Public Benefits & ABLE Accounts

Medicaid Waivers

Waiver programs help people who are elderly or have disabilities and need help to live in their home or community instead of an institution such as a nursing home or ICF-MR.


Social Security and Supplemental Security Income

Our nation’s Social Security system insures individuals and family members for when a worker retires, dies, or acquires a qualifying disability. Social Security is extremely important for people with disabilities, who often rely on benefits for the majority of their income. Social Security also plays a vital role in helping people with disabilities to live independently in the community and meet their basic needs. Workers pay for Social Security, and benefits amounts are based on a worker’s earnings history. Benefits are generally modest, averaging a little over $1,100 per month for all beneficiaries, including those who receive:

Social Security beneficiaries also qualify for Medicare. People who qualify for Social Security because of a disability generally have a 24-month waiting period before they can begin to receive Medicare.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – assists people who are elderly, blind, or have disabilities and who have little or no income or savings. SSI provides monthly benefits to help people meet their basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Benefits average a little over $500 a month. To qualify, a non-elderly person age 18 or older must have a qualifying disability and must meet the SSI income and asset requirements. Also, children under 18 with qualifying disabilities can receive SSI if their families have little income and resources. Unlike Social Security, SSI has no work history or prior contribution requirements.

Usually, a person who qualifies for SSI is also eligible for Medicaid – However, each state has the option of setting its Medicaid eligibility rules, and some states set eligibility for Medicaid to be more restrictive than the federal SSI standard.


Access to Social Security Benefits in Wisconsin


ABLE Accounts

The Stephen Beck, Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) Act was signed into law on December 19, 2014 after many years of advocacy and bipartisan work in both the U.S. House and Senate. The law allows eligible individuals with disabilities the ability to establish “ABLE accounts” for qualified beneficiaries that resemble the qualified tuition programs, often called “529 accounts”, that have been established under that section of the tax code since 1996

  1. The new ABLE accounts will allow more individual choice and control over spending on qualified disability expenses and limited investment decisions, while protecting eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other important federal benefits for people with disabilities. Without these accounts, many people with disabilities have very limited avenues to save and allow for further independence.

The Arc of the United States has a short summary and more detailed information about the new ABLE accounts, and a frequently updated tracker of ABLE state legislation. For more information on planning for the future, visit The Arc’s Center for Future Planning.