Benefits for Young People

Why Benefits Matter

A lot of young people don’t know much about cash and health care 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, which can include 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 give them. Benefits are keys that will give you the support you need as you decide what to do in life and get started with adulthood.

The most important disability benefits you will get are money and health care. The money will help you pay your rent, let you have a social life, make affording college possible, and help you buy food and other necessities. The health care benefits will keep you as healthy as possible 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 are designed to help you get an education and a job. You may be worried that getting a job will cause you to lose your cash benefits, but the reality is that when you get a job, your income will almost always go up.

Depending on the benefits you get, your cash benefits may go down as your work income goes up, though your job income will more than make up for the lower amount in benefits.

With other benefits programs and thanks to some work incentives discussed later, you may be able to keep getting the same amount of cash benefits after you get a job! Some of the best work incentives are actually ways for you to save money for an education or make money while you’re in school.

Benefits Give You 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 care benefits!

When you get a job and your income goes up, you will still be able to get health care coverage. In many cases you will continue getting the exact same coverage as you have now. In other cases you may have to enroll in a different program that will also cover your medical expenses.

Are You Eligible for Benefits?

In order to get the benefits designed to help people with disabilities, your disability has to “qualify.” This means that it has to meet certain standards. Depending on your age, who supplies the benefits, and what the benefits are, these standards vary and your disability may or may not qualify you for the benefits.

Even if your disability qualifies, just having a disability doesn’t automatically mean you will get cash benefits or health care coverage. In addition to having a disability, you must also either have low income or have paid into an insurance program. How programs decide if your disability qualifies and whether you have a low enough income or will get insurance coverage is explained on the Eligibility for Key Programs page of this article.

Income-Based Benefits

Income-based benefits help you if your family doesn’t earn a lot of money. Depending on your age and the benefits program, there may also be a limit on your assets.

For most young people with disabilities, the income-based benefits programs that help the most are Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which supplies you with cash income support, and Medi-Cal, which gives you health care coverage.

More information on both programs, click here.


Insurance programs are programs you pay into regularly. If something comes up and you need help, the money becomes available.

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.

Private health care coverage is described in greater detail in this article in the Key Programs section and the Private Health Care Coverage for Young People section.


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 will supply you with income support. To learn more, read DB101’s article on 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) supplies benefits for disabled young people over the age of 18 if their parents are retired, disabled, or deceased. To learn more about these programs, click here.

Why You Should Take Charge of Your Benefits

It is important that you understand and manage your benefits, because your money and your health care will be 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 something that you need to buy the things you want, but money is also used to pay bills, buy groceries, and take care of everyday concerns. We need money to carry out our day-to-day lives.

However, money can be more than that. It can pay for your education, for your own apartment, or for a car that you can drive to work. It can be the key that opens the door to a brighter future – a future in which you feel in charge and enjoy your life because of the path you have chosen.

Learning to take control of your money will help you realize your dreams and achieve your goals. Part of this involves learning how to deal with benefits. Cash benefits are a portion of your income that will help you during your transition to adulthood. Health care benefits will save you money that you can use for other purposes and at the same time will keep you healthy!

Managing your benefits will let you be the person who decides what you want to do with your life and help you fulfill your goals and dreams.

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 up to this point in your life, 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 will still be able to help you, but as an adult, it will be your responsibility to lead your life and make the final decisions on how to live it.

You might feel anxious or scared about taking more control of 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 looking at Key Programs to get a brief introduction to the most important programs that can help you.

Learn more