The United States government offers several financial aid programs to eligible seniors, including housing assistance, cash benefits, tax help and medical coverage. Elderly individuals must meet eligibility requirement, which vary per program. Counselors in local social services offices can help seniors apply for programs in which they meet eligibility requirements.
Social Security Benefits
Elderly individuals, age 62 and older, who have paid social security taxes while working and earned at least 40 credits, may qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. At the time of publication, full-time workers earn four credits each year. Social Security retirement benefits are not paid until you have earned enough credits. The amount of benefits you receive is based on your retirement age and earnings. You receive an increase in benefits when you delay receiving your benefits. Widows and widowers are eligible for reduced benefits starting at age 60, or age 50 if disabled. Widows and widowers can switch to full benefits when full retirement age is realized. You may also work while receiving benefits if your earnings do not exceed your Social Security retirement benefits.
Financial assistance is offered by the federal government to help seniors pay housing expenses. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers vouchers (Section 8) to low-income seniors to help pay for assisted living facilities and elderly housing units. HUD also offers the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program to seniors, age 62 and older, which allows them to draw equity out of their homes in the form of a loan. Program participants can receive withdrawals as monthly payments or lines of credit. For eligibility, seniors must own a home that is a principal residence with a mortgage that is paid-in-full or with a small remaining balance. Seniors can’t have any federal delinquencies and must attend an information session held by a HECM counselor. Program participants must repay loans in full before death or sell of home.
Eligible seniors can participate in both Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs. Medicaid is available to seniors 65 and older who paid Medicare taxes while employed. Seniors must meet income guidelines to qualify for Medicaid. If seniors have both Medicare and Medicaid, medical services are paid first by Medicare. The Medicare program has four parts. Part A is free hospital insurance that covers services such as inpatient hospital visits, home health care and hospice care. Part B is fee-based medical insurance that covers doctor and physician visits, outpatient care, and some preventive health care services. Part C functions like a HMO or PPO, and includes services offered in Part A and Part B. Part C is offered by private insurance companies and premiums vary per plan. Part D offers fee-based prescription drug coverage. Cost vary per plan and drugs covered. Medicaid offers inpatient and outpatient services, emergency care, physician and doctor visits, labs and x-rays, and other services.
The Internal Revenue Service offers free tax counseling to elderly individuals during tax time. Tax counseling is provided by volunteers who work in local non-profit organizations. AARP also offers tax counseling to low- and middle-income seniors. Volunteers are trained and certified by AARP. You may contact the Tax Counseling for Elders program to find participating locations in your area.