Special Needs – Public Help for the Disabled

Like the old and the young, the disabled are generally thought of as inherently deserving of public assistance. Those who are blind, deaf or crippled, unlike those who are the parents of illegitimate children or addicted to alcohol or other drugs, are not despised for bringing their problems on themselves, even in Red States. Reasonably thoughtful people take a “there but the grace of God go I” attitude toward the needs and conditions of those suffering a disability. Most people, if forced to think about it, are willing to pay taxes to assist those with the added burden of caring for a disabled spouse, child, or parent. In 1998 4.3 percent of all public spending was on services and benefits specifically for those with special needs – for the disabled. Most of these have eligibility restricted based on means, as well as needs. A disabled individual with enough income to provide for their own care would not be eligible; a disabled individual living with a spouse or parents who are not poor also may not be ineligible. There are few single disabled adults who are not reliant on public benefits, however, because those born with severe congenital disabilities such as mental retardation, mental illness, blindness or deafness are unlikely to earn much money during the course of their lives, and are likely to require extensive assistance, particularly health care. But deciding who is in need is not always straightforward, and this leads to below the radar conflict and non-decisions.