Financial assistance options for parents
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for special needs
The only source of federal income earmarked for children with autism is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a form of social security benefit. SSI can be a lifeline for a family with a special needs child, keeping them out of poverty.
Since SSI is aimed at impoverished families, not every child qualifies because they and their family are subject to income limits. Children on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receive $791 per month. In most states, a child eligible for SSI will also be eligible for Medicaid.
To qualify for SSI, the child must have "marked and severe functional limitations," as determined by medical evidence. Some examples include: down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and blindness.
If there are no other children in the home, the maximum monthly amount of earned income a family can make for a child with autism to qualify for SSI is $3,301 for a one-parent family and $4,095 for a two-parent family. If there are additional children, the amounts grow. The monthly limits are $1,628 and $2,025, respectively, if all income is unearned.
Tax credits for families with special needs
Tax benefits are a method for reducing the financial burden of caring for children with autism. It starts with claiming reimbursed medical expenses on your federal income tax return — the amount that exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income is deductible. The threshold is $3,750 if your adjusted gross income is $50,000.
For example, if your adjusted gross income is $50,000 and you have medical expenses that cost $10,000, you may deduct up to $6,250. Medical expenses consist of more than just medications and doctor fees, other expenses include: medically necessary foods, travel to and from health-care visits, and therapy materials all count.
The child and dependent care credit
The child and dependent care credit is a tax credit that allows you to hire someone to look after your child while you work or look for work. If the child is impaired, there is no age limit.
Since it's a credit, not a deduction, it directly decreases your tax payment rather than just lowering your taxable income.
The credit can be up to $3,000 per dependent, with a total credit of $6,000 available and applies to child care, after-school activities, and day camps. Make sure to maintain accurate records and seek advice from your accountant to get the full benefit.
A 529A account is a state-sponsored account that allows people with special needs to save large amounts without jeopardizing their eligibility for need-based government assistance.
The families of children with autism can pay up to $15,000 each year without jeopardizing their federal benefits. These are not tax-deductible on the federal level, although they are tax deductible in some states. The size of the account that can be opened varies by state.
Most states provide a Medicaid Waiver (also known as 1915(c) Home and Community Based Services) program for people with developmental challenges. A Medicaid Waiver is intended to offer support services and care so that an individual may stay in their home or community rather than in a facility, nursing home, or hospital.
The benefits given by these waiver programs differ by state, but most cover medical therapies, respite care, transportation, in-home help, and other services. In some states, children do not need to meet Medicaid eligibility requirements to qualify for a waiver. Waiver requirements and availability, like insurance legislation, differ from state to state.
Special needs will and trust
Some government benefits, such as SSI, are conditional on the family's financial situation. Unfortunately, even gifting money to a child can influence their SSI eligibility. Therefore, it's important to find out how much money a child can have before offering a gift or inheritance. Alternatively, money can be safeguarded by a special needs will and trust without worry.
A statement in the will that the money a child inherits is to be used only for things and services not covered by Medicaid, SSI, or other federal funds is highly significant — the child could lose federal benefits if you fail to include this statement until the inheritance is depleted.
Failure to establish a special needs will and trust correctly can result in serious consequences: the individual with autism may be required to compensate the government for prior services and other siblings' shares of inherited money may also be jeopardized. When creating a special needs will and trust, it is best to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney.
The Assistive Devices Program (ADP)
This program provides financial support specifically to residents of Ontario who have long-term physical challenges. These devices are designed to provide humans with more autonomy and control. Your child must have an Ontario health card and have been disabled for at least six months to be eligible for this program.
Wheelchairs, mobility aids, hearing aids, respiratory equipment, and visual and communication aids are all covered under this program up to 75% of the cost. An ADP authorized practitioner, such as an occupational or speech therapist, will determine what your child requires.
How to qualify for financial assistance?
Financial assistance programs for children with autism are only available to those under the age of 18 who apply on their own behalf. These subsidies are only available to families who are in dire financial circumstances. This means that if you or your spouse earns a lot of money, your child with autism will not be eligible for SSI.
The good news is that your income restrictions increase as your family grows. A single parent with one child, for example, cannot earn more than $38,000 (pre-tax) and still have a child with autism qualify. A five-person family with two parents, on the other hand, could earn about $60,000.
When deciding whether or not an applicant is eligible for financial aid, programs use their medical recommendations. Your child must have medical documentation of both of the following to be eligible for these benefits:
- Deficiencies in verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as deficits in social relationships, are all quantifiable
- Patterns of behavior, interests, or activities that are restricted or repetitive
In addition, a child with autism must show "extreme" or "noticeable" deficits in at least two of the following criteria:
- Understanding, remembering, and putting information into practice
- Having conversations with people (taking directions, playing with other children, etc.)
- Concentration and task completion
- "Adapting oneself," which entails emotional control
Taking care of children with special medical requirements can lead to certain unavoidable expenses. But, you don't have to go through it alone. Take advantage of these opportunities and keep an eye out for others.
Songbird is a technology-enabled company that is raising the bar for autism treatment for children. Thanks to a dedicated team and cutting-edge technology, we're creating a world where every child can receive world-class care at home, tailored to their specific needs. Contact us to schedule an appointment with our therapists today.