Government Benefits: Understanding Your Options

Quick Overview

The speaker discusses government benefits for individuals with developmental disabilities, specifically Angelman Syndrome. He explains that individuals with Angelman Syndrome may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which are both managed by the Social Security Administration. He also mentions the importance of Medicaid and the different Medicaid programs available in each state. The speaker emphasizes the need for families to apply for these benefits and discusses the eligibility requirements. He also mentions the importance of advocacy and staying informed about potential changes to government benefits. The speaker concludes by discussing the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act and the benefits of setting up an ABLE account. He encourages individuals to connect with organizations such as the Arc and their state’s developmental disability council for further assistance and information.

By Eric Wright


Hello everyone, my name is Eric Wright and I am the father of a daughter with Angelman Syndrome. I am delighted to be here today to talk about government benefits and how they can support families like ours. In this talk, I will provide an overview of Angelman Syndrome and its impact on self-care, learning, and independent living. I will also share my personal journey and how I became involved in advocating for government benefits. Finally, I will discuss two well-known government benefit programs, Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income, and provide some tips for accessing these benefits.

Understanding Angelman Syndrome

Angelman Syndrome is a developmental disability that meets the federal criteria for a severe chronic condition. It is characterized by a combination of mental and physical impairments that typically appear before the age of 22. While there is hope for future therapeutic interventions, the reality is that Angelman Syndrome is likely to be a lifelong condition. It impacts various aspects of daily life, including self-care, learning, communication, mobility, and independent living.

My Personal Journey

Before my daughter was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, I had experience caring for a child with a disability. My wife and I adopted a daughter from Ukraine who had cerebral palsy. This experience, combined with my professional background as a family resource center coordinator, led me to become involved in advocating for families with disabilities. I served on various councils and committees related to developmental disabilities and Medicaid, which allowed me to learn more about government benefits and how they can support families like ours.

Government Benefit Programs

Two of the most well-known government benefit programs for individuals with developmental disabilities are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs are managed by the Social Security Administration and are designed to provide financial assistance to disabled individuals. However, there are some key differences between the two programs.

SSDI is only available to individuals who have earned enough work credits through employment. It is based on a person’s work history and contributions to the Social Security system. On the other hand, SSI is a need-based program that provides financial assistance to low-income individuals with disabilities, regardless of their work history. SSI eligibility is determined by income and asset limits, which vary by state.

Medicaid and Waiver Programs

Medicaid is a federal and state-funded program that provides health insurance to low-income individuals and families. Each state has its own Medicaid program, which determines how Medicaid funds are used to provide services and supports. Medicaid is a key source of funding for waiver programs, which are designed to provide home and community-based services to individuals with disabilities.

Waiver programs vary by state and provide different levels of care and support. They typically include services such as respite care, personal care, and case management. Waiver programs also have waiting lists, so it is important to get on the list as early as possible. Additionally, some states offer other Medicaid programs that can provide additional financial assistance to families with developmental disabilities.

Advocacy and Future Planning

As parents and caregivers, it is important for us to advocate for our children and ensure they have access to the supports and services they need. This includes staying informed about changes to government benefit programs and participating in advocacy efforts. It is also important to plan for the future and consider options such as special needs trusts and ABLE accounts, which can help protect and manage financial resources for individuals with disabilities.

In conclusion, government benefits can provide crucial support to families with developmental disabilities. Understanding the available programs and eligibility requirements is key to accessing these benefits. By staying informed and advocating for our children, we can ensure they have the resources they need to thrive and live fulfilling lives.

Talk details

  • Title: Government Benefits
  • Author(s): Eric Wright
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: None
  • Publication date: 2017-08-14
  • Collection: 2017 ASF Family Conference