Sunday, February 4, 2007

Relying on Government

The first question that comes to mind when something like this occurs is one of fairness. Should the government continue to subsidize someone who has "money?" On one hand, the standard government programs such as SSI and Medicaid were established to help persons who are elderly or who are disabled and living at the poverty level. On the other hand, government benefit programs are paid for out of tax dollars, and eligible individuals are entitled to receive these benefits.

When families consider this question, they should be aware that, while the services available through government benefit programs may be substantial (e.g., medical coverage through Medicaid), the actual cash benefits are generally quite small and force the individual to live way below the poverty level. In 1992, the maximum Federal SSI monthly payment was $422 for an individual. This means that, for an individual with a disability to have any type of meaningful lifestyle, the family or local charities have to provide supplemental assistance.

With recent changes in the Social Security Administration, the primary government benefit programs are recognizing that family contributions to the person's well-being can only improve his or her overall quality of life. As long as the family's contributions are supplementary in nature, as opposed to duplicating government benefit programs, they are permitted. Thus, the current government benefit programs do permit the family to provide some supplementary income and resources to the person with a disability. However, the government regulations are very strict, and they are carefully monitored.

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