Caring for a person with special needs is never an easy task. It takes a great deal of time, effort, love and at times, assistance, to properly meet the needs of one with a disability. Fortunately, there are government programs available to help assist the caregiver or family of a special needs individual.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the largest educational assistance program for special needs children. It is sponsored by the US Department of Education and is implemented in all states. Schools receive additional funding from the Department of Education to defray the costs of this program.
If a child is a special needs child, the school must develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the child. The program must be truly unique for the particular special needs of the child and must consider the input of the parents, medical providers, social workers and therapists. Depending on the child, program may consist of tutoring, individual therapy, mainstreaming of children with social disorders, etc. Schools receiving federal funding must comply with the provisions of IDEA. Parents have the right to appeal a decision with which they do not agree.
Social Security Child Benefits
Some special needs children are entitled to benefits in a few circumstances. First, if the child is the child of a deceased or disabled parent and is a disabled child, benefits are payable. In addition, if the child is disabled and the parents have little resources, the child may be entitled to Supplementary Security Income Benefits.
In both cases, the child must have a disability that demonstrates “marked and severe functional limitations”. The limitations must limit the child’s activities to an extent that would prevent an adult from working. Parents of a disabled child can apply for Social Security and SSI benefits in a local Social Security Office, by phone or online at SSA.gov. Like other disability programs, child’s benefits may be appealed if the decision is unfavorable.
The Department of Education provides discretionary grants to states for special education and rehabilitation services. Vocational Rehabilitation Grants are offered to help people with special needs prepare for gainful employment, based on their skills and limitations. These grants are intended to meet the needs of the most severely disabled first.
The grants are administered through an applicable state agency.
EFMP for Military Families
The Department of Defense offers special programs for military families with a special needs child. The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), offers medical treatment, counseling, early intervention, and individualized family service plans. It also provides family outreach centers for further assistance to family caregivers. To enroll in the program, members of military families are encouraged to complete a Family Member Medical Summary (DD Form 2792) and a Special Education/Early Intervention Summary (DD Form 2792-1). Both may be obtained from the Department of Defense at Militaryonesource.gov.