Will Social Security Pay for a Caregiver?

In this article...
  • Find out how a caregiver can get paid to care for a friend or family member. Learn who qualifies for Social Security disability and how to apply for benefits.

Social Security programs offer vital assistance to people who become chronically ill or disabled. If you or a loved one have difficulties with day-to-day tasks due to an injury or illness, daily help from a caregiver may be necessary. Will Social Security pay for a caregiver? Unfortunately, the simple answer is no. Social Security programs don't directly pay caregivers. However, there are still many ways a caregiver can interact with Social Security programs to benefit a loved one. 

Social Security Disability Programs 

Two Social Security programs benefit people with chronic illnesses or disabilities:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

These programs provide monthly payments, including back pay, to beneficiaries. Payments help pay for daily living needs and medical care. Additionally, SSDI may provide payments to the beneficiary's dependents

SSI is need-based, and applicants must meet financial and medical requirements to qualify for benefits. SSDI is available to people who were employed within the last 10 years and paid Social Security taxes. People with progressive illnesses or disabilities that arise later in life often benefit from SSDI. 

Some people may need to apply for both programs while determining which is most appropriate for their situation. Occasionally, people with enough medical needs and financial hardship can receive benefits from both programs. 

Will Social Security Pay for a Caregiver? 

Neither SSI nor SSDI will pay a caregiver directly. A beneficiary can use their Social Security payments to help pay for care from a home health care service or another party. In many cases, they can choose to pay a friend or family member if desired. Benefit payments can also be used to pay for daily needs such as food, medicine, transportation and other living expenses. 

Can a Family Member Get Paid for Taking Care of a Family Member? 

Even though Social Security will not pay for a caregiver, there are programs that will. Government programs, including some Medicaid programs, do pay for caregivers and may pay a family member to provide care. 

Most states won't allow Medicaid to pay family members as caregivers, and the beneficiary may need to hire a home health care service to provide daily care. However, some states have Medicaid Self-Directed Care programs that let a beneficiary select their caregiver. These beneficiaries are often able to choose a friend or family member. 

Certain VA programs pay for caregivers for qualifying veterans and may allow the veteran to select a friend or family member as their caregiver. Some states also have non-Medicaid programs that provide funds for caregivers. 

Which Medical Conditions Qualify for SSI or SSDI? 

The SSA Bluebook lists all of the medical conditions that qualify a person for SSI or SSDI benefits. Examples of conditions include: 

  • Parkinson's disease
  • ALS
  • Vision problems
  • Cancer 
  • Severe arthritis 
  • Genetic disorders 

Some conditions, such as ALS or having vision less than 20/200 with correction, automatically meet the medical requirements for Social Security benefits. Other conditions may only qualify if an applicant can document the severity of the disability. For example, a person with arthritis may only qualify if they can show mobility impairments or an inability to complete daily living tasks.  

A Caregiver or Family Member Can Help Someone Apply for Benefits

A caregiver, friend or family member can help a person apply for Social Security benefits. A person who is sick or unable to complete basic tasks may be unable to apply without assistance from a loved one. 

If you're helping someone complete an application for SSI or SSDI, be sure to fill out the application completely and provide the necessary documentation. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires thorough information about a person's medical condition and finances. Required information can include: 

  • Medical records 
  • Employment history 
  • Tax information
  • Financial statements 

disability checklist is available from the SSA to help applicants understand what information is required to complete their applications. 

The applicant and their caregiver may wish to speak with the applicant's doctor before applying for Social Security benefits. Doing so can aid all parties in fully understanding the details of the medical condition and whether current medical records will be sufficient to obtain benefits. 

Although a caregiver can help collect documentation and fill out an application, in most cases, the person who will receive benefits must sign the application and authorize its submission. 

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits 

Applications for SSI and SSDI can be submitted online or by telephone at 1-800-772-1213 or at TTY 1-800-325-0778 for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Once an application is submitted, it may take several months for the SSA to process. However, back pay may be provided if the application is approved.