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Parents Caring for a Disabled Child or Family Member

 

Your Rights Under Welfare Reform

1. I have a disabled child who needs my care. Are there special welfare rules that can help my family?

Yes. If you are low-income and meet the other welfare rules, you and your children may be eligible for TAFDC (welfare). If you care for a disabled child in your home, the 24-month welfare time limit and work rules may not apply. Your family may be excused from - get an “exemption” - from these rules. Different rules apply to families with both parents of the child in the home.

2. How do I show my child is disabled?

DTA has a special form which you bring to your child's doctor. This form asks the doctor to state the medical condition of your child, how severe the condition is and if you are needed at home to care for the child. Be sure to ask your DTA worker to give you a copy of this form (a TAFDC-4 form). Your child does not have to be permanently and totally disabled for your family to get an exemption.

Examples of a child's illness that may be severe enough to require a lot of care include serious behavioral or developmental problems, severe asthma, depression, mental retardation, chronic polio, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, diabetes, epilepsy, lead poisoning, severe allergies, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, congenital heart disease or other illnesses. This is not a complete list. Any child's illness that requires a lot of care may qualify.

Some children may also have problems from witnessing domestic violence in the home. If you want, you can talk with a domestic violence specialist at DTA about this when you apply for an exemption. We also urge you to talk with an advocate about your options.

3. Does my child have to receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income) for us to qualify?

No. A disabled child does not need to get SSI benefits for you to qualify for an exemption. You can request an exemption whether or not you are getting or have applied for SSI for the child. Even though SSI is not required, SSI pays more than TAFDC so you should apply for SSI for a child with severe disabilities. An advocate can help you appeal if you are denied.

4. Can I get an exemption if my disabled child is in school?

Yes, if you have to respond to a child's special needs during the school day or after school, and cannot work full-time. Some parents are up during the night caring for a child and cannot work because they need to sleep during the daytime.

5. My family has already used up our 24 months of welfare. Can I reapply and ask for an exemption?

Yes. You have the right to reapply at any time, even if you have used up 24 months of benefits. When you reapply, ask your worker for an exemption from the time limit. Be sure to get a form to take to your child's doctor. Contact your local Legal Services office if you are denied the right to reapply or denied an exemption.

6. I am caring for a disabled adult. Can I ask for an exemption?

Yes. Under DTA rules, you may also qualify for an exemption if you are caring for a family member who is a disabled adult such as a spouse, sibling, half-sibling grandparent, great grandparent or adult child. If you have a disabled family member in your home who needs your care, ask the DTA worker for a DTA form to have the disabled member's doctor fill out.

You have the right to reapply at any time, even if you have used up 24 months of benefits. When you reapply, ask your worker for an exemption from the time limit. Be sure to get a form to take to your child's doctor. Contact your local Legal Services office if you are denied the right to reapply or denied an exemption.

7. My child is not severely disabled, but sometimes I need to stay home from work when she is sick. Will DTA cut off my benefits for not working or doing job search?

You should not be cut off if you can show “good cause”. You should be able to stay home with a sick child when you need to. If you have to stay home, be sure to tell your DTA worker and job search program that you have a “good cause” reason for not working or doing job search. As long as you provide proof to your worker, DTA should not cut your TAFDC benefits (or “sanction” your case). You can also claim “good cause” if you miss an appointment at the DTA local office.

8. I have been denied an exemption. What should I do?

If you get a notice telling you your TAFDC will be cut off or denied and you disagree with this action, fill out the back and ask for a fair hearing immediately. You should also contact Legal Services for free legal help.

You should be able to stay home with a sick child when you need to. If you have to stay home, be sure to tell your DTA worker and job search program that you have a “good cause” reason for not working or doing job search. As long as you provide proof to your worker, DTA should not cut your TAFDC benefits (or “sanction” your case). You can also claim “good cause” if you miss an appointment at the DTA local office.If you get a notice telling you your TAFDC will be cut off or denied and you disagree with this action, fill out the back and ask for a fair hearing immediately. You should also contact Legal Services for free legal help.


Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last updated 31 January, 2006


More information and legal advice

Free Legal Services may be available to give you more advice or representation. Call the Legal Services program in your community for help.

 

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