Learn About Government Programs That Offer Benefits to Seniors
Updated: Oct 6
Inflation is causing financial insecurity among many US seniors. Aside from cutting back on unnecessary expenses, many retirees or near retirement individuals should look to existing government programs to possibly qualify to receive assistance and reduce the anxiety many Americans feel living on a fixed income.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) works with thousands of national and local partners to provide tools, resources, advocacy, and best practices for every aging American to have health and financial security. Checking out if you qualify for senior benefits through government programs is easy to do with NCOA’s online BenefitsCheckUp tool.
Every year billions of available dollars in US benefits programs are not claimed because older adults (55 or more) are unsure if they are eligible and, if so, how to apply. No registration is necessary, and requests for information are minimal. Personal data entered into the website will remain confidential, and accessing the database costs nothing. If you hate filling out forms and get confused by all the questions, estate planning and elder law attorneys go through this process every day. Contact them for help. There is rarely an upfront cost for legal help, and you will be in a much better financial position once you begin receiving assistance.
The Online Benefits Check Up
If you complete the benefits check-up online, NCOA will send a confidential report to your mailing address listing the help available to you and how to apply for it. Since 2001 this NCOA program has helped millions of older adults receive help paying for medicine, food, utilities, and more. More than 2,000 benefits programs are in the check-up system, including categories such as:
· Food and nutrition
· Health care and medication
· Housing and utilities
· In-home care and aging in place
· Disability services
· Skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care environments
· Tax help
· Legal, crisis, and general assistance
· Veterans’ programs
· Discounts and activities
The online BenefitsCheckUp site helps older individuals identify the federal and state assistance programs for which they can qualify. This NCOA website is newly revamped and permits error corrections and the addition of information if you feel the need to revise your answers. The resulting online individualized Eligibility Results report can be saved in a PDF format to email to yourself, your lawyer, or a trusted family member.
Providing this eligibility information to your elder law or estate planning attorney is a smart strategy. Suppose you already receive disability benefits through SSDI, SSI, or other programs. In that case, adding other government assistance programs may result in unintended and negative consequences that may render you ineligible for the benefits you already receive. Your lawyer will know the strategies already in place and how additional programs may affect your current planning.
The chart above shows how many older adults struggled to manage basic expenses even before the inflationary circumstances of late 2021 – 2022 (and predicted beyond). Participation rates in government assistance programs are at a historic low, with a mere low to mid-sixty percent of eligible individuals participating.
Benefit take-up rates are low due to program enrollment barriers. Many older adults lack awareness that these benefits exist, and when they do, the application process for many programs can be cumbersome and complex. Additionally, perceived stigma about receiving government assistance and other program misconceptions contribute to lower participation rates.
Ramsey Alwin, NCOA CEO and President, admits, “In today’s economy, inflation is taking a bigger and bigger bite out of people’s incomes.” He adds, “We completely redesigned BenefitsCheckUp to make it even easier … no one should have to choose between paying for medications or food.”
To worry less and age better with more resources at your disposal, explore the NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp website and learn what is available to you. Before you use the contact information to take the next step to apply, be certain to consult with your elder law or estate planning attorney. All assistance you receive should not interfere with existing plans and help you age successfully. More than 2,000 government benefits programs are available to help you, and it can make the difference between thriving or just surviving.