help pay for patrons’ vocational education and provide additional skills training. They can also, at no cost to clients, procure assistive devices or other equipment they need to integrate into the workforce.
Mental or physical handicaps need not be financial ones too. With enough practical planning, people with special needs can enjoy the financial security they deserve.