We often mention needs-based or means-tested government benefits on this blog. That’s because at Milestone, we often work with plaintiffs who are about to settle a personal injury case and are facing disqualification from certain government benefits, and we work with them on identifying ways to keep their eligibility.
Some benefits are part of means-tested programs, which means that there are income and asset limits for eligible beneficiaries. There are a variety of means-tested government benefits programs, many of which are named below.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) makes monthly payments to people who have low income and few resources, and who are age 65 or older, blind, or disabled. The amount of income you can receive each month and still get SSI depends partly on where you live, but you’re likely to qualify for SSI if you meet the above criteria and your monthly resources are worth $2,000 or less. A couple may be able to get SSI if they have monthly resources worth $3,000 or less. Click here for more information on SSI eligibility.
Medicaid provides health coverage to eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Medicaid is administered by states, so each state has some of its own rules regarding coverage. To determine income eligibility, the Affordable Care Act established a methodology that is based on a beneficiary’s Modified Adjusted Gross Income. More eligibility information can be found here.
In states that have group homes for disabled persons, Medicaid generally pays for this housing. The income and asset tests tend to be the same as general Medicaid.
Most states have a Medicaid Waiver program that provides coverage similar to basic Medicaid. Many of those states have an income cap.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card to pay for food. To be eligible for benefits, a household’s net income (meaning the household income after deductions are applied) must be at or below the poverty line. There are several other rules to qualify for SNAP, which can be found here.
Also called Section 8, this program provides subsidized rent. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants priority for federally-assisted housing vouchers to those classified as “extremely low-income levels” and then to those with “very low-income.” Click here for more information on HUD.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
CHIP provides low-cost health insurance coverage to children in families with too much income to qualify for Medicaid. Eligibility rules vary from state to state. More information on CHIP can be found here.
Through special needs trusts and other planning tools, a disabled beneficiary can receive the proceeds of a personal injury settlement while maintaining means-tested government benefits. The key to smart settlement planning — and reducing the chance of losing eligibility for benefits once the money arrives — is to speak with an expert prior to concluding litigation.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).