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Government Benefit Programs

Government Benefit Programs are an integral part of the service system for people with disabilities. Although they can be complicated, it is important to understand how to access and utilize these benefits.

Social Security
Up until the 18th birthday, eligibility for SSI is based on both the nature of the disability and the income and assets of the child’s parent(s)/guardian. Here is information about how to apply for SSI for a child:  Here is a link to information about family financial eligibility for children applying for SSI:

Many people with developmental disabilities, however, do not qualify until they are 18 years old.  Here is information about how to apply for SSI for an adult over age 18:  It is not possible to apply online.

Since income and assets are also a factor in eligibility for these benefits, it is not uncommon for persons with developmental disabilities to report being denied social security benefits. If denied initially, you are encouraged to appeal.  Here is information about how to appeal:

For further information on Social Security or to find the nearest Social Security Office, visit the Social Security website at or call them toll free at 1-800-772-1213.  Social Security information is available in English, Spanish and 15 other languages:

A person with a developmental disability may also be eligible for Medicaid.  Some children are eligible for Medicaid based on their family income – not connected to having a disability. Get more information about Illinois Medicaid eligibility for children up to age 19 at:

For adults over age 19, there are now two different ways to access Medicaid health insurance.

  1. Adults who receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income) may be eligible for AABD (Assistance to the Aged, Blind and Disabled) Medicaid:
  2. Adults with and without disabilities who do not receive SSI, or who are waiting to find out if they qualify for SSI, may be eligible for the “new Medicaid”, also called Affordable Care Act Medicaid. This program is based only on income eligibility.

Medicaid is important in that it not only provides health care coverage but is also the pathway of access for many adult services through Medicaid waivers. Click here for information on how to apply for Medicaid. A waiver means that the usual rules that accompany Federal Medicaid dollars are dropped.  Many adult services in Illinois are funded by Medicaid waivers. Our state has nine different waivers, and some children may be eligible for six of them. For more information:

Each state determines how Medicaid waiver funding can be used. Not all states have Medicaid waivers and each state with waiver programs may have different types of services available for different groups of people. To find information about waivers in other states, see and

Click here for information about Medicaid Waiver Programs in Illinois. If you want to apply for Medicaid Waiver services for a child or an adult with a developmental disability, here is a fact sheet that explains the process for those waivers administered through the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities:  PUNS – The Basics

Government Benefit Programs
Government Benefit Programs – Main Page
Special Needs Future Planning for Benefits, Financial & Legal Issues
Advocacy Toolbox – Main Page