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Understanding Public Benefits in California
Wheelchair Accessibility

Needs Based Public Benefits in California

Public Benefits can be confusing.  The benefit names may sound similar, but the eligibility requirements and benefits provided are very different.  Understanding these differences is critical in getting the right benefit, properly utilizing the benefit, and staying "eligible" for that benefit.  

Needs Based benefits, like Medi-Cal (Medicaid in other states), SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), have very strict resource requirements as well as income guidelines.  Entitlement benefits are different, because a person may be eligible yet still have wealth in his/her name, such as SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), Medicare, and DAC (Disabled Adult Child).

Many people think they can use "common sense" when applying for benefits, or "helping" a disabled person to become eligible or stay eligible.  WRONG.  Unfortunately, those that use common sense are typically destined for failure.  The following is intended to provide an easy to understand summary of public benefits in California.  It is not intended to provide legal advise, and not intended to include every benefit potentially available.

The following are the primary Needs Based benefits in California.  Supplemental Needs Trusts (Special Needs Trusts) are designed to protect these important benefits:

Medi-Cal (known as Medicaid in other states).  Medi-Cal pays for many types of medical treatments, and other services.  It is also the ONLY government program that pays for long-term nursing home care in a skilled nursing facility.  Simply stated, California has its own rules and regulations for eligibility and qualification, which are very different than other states.  If a loved one needs skilled nursing care, it is important to consider California allowed asset protection measures to qualify for this important benefit.  

Additionally, disabled individuals often receive Medi-Cal benefits, which serves as their medical insurance.  Med-Cal only allows the recipient to have $2000.00 in non-exempt assets (for a single person). The following website offers great information:   For more information about Medi-Cal ebenefits for skilled nursing care, visit:

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) provides monthly cash payments to be used for food and shelter.  The amount paid can vary depending on the disabled person's living situation, marital status, and disability.  For the latest SSI rates, simply google "SSI in California" and follow the  website for the latest information (it changes frequently).  Importantly, the resource limit for a single person is $2,000.00 - the same as Medi-Cal.  Income is also an important factor.  In California, if a person is receiving at least $1.00 in SSI payments each month, then that person is automatically entitled to Medi-Cal.  Both benefits are often critically important for disabled individuals, and typically the reason why parents and family members create "Third Party" Supplemental Needs Trusts for their disabled child/grandchild.

Man with Down Syndrome Playing Violin

IHSS (In-Home Supportive Services provides disabled persons, or those who are over 65, with in-home and personal care services, to live safely in their own home and stay out of an institutionalized facility.  The disabled person must be already eligible for Medi-Cal, and meet the other requirements.  A great website with important information can be found here:



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