Elderly Assistance and Public Benefits

There are many public benefits available for elderly assistance at both the national and state levels, and often local. Many of these will provide temporary financial help.

You will be familiar with some, but you may not be aware of how many more programs could be available at your state and local level. Local organizations in your town can help with elderly issues.

First Steps for Elderly Assistance

Where to begin?
You can always start by contacting your local senior center. Or, you may be already dealing with a health care provider or medical social worker because of current elderly problems with health.

Be sure to explain in detail all of the needs you anticipate to this valuable contact person. She/he may have all kinds of information to help you with, after understanding your specific needs. Also contact your church. There are often staff or volunteers who assist with elderly issues.

We also have a separate page on More Temporary Financial Help ideas for further state, county, city and private sources — elderly assistance programs that help with the basics for food, medical, housing, temporary financial help, and in many other areas. Some of them involve an application process, sometimes complicated, so you or your elderly loved one may need help with that.

Elderly assistance programs usually require preparing your personal and financial information in advance. When you make an appointment to apply for benefits and elderly services, they will notify you of which documents you will need to bring. And be sure you ask!

Common items you may be asked for:

    ___Two forms of ID, including drivers license or state ID card.
    ___Birth certificate.
    ___Marriage license.
    ___Legal change of name documents.
    ___Spouse’s death certificate.
    ___Social Security card.
    ___Veteran’s information incl. discharge papers.
    ___If employed, proof of employment including pay stubs.
    ___Other social services you receive, i.e. Food Stamps.
    ___One to three months’ of certain utility bills.
    ___Previous year’s tax forms.
    ___Proof of monthly income, and from where.
    ___Current balances in checking and savings accounts.
    ___One to three months of statements for bank accounts.
    ___All balances for IRA, pension, other retirement accounts.
    ___Other investment information.
    ___List and documentation of all assets.

Most likely you will not need all of them.
Again, be sure you ask!

Elderly Assistance Organizations

Many of these elderly assistance organizations have national, state, even local offices. It is always best, of course, to deal with the office in your state. The way states administrate programs can differ. Here are some general resources:

Social Security.
As a primary part of elderly assistance, most elderly people and their families are familiar with Social Security benefits. Starting at age 62, you are eligible to receive monthly income based on you or your spouse’s work history (whichever amount in higher), having paid the Social Security retirement tax for at least 10 years. Sometimes benefits can be paid to other family members. There are many details to understanding and calculating Social Security benefits. Call 1-800-772-1213, or visit their web site at: www.ssa.gov.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
This elderly assistance program is available to those over age 65; disabled and blind may also qualify. It pays monthly benefits. You may be able to receive both Social Security and SSI. See Social Security contacts above.

Medical Benefits

There are several medical benefits available on both the federal and state levels. You will be familiar with most, and it is best to visit their web sites directly or call, as guidelines do change. Here is a list of possibilities:

  • Medicare — Medicare national health insurance program for those over age 65, and sometimes for younger people who have disabilities. There are several “Parts” to Medicare and it can be confusing. The Medicare web site is thorough, and you can begin to apply 3 months before you reach age 65. However, it is best to ask for professional advice. Often your local senior center can set you up with someone. Or call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227, or visit their web site at: www.medicare.gov.
  • Medicaid — This is a federal program for those with limited income and assets run by the individual states so requirements differ. Call your State Medical Assistance office, or Medicaid services at 1-800-638-6833, or visit the Medicaid web site.
  • State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) — A federal program also run by the state, providing counseling and help to Medicare recipients and their families. Their web site at www.shiptalk.org. will help you find an office in your state and what your state offers. Or call Medicare at 1-800- 633-4227.
  • Consolidated Health Centers — These Health Centers are federally funded and offer comprehensive primary and preventive health care, plus many social services, to those who are medically unserved and underserved, such as low income, uninsured, homeless, those in public housing, migrant and seasonal workers, etc. Services are offered to all residents in that area regardless of ability to pay. Speak with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or call 301-594-4300 for more information.
  • Area Agencies On Aging (AAAs) — These agencies were established under the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965 are affiliated with the State Agencies on Aging specifically to help the elders age 60 and over and their families. There may be several such agencies within a given state. Services vary widely according to local budgets and resources. Your state may also have a Board On Aging. You can look up these agencies by searching for your State, and then Area Agencies On Aging.

Veteran’s Assistance
If you or your loved one was a veteran, you may qualify for many additional elderly assistance benefits, including health care, disability, pharmacy, burial benefits, life insurance. Call 1-800-827-1000; or visit the web site at: www.va.gov.

Food Stamps
This is a valuable program for elderly assistance, and is through the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture). As of 2008 it has been re-named “SNAP” — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Individual states may use a different name. Affording food is one of the basic elderly issues. This program can help you with temporary financial help for food.

If you qualify, you will be given a special debit care for buying groceries. Most grocery stores participate, as well as Meals on Wheels and some senior centers. You must qualify to participate, and your resources may not have to include your home, car, or some retirement accounts (IRA, Keogh, 401k).

This is run by the state, so check the State listings in blue government section of your phone book. Or visit the usda.gov/snap web site.

Legal Aid
There are Legal Aid Societies in all states that provide elderly assistance. They are further broken down by city, county, or region. Legal Aid is staffed by professional, licensed attorneys and paralegals to specifically help those with lower incomes.

Legal Aid can help in a variety of matters such as simply explaining your responsibilities and rights under current law about certain issues. Other areas include helping with debt, landlords, utilities, elderly abuse, being sued, employment issues.

Since these are local offices, check your phone book, call your Attorney General’s office, or ask your senior center.

The Centers for Independent Living (CIL):
A program in many states that provide many services for independent living, such as information and referrals; training for independent living skills; counseling; advocacy; community; planning; and recreational events. Services differ with each state. Contact your state, or get general information at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), which particularly helps those with disabilities.

Free Tax Help
This important elderly assistance service is also provided on a local basis, and may be available from a variety of sources. Many churches and senior centers offer help. (Our local senior center provides free tax advice by a professional).

It is always smart to start by inquiring with your senior center or church. Your City Hall may provide information as well. Some states and counties have organizations such as Community Action Councils. Your county may something similar — providing free meals, clothing banks, counseling, and various types of financial help.

For more state, county, city and private sources, see our page at More Temporary Financial Help.


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