Navigating State and Federal Programs

The state you live in has a major effect on what disability programs are available to you. However, Federal programs are the same in all states. The federal programs SSDI and Medicare are the same in all states, while the programs Medicaid and SSI vary depending on the state.

Additionally, the programs that are available in each state can vary. All states offer food stamps, for example, but the amount that people can receive in food stamps varies based on state. Subsidized housing is also available in all states, but accessible housing can be hard to find in many regions of the country.

There are also several other state-based programs for people with disabilities. To discover the programs in your state that are available to you, ask your case worker or make an appointment with a counselor at your nearest Center for Independent Living. They can help guide you through the disability programs that are available in your area. To find your closest Center for Independent Living, click here: https://www.ilru.org/projects/cil-net/cil-center-and-association-directory

You can also visit the “Find Government and Local Disability Programs and Services” site on USA.gov to discover the state and federal disability programs available to you. There is a wide variety of disability programs that can help you live an independent life, such as assistance with home renovations, tuition assistance for going back to school, as well as financial assistance with adapting a vehicle so you can return to work. Discover these programs here: https://www.usa.gov/disability-programs>

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is one of the most critical programs in the nation for people with disabilities. Unlike Medicare, which is fully funded by the federal government, half of Medicaid is funded by the state.

Because of this, states across the country provide drastically different versions of Medicaid. Some states will not pay for personal care attendants, which is a cornerstone of many people’s independence. Before you leave the hospital, you’ll want to apply for Medicaid if you know you will need it. Medicaid benefits can take three or four months to be approved.

Do you qualify?

Yes, if you don’t exceed your state’s income limit. Spinal cord injuries are considered a significant disability, so if you have a SCI, you are eligible for what is called “Long-term care” Medicaid. You can easily reapply each year when you have this version of Medicaid.

In 2014, the Federal government did something very exciting: they allowed states to expand their Medicaid programs (25 states agreed, while 21 states declined). Check out our link at the bottom of this page to see where your state stands.

How to Apply

When you apply for Medicaid, you need to show proof regarding all of your monthly income and all of your assets. This is, unfortunately, one of the hardest parts of the process, but it is a requirement because this health insurance program was designed for both the poor and disabled. If you decide to go back to work or want to get a job, you will need to see if you would lose your benefits. As we said above, the rules depend greatly on the state you live in.

There are even some states that offer a version of Medicaid called MAEPD, which is a version of Medicaid that allows you to work full-time and still receive Medicaid. This is great for quadriplegics who require personal care attendants to get out of bed each morning, but still want to go to work and earn their own income. Beware: there can be a waiting list for this program in many states.

Often times, the easiest way to apply to Medicaid is by becoming SSI eligible. In 41 states, D.C., and the Northern Mariana Islands, receiving an SSI cash payment automatically qualifies you for Medicaid. The majority of the states automatically enroll a person in Medicaid through its internal SSI eligibility notification process, but some states require that a person also submit a Medicaid application to be approved. It is important to note that the Medicaid a person receives is unique to the state they live in.

To apply for Medicaid in the easiest way possible, check out the link below to apply online. You’ll still need to mail in a paper version of the application and provide proof of your monthly income and your assets, but the application can be mailed to your home. Otherwise, go to your local Social Security Office and pick up an application in-person. Remember, it can take 3 to 4 months for your application to be processed.

Takeaway Points:

  • Visit https://www.usa.gov/disability-programs to find your state’s programs.
  • Medicaid provides medical care to those in need.
  • You can apply for disability benefits, including Medicaid, at local Social Security office.
  • There may be a Residency Requirement. You’ll want to check with your state to see the rules.
  • When applying for Medicaid, your assets & income will be assessed.
  • MAEPD allows people with spinal cord injuries to still receive Medicaid Services while working full-time, as long as they pay a premium each month.
  • States have to pay for half the costs, hence the differences in Medicaid between states.

Helpful Resources:

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Spinal Cord Injury
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