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Children with Special Health Care Needs


Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) refers to children who have chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional conditions. These children may require medical or health-related services beyond those typically needed by other children of the same age. VA benefits may cover medical, rehabilitative, and support services for such children, depending on their eligibility and circumstances.

Key Takeaways

  1. Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) are eligible for various support services and benefits through the Veterans Affairs (VA) system, to ensure they receive appropriate healthcare and resources for a better quality of life.
  2. VA benefits for CSHCN may include programs such as TRICARE’s Extended Care Health Option (ECHO), which provides financial assistance for specialized services, respite care, and medical equipment that may not be covered under standard insurance plans.
  3. Eligibility for CSHCN benefits requires children to be dependents of active-duty service members or retired military personnel, and they must have a qualifying medical condition that requires ongoing care and meets specific criteria defined by the VA.


The term “Children with Special Health Care Needs” is important in the context of VA benefits because it emphasizes that the VA provides support and resources for not only veterans themselves but also for their dependents facing special health care challenges.

These children often require ongoing medical care, therapy, or various forms of support due to disabilities, chronic illnesses, or developmental issues.

By including this term, the VA acknowledges its commitment to assisting these children and their families, ensuring that they receive the necessary healthcare services, financial assistance, and support resources to help them lead fulfilling lives.

This awareness demonstrates the VA’s comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of the entire military community, including the most vulnerable members.


The Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) program under the VA benefits is designed to aid the families of veterans in acquiring essential medical care and services for their children with special needs. The purpose of this program is to ease the financial and emotional burden on veteran families, as their children may suffer from varied health conditions or disabilities that demand specialized attention and treatment.

Recognizing the challenges these families face, the VA provides assistance with tailored health care plans, respite care, and support services necessary to ensure that these children have a better quality of life. The CSHCN program is used to help veteran families navigate the complex world of specialized health care providers and treatments, giving them access to comprehensive medical care through a network of skilled professionals.

This program enables families to customize support services to suit the unique needs of their child, ensuring that they can receive education, therapy, and counseling relevant to their condition. Additionally, the program recognizes the importance of promoting a sense of independence for these children by assisting them in developing essential skills for daily living and accessing opportunities that would further enrich their lives.

Through the CSHCN program under VA benefits, veteran families are empowered in fostering a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive environment for their children with special health care needs.

Examples of Children with Special Health Care Needs

In-home care support: One example of VA Benefits for children with special health care needs is in-home care support programs. These programs provide essential services such as skilled nursing, occupational therapy, and physical therapy for children with disabilities or serious health conditions. For instance, a military family with a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy may receive assistance through the VA to access in-home care support, helping the child receive the necessary medical and therapeutic services while also allowing their parents to continue working and managing their family life.

VA Medical Centers: Another real-world example is the specialized care available for children with special health care needs at VA Medical Centers. These facilities offer comprehensive care and support for children diagnosed with various medical conditions, such as autism, Down syndrome, or traumatic brain injuries. The VA staffs medical professionals experienced in pediatric care, allowing children of veterans to receive the appropriate health care services tailored to their unique needs. Additionally, these medical centers may offer respite care, giving parents a temporary break from caregiving responsibilities.

Financial assistance and benefits: The VA also provides financial assistance and benefits to families with children with special health care needs. For example, a veteran whose child has been diagnosed with spina bifida, a neural tube defect, may become eligible for monthly monetary support through the VA’s Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program. This financial assistance can help cover costs related to medical treatments, therapies, and equipment necessary for the child’s care and development. Other financial benefits, such as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), may also be available to families with children who have special health care needs, helping to alleviate some of the financial burdens incurred by their care.

FAQ – VA Benefits for Children with Special Health Care Needs

1. What VA benefits are available for children with special health care needs?

VA benefits for children with special health care needs may include healthcare coverage, educational assistance, vocational rehabilitation, life insurance, and disability compensation. The specific benefits a child may qualify for depends on the eligibility of the parent and the individual circumstances of the child.

2. How do I apply for VA benefits for my child with special health care needs?

To apply for VA benefits for a child with special health care needs, you can visit the eBenefits portal, call 1-800-827-1000, or visit a regional VA office with sufficient documentation to prove your connection to the child, their medical condition, and any relevant services or treatments they have received.

3. Can my child receive healthcare through the VA?

Children may be eligible for healthcare coverage through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) if they meet specific eligibility criteria. This may include children of veterans who have permanent, total service-related disabilities or children of veterans who died in service or as a result of a service-related disability.

4. Are there educational assistance programs for children with special health care needs?

Yes, the VA offers educational assistance programs for children with special health care needs through the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program. Children who are eligible may receive assistance with tuition, fees, books, and supplies, as well as assistance with housing and other living expenses. You can apply for these benefits through the VA website or by visiting a regional VA office.

5. Can my child receive vocational rehabilitation services through the VA?

Children with special health care needs may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services through the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program. This program can help with job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job search assistance. To apply, visit the VA’s website or contact a regional VA office.

6. Is life insurance available for children with special health care needs through the VA?

VA-dependent life insurance may be available for children with special health care needs. To be eligible, the child must be dependent on the veteran and meet specific medical requirements. You can apply for this coverage through the VA’s Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) program.

7. Can my child receive disability compensation if they are unable to work due to their special health care needs?

Children with special health care needs who are unable to work due to their medical condition may be eligible for disability compensation through the VA. This benefit is typically reserved for adult children who became permanently incapable of self-support before the age of 18 due to a disability. To apply, contact the VA or visit a regional VA office with documentation of the child’s medical condition and their inability to engage in self-supporting work activities.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Early Intervention Services (EIS)
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Special Needs Trusts (SNT)
  • Medically Dependent Children Program (MDCP)

Sources for More Information