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When a child has Cerebral Palsy, the process of securing government benefits can be a long and frustrating one. That’s why persistence is a vital factor in acquiring the assistance a child is entitled.
Persistence matters in the quest for assistance
Government agencies have a reputation for being bureaucracies for a reason. They are slow to respond once a person applies for benefits. In addition, there are a battery of procedures, process mazes and subtle nuances that a person must navigate.
When a parent takes the initiative to explore the possibility of government benefits for their child, it’s a sure-fire signal that such assistance is needed. Unfortunately, assistance may not be immediately forth coming, and a long wait may be imminent. Eligibility may be based on established standards, but it also may depend on program vacancies. Service denial may be based on benefit eligibility standards, but can also be the result of inadequate funding levels, or errors in the application process.
Not all government benefits, community assistance, or educational programs are readily known or fully understood. Finding resources, pursuing eligibility requirements, understanding process procedures, and following all program guidelines is time consuming and, at times, frustrating.
It’s unfortunate that systems within the various departments of the government seem so complex. Therefore, it will be necessary for parents of children with disabilities to be persistent in their efforts to secure benefits for their child, even after he or she has been denied, and even after it looks like assistance may never materialize.
Disability benefits, sources of assistance, and educational programs can mean the difference between a child being able to thrive, a family being able to keep their home, and a person with Cerebral Palsy being able to live independently. It’s important to remember that when it comes to seeking help from the government, the community, and the educational system the benefits are worth fighting for.
A thousand questions
A representative or caseworker will ask questions about a child’s medical history, diagnosis, treatments, the family’s financial situation and living arrangements. Qualification may take time, sometimes weeks.
When this meeting occurs, a parent needs to be able to anticipate the nature of questions; and be prepared to answer inquiries. Having all of the information about the child and the family’s circumstances before going into an interview with the representative can be beneficial.
This process, for some, feels like an investigation or an interrogation. Even if a parent feels they made their case for assistance, aid can be denied.
Making the case
To make the case to caseworkers that a child qualifies for benefits, it is necessary for parents to have all their proof available and in order when they meet with a representative. This will reduce the likelihood that an application for aid will be dismissed; especially if one has previously applied and been rejected.
Here are some tips to heed before meeting with program administrators:
1. Document everything – Hold onto every piece of paper, every email, and every bit of documentation a physician, an educator, or a government official provides. As a parent of a child with a disability, it may seem redundant or even unnecessary to justify to a representative the extent of a child’s condition. But, that’s exactly what is required – the parent must be able to verify every single contention they make about their child’s condition. When test results are known or a diagnosis is made, immediately ask for a copy of the document for your child’s records. Asking for records after the fact may cause delay and incur administrative fees.
2. Have paperwork in order – Review the eligibility requirements and the application process for required information. Make yourself a checklist of all the additional paperwork and information that the representative may benefit knowing. This may include the child’s medical, psychological, educational and treatment records. Determine whether you will need your tax and income forms, mortgage paperwork, and medical expenditures. Compile contact information for employers, physicians, and anyone that can provide information to support the case. Pay particular attention to application dates as some programs have limited registration periods.
3. Have professionals verify your information – Professionals that can provide information about a child’s condition should be asked to provide statements, either verbally or in writing, to support the case for support. Physicians, in particular, can provide valuable information about a child’s capabilities, general limitations, and future care requirements. It’s also a good idea to have not only the child’s primary care physician, but the neurologist and the therapists, input as well.
4. Consider consulting a program advocate – Every program whether social security, Medicaid, or special education has a group of parent or program advocates that can help a parent better understand and navigate the system. They can review your circumstance and better prepare you for the process. If denied, they will likely know the intricacies of the complaint or dispute resolution process. Because of their expertise and experience, they know what information is needed, the likelihood that an application will be approved or denied, and the challenges that can be avoided.
5. Have income and expenditure information in hand – A decision regarding whether a family will receive benefits or assistance is often dependent on their income level. A decision for the state child insurance program is dependent upon whether the child is covered by other health insurance programs. It is a good idea to go to any meeting with a representative with detailed information about wages, employment stability, and proof of income. This can help create a clear picture of a family’s finances and avoid undue delay.
6. Provide a child’s educational tests – A child’s cognitive abilities can be another factor regarding whether he or she will receive benefits. So, if a child has challenges that affect his or her ability to study, work, learn or participate in typical activities it is beneficial to produce the paperwork to bolster a parent’s case for assistance.
7. Be familiar with all medical and technical terms – As a child grows, his or her parents are likely to become quite familiar in subjects that they likely never considered would have been concerned with before. Having a grasp of all of the technical terms that would describe a child’s condition is an significant step in terms of being prepared and coming across as prepared.
8. Think about how you will answer questions – Before you meet with or have a dialog with anyone from the Social Security office, the community board or education administration try to anticipate questions and how you should answer them. It’s best to minimize surprises to the extent it is possible when going through the application process.
9. Be ready to ask for an administrative hearing or inquire about dispute resolution options – It’s unfortunate, when applying for government benefits don’t be surprised if they are rejected the first time. If that occurs, try not to be discouraged, and don’t give up. Politely ask for a reason for the decision and ask about any options that may be available. Review online websites for dispute resolution and complaint processes. Seek the guidance of a parent or program advocate, if required.
10. Maintain program records – There may come a point where your government benefits, community assistance or special education plans are altered, reduced or denied in the future. Having all your paperwork on hand and in order can, at times, save valuable time and help in reinstating benefits and programs.
A child’s ability to tap into benefits depends on a parent’s ability to gather information, make decisions, seek guidance, and stay the course. There’s no doubt about it – persistence pays off.
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