Financial & Long-Term Planning for Special Needs Futures – 2. Government Benefits

Quick Overview

In this webinar, Mary Anne Ehlert discusses the importance of understanding government benefits for individuals with special needs. She shares her personal experience with her sister who had cerebral palsy and explains the complexities of applying for and receiving benefits. Mary Anne emphasizes the need for financial planning and building a team of professionals to support families in navigating the benefits system. She also highlights the different types of benefits, such as entitlement programs and needs-based programs, and explains the income and asset limitations that apply. Mary Anne encourages parents to stay informed about their own Social Security benefits and to plan for their child’s future by understanding the limitations and opportunities provided by government benefits.


Hello, everyone. My name is Mary Anne Ehlert, and I’d like to welcome you to Protected Tomorrows. Our webinar today is titled “Taking the Confusion out of Government Benefits.” In this session, we will discuss the process of applying for government benefits, understanding the rules, and how to navigate the system effectively.

Personal Connection

I have a personal connection to this topic as my sister had cerebral palsy. I witnessed my parents’ struggle to understand her condition and navigate the complexities of government benefits. I also have a son with special needs, which further deepens my understanding of the challenges faced by families in planning for their loved ones’ futures.

Importance of Government Benefits

Government benefits play a crucial role in ensuring the safety, happiness, and financial security of individuals with special needs. However, the application process and rules can be confusing and overwhelming. It is essential to have a clear understanding of how these benefits work and how they can support your family member’s life.

The Eight-Step Planning Process

At Protected Tomorrows, we have developed an eight-step planning process to guide families through the complexities of special needs planning. Each step focuses on building knowledge and empowering parents to take control of their family member’s future. Our website contains a wealth of information on these topics, and we encourage you to explore it for further guidance.

Building Your Dream Team

When it comes to government benefits, it is crucial to build a strong support team that includes professionals and experts in the field. This team should consist of individuals who understand the intricacies of government benefits and can work together to ensure your child’s needs are met. Government benefits touch various aspects of planning, including guardianship, program funding, and medical bill coverage. Educating your team about these benefits is essential for effective collaboration.

Understanding Government Benefits

Government benefits can be divided into two categories: entitlement programs and needs-based programs. Entitlement programs are based on contributions made through employment, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare. Needs-based programs, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are for individuals who do not have entitlements and must prove their eligibility based on disability and financial limitations.

Applying for Benefits

When applying for benefits, it is crucial to understand the income and asset limitations associated with each program. For example, SSI has income limits that change annually, and individuals must prove their disability and financial need. Assets, such as savings accounts and life insurance policies, can also impact eligibility. It is essential to gather all necessary documentation, including medical records, to support your application.

Transitioning Benefits

As your child reaches adulthood, there may be changes in their benefits. For example, when a child turns 18, they may transition from SSI to SSDI if they have a work history. Understanding these transitions and the impact on benefits is crucial for effective planning. It is also important to consider the role of health insurance, such as group plans and Medicaid, in providing comprehensive coverage for your child’s needs.

Planning for Retirement

Planning for retirement is another important aspect of special needs planning. Understanding your own Social Security benefits and how they may impact your child’s benefits is crucial. It is also essential to consider the timing of retirement and the potential impact on your child’s health insurance coverage. Proper planning ensures a smooth transition and continued support for your child.


Government benefits are a vital resource for individuals with special needs and their families. Understanding the application process, rules, and limitations associated with these benefits is crucial for effective planning. By building a knowledgeable support team and staying informed about changes in benefits, you can ensure a secure and fulfilling future for your loved one.

Talk details

  • Title: Financial & long-term planning for special needs futures – 2. Government Benefits
  • Author(s): Mary Anne Ehlert
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: Protected Tomorrows
  • Publication date: 2021-09-07
  • Collection: 2021 ASF Virtual Family Conference