Q: Where can I go to locate financial assistance programs for seniors? I have been helping support my 70-year-old mother the past couple of years and really can’t afford to do it any longer. — Feeling Overwhelmed
A: There are actually many financial assistance programs and government benefits that can help seniors in need. But what’s available to your mom will depend on her income level and where she lives.
To find out what types of assistance your mom may be eligible for, go to BenefitsCheckUp.org, a free, confidential web tool designed for adults 55 and older and their families. It will help you locate federal, state and private benefits programs that can assist with paying for food, medications, utilities, health care, housing and other needs. This site, created by the National Council on Aging, contains more than 2,000 programs across the country.
To identify benefits, you’ll first need to fill out an online questionnaire that asks a series of questions such as your mom’s date of birth, her ZIP code, expenses, income, assets, veteran status, the medications she takes and a few other factors. It takes about 15 minutes.
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Once completed, you’ll get a report detailing all the programs and services she may qualify for, along with detailed information on how to apply.
Some programs can be applied for online, some have downloadable application forms that you can print and mail, fax or email in, and some require that you contact the program’s administrative office directly (they provide contact information).
If you don’t have internet access, you can also get help in person at any of the 47 Benefit Enrollment Centers located throughout the U.S. Call 888-268-6706 or visit NCOA.org/centerforbenefits/becs to locate a center in your area. Some centers also offer assistance over the phone.
Types of benefits
Depending on your mom’s income level and where she lives, here are some benefits that she may be eligible for:
Food assistance: Programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can help pay for groceries. The average monthly program benefit is currently around $127 per person. Other programs that may be available include the Emergency Food Assistance Program, Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
Healthcare: Medicaid and Medicare Savings Programs can help or completely pay for out-of-pocket health care costs. And there are special Medicaid waiver programs that provide in-home care and assistance.
Prescription drugs: There are hundreds of programs offered through pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and charitable organizations that help lower or eliminate prescription drug costs, including the federal Low Income Subsidy known as “Extra Help” that pays premiums, deductibles and prescription co-payments for Medicare Part D beneficiaries.
Utility assistance: There’s the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, as well as local utility companies and charitable organizations that provide assistance in lowering home heating and cooling costs.
Supplemental Security Income: Managed by the Social Security Administration, this program provides monthly payments to very low-income seniors, age 65 and older, as well as to those who are blind and disabled. SSI pays up to $733 per month for a single person and up to $1,100 for couples.
In addition to these programs, there are numerous other benefits they can help you locate such as HUD housing, home weatherization assistance, tax relief, veteran’s benefits, senior transportation, respite care, free legal assistance, job training, and employment and debt counseling.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior.”