Everyone needs income to support themselves and their needs. People with special needs may not be able to generate enough income through work or may not be able to work at all. For someone who cannot work to support themselves (and who is not yet eligible for Social Security retirement benefits,) the source(s) of income might have certain restrictions.
Let’s start with the no-restrictions income. If anyone (special needs or not) has enough invested money to generate enough income to support their needs and their lifestyle, no other sources of income are needed. (Yes, this means rich people.) These people do not need to worry (not at this time, anyway) about special needs law and protection of their income. They’ve got investment risk but not a special needs law problem
People who aren’t quite so rich may need to draw down their invested assets to keep up with their necessary expenditures. These people need to project whether how long their assets will last. People like this (who need to use some of their assets to support themselves) may want to consult an attorney who practices in special needs to see if government program (or maybe charitable programs) can help their assets last.
People who have enough of a work history (during which they paid into the Social Security system) should be eligible for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI.) These are people who may have suffered a debilitating accident or may have some sort of disease that affects people in middle age, such as MS or ALS. (Remember, to get SSDI, you have to have significant work history and not yet have reached retirement age.) Their SSDI does not have restrictions (except for people who become ineligible for SSDI by working despite their disability and, as a result, making more than a minimal income.) SSDI payment may or may not be enough to support the disabled person’s needs. If not, then the government and/or charitable benefits available to special needs people may become necessary.
People who do not have enough of a work history may need Supplemental Security Income (SSI.) SSI is not available to people who have assets above $2,000. That’s not much. People who have assets over $2,000 can spend some of their assets or can put the “extra” money into an account that the SSI rules don’t count as the person’s assets. A Special Needs Trust or an ABLE account (discussed in my blog post of February 5, 2015) might be appropriate, for example. In addition, other sources of income or of housing support, could reduce the person’s SSI each month.
A special needs person must have either many valuable assets or an income stream (or some combination) to sustain themselves. Advice from a special needs attorney can help sort out and get the maximum benefits of the person’s assets and income stream.