According to the Social Security website, just over one in four 20 year olds will become disabled before they reach the age of 67. Over a quarter of young people will face disabilities in the future, so with this in mind let’s talk about the support people with disabilities are offered. As the financial challenges faced by people with disabilities in the US are greater than those faced by the general population, we have created this guide to help find solutions to these struggles. We have summarized the main types and sources of financial assistance available to disabled people within the US.
According to a 2018 report by the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disabilities, people with disabilities in the U.S. are less likely to be employed and less likely to have private health insurance than people without disabilities. Fortunately, whether it’s medical bills, housing, vehicle modification, or taxes, there are programs and grants available that may be able to offer the financial assistance you require. There are also several benefits available for disabled veterans, which we cover in the second half of this write up.
This guide has been created to help you discover the financial support that is available to you as a disabled person in the US.
There are a few different programs that may be able to assist with medical insurance and the medical bills you are facing. Keep in mind that each program and state has different rules regarding eligibility.
This is a partially federally-funded health care program that provides free or low-cost health coverage for people with limited income, people with disabilities, the elderly and pregnant women. Medicaid works by sending direct payments to health care providers such as hospitals and doctors so this is not an income that is paid to you directly. The eligibility requirements vary from state to state but more specific information on eligibility and how to apply can be provided by your State Department of Health.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides help with children’s medical costs in situations where the family are unable to afford health insurance or do not get health insurance through their work. CHIP provides coverage through Medicaid and through separate CHIP programs. This is funded by states and the federal government so states have the flexibility to design programs within federal guidelines meaning benefits and offerings vary between states.
This is a federal health insurance program that helps with health care costs, however it does not cover all expenses or the cost of long-term care. Medicare is available for citizens over the age of 65 and people with certain disabilities. The Medicare Program consists of two main parts; Part A which helps pay for hospital stays and certain home healthcare, Part B which helps pay for specific services such as medically necessary physician visits, outpatient hospital visits, home healthcare costs, durable medical equipment and more.
This is a federally funded program that provides income benefits to people who are disabled and are no longer able to work. You must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain period in order to qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. Certain family members may also be eligible to receive these benefits.
This is a federally funded program that provides income benefits in the form of monthly payments to disabled adults and children with limited income and resources. The benefits ensure your basic food, shelter and clothing needs are met. Unlike the Social Security Disability Insurance, you are eligible for the Supplemental Security Income regardless of whether you have worked and paid social security taxes in the past.
If you are still unsure or are in need of medical services or assistance immediately, you may find the following beneficial:
- Free or low-cost medical services are offered by community clinics.
- The Patient Services Department of your local hospital may be able to help you get onto a charity care program that helps patients who are uninsured and unable to afford their medical bills.
Struggling to pay housing costs can leave people facing poverty and even homelessness, fortunately, there are a number of federal, state and local programs available to help people with disabilities be able to afford housing costs such as rent or homeownership. As with the medical programs, each housing program has its own eligibility requirements.
Renting a Home
If you are looking at renting a home, the following programs may be able to offer assistance to your situation:
This program provides eligible low-income families, elderly people and people with disabilities with state-owned decent, safe and affordable rental houses.
This Housing and Urban Development program helps to pay the rent for low-income families, elderly people and people with disabilities. This program can help to pay all or part of the rent. The waiting list tends to be long for this housing program.
These vouchers can help non-elderly disabled people access affordable housing on the private market or enable non-elderly disabled people who are currently living in nursing homes or other healthcare institutions to transition into the community.
These vouchers provide housing assistance to non-elderly disabled families who do not currently receive housing assistance in certain developments where owners prefer or restrict the occupancy to elderly families. The vouchers cover a few specific types of developments and enable these families to obtain affordable housing.
- Your city or county governments will be able to assist with explaining local housing aid that is available for people with disabilities.
Buying a Home
If you are looking at buying a home, you may find the following programs helpful:
These vouchers are offered to families who are assisted under the Housing Choice Voucher program, the Homeownership Vouchers can be used to buy a home and monthly assistance is provided in meeting homeownership expenses.
Low and moderate-income households are assisted in owning a home in eligible rural areas. The home would be modest, safe and sanitary and applicants may decide to build, rehabilitate, improve or relocate a dwelling in an eligible rural location. The program also offers assistance for homeowners in rural areas regarding home modifications and removing health hazards in order to accommodate a household member with a physical disability.
Independent Living Skills
Renting or owning a house may also mean you are gaining a new level of independence, you may be looking for additional support in order to increase your confidence and skills so you can enjoy living independently. If this is the case, there are a number of state and local independent living centers that can help you develop independent living skills.
You may also need to make some modifications to your home such as ramps or grab bars. This is something your state may be able to offer assistance for. Your state may also be able to assist with housing counseling, locating rental housing and independent living skills.
To find out more about the services offered approach your local independent living center or contact your state.
Having a vehicle that has been modified to your requirements can help provide a sense of freedom, comfort and independency. According to the NHTSA, people with disabilities can often drive safely by making modifications to their vehicles. The number of people adapting vehicles to suit their specific needs has increased thanks to the improvement in technology and the increased availability of this technology.
If you are looking to adapt your vehicle, a good starting point is contacting your state vocational rehabilitation agency. They will be able to direct you to grant and loan programs that may be able to help you cover costs.
As you may already know, a modified vehicle does not come cheap so nonprofit organizations, car insurance, workers’ compensation, vehicle manufacturers and tax assistance are other possible routes to help pay for vehicle modifications depending on your situation. If you are a veteran the Department of Veterans Affairs may be able to help pay for vehicle modifications.
A Driver Rehabilitation Specialist will perform comprehensive evaluations in order to identify the adaptive equipment that is best suited to your requirements and medical condition.
It is worth checking with your state vocational rehabilitation agency, state workers’ compensation official and health insurance company to find sources to cover the cost of the evaluation with the Driver Rehabilitation Specialist.
A Driver Rehabilitation Specialist will also be able to help you find a qualified mobility dealer who will be able to make sure you buy a vehicle that can be modified to your needs and actually carry out the modifications for you.
There is now a program available to help disabled people save money without it impacting their eligibility to benefits. Take a look at this savings account and further information on what tax assistance is available below:
ABLE Savings Account
Tax-free ABLE savings accounts are available to eligible disabled individuals and their families. The account means income earned and contributions made will not be taxed. The total contributions to the account can be up to $15,000 a year and contributions can be made by anyone. The ABLE Savings Account allows individuals to have a tax advantaged savings account without impacting their eligibility for a variety of public benefits.
It is worth noting that you can only open one ABLE account and as ABLE accounts are not available in every state you can open an account in any state (keep in mind that each state will offer a slightly different program so there may be a state that offers a program that is better suited to you).
Tax assistance and resources are offered to individuals with disabilities by The Internal Revenue Service. These services include the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program that offers tax help to people with disabilities free of charge. There are also a range of resources available on the IRS Accessibility website.
There are various financial services available to veterans and their families. When referring to the disability benefits, many of the programs distinguish between veterans who have a service-related disability and veterans who have a disability that is not service-related.
If you are a veteran who is disabled due to service-related injury or illness you may be entitled to a tax-free monthly benefit through this compensation. You may qualify for this benefit for physical conditions and mental health conditions that developed before, during, or after service.
Surviving spouses and dependents of veterans may also be eligible for compensation benefits. The eligibility overview can be seen here.
If you have a disability that is not service-related but you are a veteran you may be eligible for a Veterans Pension or Survivors Pension. These are both tax-free monthly payments based on the financial need of low-income wartime veterans. The eligibility is based on service time, financial need and age/ status of the veteran.
The amount of these pensions is calculated by the difference between the “countable” income of the recipient and the Congress-set annual pension limit.
Aid & Attendance and Housebound Benefit
Those who receive a VA pension may also be eligible for additional assistance if they require ongoing help from another person or if they are housebound. These two benefits are offered separately and you can benefit from only one of these as additional support at a time. Both benefits have different eligibility requirements.
The Aid & Attendance may be added to your monthly pension if; you require the assistance of another person to perform personal functions required in everyday living, you are bedridden, you are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, your eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes.
The Housebound benefit may be added to your monthly pension if you are substantially confined to your home or immediate premises due to a permanent disability.
Special housing grants are offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs for eligible veterans. Those with severe, service-connected disabilities may qualify for a Special Housing Adaptation or Specially Adapted Housing grant to make modifications that are needed to live more independently. Modifications may include installing ramps, widening doors and more.
You may be able to get a Temporary Residence Adaptation if you qualify but are currently temporarily living in a relative’s home.
You may also be able to get a Home Improvements and Structural Alterations grant in order to make medically necessary alterations to your home. You may be eligible for this if your disability is service-connected or not.
Veterans with disabilities may also be eligible for assistance with modifying vehicles through the Department of Veterans Affairs. An Automobile Allowance can help pay for Automobile adaptive equipment or can go towards a vehicle.
You may also be eligible for the Vehicle Modifications program if you are a veteran with a non-service connected disability. This program helps to cover the costs of equipment such as vehicle lifts.
This guide has outlined the core programs and grants that are offered by the US government. There are also countless organizations that offer help to people with disabilities that may be of interest and benefit. We have listed some of them below, although they may not provide financial assistance they provide excellent resources, services, training and information that you may find useful.
National Council of Disability – the NCD works to promote equal opportunity and empower individuals with disabilities. They advise the President, Congress and other federal agencies regarding practices, policies, procedures and programs that affect disabled people within the US.
National Disability Right Network – the NDRN are the largest providers of legal advocacy services for people with disabilities in the nation.
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services – works with families and individuals with disabilities to improve results and outcomes via support programs.
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity – can assist with answering questions and offering resources regarding housing rights for people with disabilities. They can also help answer questions regarding the responsibilities of housing providers in accordance to federal law.
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped – offer a free loan service of braille and talking books to be enjoyed by people with low vision, blindness or a physical disability that prevents reading or holding books.
National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability – works with people with disabilities to encourage healthier lifestyles and participation in physical and social activities.