Becoming eligible for public benefits may require some planning

Because public benefit programs, such as SSI and Medicaid (AHCCCS and ALTCS), are needs based, they are only available to individuals who meet strict income and resource requirements. This means that applicants can be denied or disqualified from important benefits if they have even slightly above the resource limit. Countless people whose resources exceed the limit mistakenly believe they can only become eligible for benefits by spending down their excess resources. The truth is, however, that many tools are available to help public benefit applicants qualify for benefits.

In certain situations, Medicaid (AHCCCS and ALTCS) and SSI applicants may create a special needs trust to supplement their needs, and at the same time help them qualify for benefits. While creating a special needs trust does not in itself trigger eligibility, it may help those who would otherwise qualify for benefits were it not for excess resources. Special needs trust funds are not counted for purposes of Medicaid (AHCCCS and ALTCS) and SSI eligibility, so establishing such a trust is a way in which applicants can get their resources below the threshold. The catch to this is that special needs trust funds can only be used for limited purposes.

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