Worrying about money is just an added cherry on top of the stressful cake that is being a mom to a disabled child – especially if you are a disabled parent yourself. Just making sure you are there to tend to their health needs, educational growth and emotional development are tough enough, without having to throw the money-saving and financial side of things into the mix.

For most people in this situation, looking after a disabled child means a drastically lowered income. You can’t work as much which means you don’t get paid as much – it is just how our capitalist society works. And even if you do go out and work, you have to pay for specialist child care. Spoiler alert – this isn’t cheap. Then there is the worry of how your kid’s care will continue should something happen to you.

The good news is, there is government help available, the kind that attempts to relieve some of the financial burdens that weighs heavy on our shoulders. The bad news is, bureaucracy sucks. Finding out whether you are eligible is complex and applying for help takes more time and effort than getting a Master’s degree. Then there are the risks you run of disqualifying your kids from future funding – completely unwittingly – if you get this process wrong.

So, to help you out, we have pulled together a quick overview of some of the programs that could be available to you through the social security administration.

First Off, SSI

This is Supplementary Security Income and, to give it to you as straight as possible, it is a needs-based program that offers financial assistance for disabled people in low-income families that have a tough time getting the resources they need. Of course, knowing if your child qualifies is the challenge. So, to help clarify this a bit more, children that are under the age of 18 (or 22 if they are still in education) can qualify if they a) have physical or mental impairment that results in severe functional limitations, b) their condition has – or is expected to – last more than a year and c) don’t earn more than $1,040 a month (although the limits are higher for those that are blind).

As with most things like this, if the child is under 18, then the income and resources are calculated for both the child and anyone else living under the same roof as them. However, if the child is over 18 then it is just them who are considered when applying for eligibility. Of course, this then brings up more questions in which they must not be able to work for pay. How much you are eligible for depends on which state you live in, so it is well worth investigating what the rates are in your state and if federal payments offer any supplementary finances. I advise to get a lawyer as they will denied you the first time applying.

On to SSDI

For those who haven’t heard of this, the SSDI (or Social Security Disability Income) is funded by payroll deductions. Who gets what depends on has what disability, but it is possible that children can receive funds if the parent is disabled, in which case it is the parent’s disability that gets taken into consideration. Once a child turns 22, though, a disabled child may be able to qualify for their own SSDI should one of their parents a) already receive SS retirement or disability benefits or b) paid into the system during their years in work for a minimum of ten years.

Whatever option you think you are eligible for, the processes tend to be immensely complex, which is why we recommend you always use a social security disability lawyer to help you out. There is just too much that could go wrong accidentally, from you not receiving the right amount of assistance to you jeopardising your child’s assistance in the future.

We’re talking about simple mistakes like opening an account in your child’s name to naming them as beneficiaries in your will and even putting them on to life insurance policies. All of these things you want to do to help your child should be discussed with a specialist lawyer first just so that you are not unwittingly disqualifying your child. For example, if your child has access to resources worth more than $2,000 then they could be disqualified, which means that if your mom – and their Grandma – leaves them $5,000 in their will, then their entitlement to benefits have been lost.

There is help out there for you and your child, it is just a matter of making sure you qualify and that means being in the know.