Why Benefits Matter

A lot of young people don’t know much about cash and health benefits. Sometimes parents take care of applying for benefits and managing money. Some people are embarrassed they get benefits. Others think that benefits are just too confusing to understand. Some don’t get benefits because they don’t know they qualify.

It is very important that you understand benefits, even if your parents do most of your benefits paperwork. You need to know how benefits can help you live independently and pursue your dreams, such as going to college and getting a job.

Benefits Lead to Independent Living

As a person with a disability you have more opportunities than you might think. People with disabilities are living in their own homes, graduating from college, working at good jobs, getting married, and having children. Getting jobs, studying, living on your own, making friends, and all of the other activities in life are all part of independent living!

One major reason that people with disabilities can live independently is the support that benefits offer. Benefits are keys that can give you needed support as you decide what to do in life and get started with adulthood.

The most important disability benefits offer money and health coverage. The money can help you pay your rent, have a social life, pay for college, and buy food and other things you need. The health coverage can keep you healthier and prevent health care expenses from putting you into debt. These benefits mean that you can think about your future and explore life, instead of constantly worrying about paying bills.

Benefits Help You Get a Job or Go to School

Benefits can help you get an education and a job. In fact, some benefits programs are designed to help you save money for an education or make money while you’re in school.

You may worry that if you get a job, you'll lose your cash benefits. But the reality is that when you get a job, your total income will almost always go up. While your cash benefits may go down as your work income goes up, your job income will more than make up for any drop in benefits. You may even keep getting the same amount of cash benefits after you get a job!

Benefits Give Access to Health Care

Did you know that the average cost of an emergency room visit is more than $1,000 and that medical expenses are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States? Make sure you have health coverage!

If you get a job and your income goes up, you can still get health coverage. You might keep the exact same coverage as you have now or you might have to sign up for a different program. Either way, you'll be covered.

Do You Qualify for Benefits?

Different benefits have different rules. For most benefits programs, you or your family must either have low income or have paid into an insurance program. Programs may also look at your age, whether your disability meets certain standards, and your family's resources.

Income-Based Benefits

Income-based benefits help you if your family doesn’t make a lot of money. Some programs also have a resource limit.

For most young people with disabilities, the income-based benefits programs that help the most are Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which gives some money each month, and Medicaid (also called NJ FamilyCare), which offers health coverage.

Insurance

Insurance is a type of program you pay into regularly. If something comes up and you need help, the insurance starts helping you.

For example, if you have private health insurance, you, your employer, or your parent pays money each month, and when you need to go to the doctor, the insurance pays most of the expenses.

Learn more about qualifying for SSI, Medicaid, and private health coverage.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

When you work, a small part of the money you make is automatically paid into a federal program called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). If your disability gets worse and you can’t work anymore, SSDI may help you with money each month. Learn more about SSDI.

Most young people don’t qualify for SSDI because they haven’t worked long enough. However, Social Security also has a program called Child’s Benefits that helps the children of people with disabilities and children with deceased parents. Another program called Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB) gives benefits to people with disabilities over the age of 18 if their parents are retired, disabled, or deceased.

Why You Should Take Charge of Your Benefits

You need to understand and manage your benefits, because your money and your health are your responsibilities during adulthood.

Managing Your Benefits Gives You More Options

What role does money play in your life? You might think of money as what you need to buy the things that you want. Yet money also pays your bills, buys your groceries, and takes care of your everyday concerns. You need money to carry out your day-to-day life.

However, you can use money for more than that. You can use it to pay for your education, for your own apartment, or for a car that you can drive to work. Money can also open the door to a future in which you have more options to choose from.

Taking control of your money will help you realize your dreams and achieve your goals, and learning how to deal with benefits is an important step. Cash benefits will help you during your transition to adulthood, while health coverage benefits will keep you healthy and let you save money to use for other purposes.

Managing your benefits means that you are the person who decides what you want to do with your life.

You Are Approaching or Have Already Arrived at Adulthood

You are an adult or soon will be an adult. You need to know how to manage your benefits, your health, and your money. Your parents or other family members have probably helped you with benefits in the past and they have made many choices about the direction of your life. As a young adult, it is important for you to set goals for yourself so that you can live an independent life. Your parents and family can still help you, but as an adult, it will be your responsibility to lead your life and make the big decisions on how to live it.

You might feel anxious or scared about taking more control over your life and that’s okay. It’s a lot of work, and handling your benefits is hard, but there is also a lot of information available and many people who can help you make informed decisions. Begin with Key Programs to get a brief introduction to the most important programs that can help you.