Seniors struggling with their income and health status have more than just Social Security and Medicare benefits available to them. In the 2010 census, seniors aged 65 and over increased 15.1 percent over previous censuses and represented 39 percent of the nation's total population. By 2011, the first of the baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 reached the age of 65. Those figures, coupled with the devastating loss of senior and soon-to-be-senior baby boomer nest eggs from past market conditions, highlight the vital importance of increased social programs for the elderly population in the senior community and in society at large.
Senior Community Service Employment Program
SCSEP is a community service and work-training program for low-income folks 55 and older. Authorized in 1965 by Congress, this program provides subsidized training for low-income participants. Workers are paid minimum wage while they gain marketable job skills performing part-time duties in a nonprofit or public organizational setting. Many of the participants work in senior centers, libraries and schools. Eligibility guidelines include being age 55 or older and having an income of no more than 25 percent above the national poverty level.
Supplementary Security Income
Seniors with few assets or low income may be eligible for Supplementary Security Income in addition to their regular Social Security benefits. This is a monthly cash benefit that ranges from $300 to $1,000 per month -- $500 to $1,200 per couple -- and even folks who own their own homes can be eligible. The amounts received are dependent upon which state the senior resides in and her current income, generally no more than $1,500 per month, but other rules apply. A person must have no more than $2,000 worth of assets or $3,000 per couple, but this does not include a owning principal residence or a car up to a market value of $4,500. If the car is used for commuting to work, to medical care or is specially equipped for the disabled, there is no market value limit. Other income that is not included in the assessment are wedding rings, expensive medical equipment, small life insurance policies of $1,500 or less, or any property used for self-support. Assistance may be applied for at the local Social Security office.
Veteran’s Benefits for Surviving Spouses
A death pension may be available for a veteran's surviving spouse who has a very low income, if not remarried. Qualifications for the veteran: 90 days or more of active military service, during which one day was served during a period of war. The veteran need not have been in active combat to qualify. Dependent upon the financial needs of the widow, the pension can be as much as $625 per month. This may increase if the widow needs regular in-home assistance.
If you are unsure of what benefits you might qualify for, the National Council on Aging has provided a very helpful website that identifies local, state and federal programs for seniors. This site has a 15-minute questionnaire that generates a list of programs available for seniors, matching them up with the programs they are eligible for upon completion. From a senior housing locator to services that can help pay for utilities, health care, prescription drugs and meals, this site is the most comprehensive web-based benefits screening program available for the elderly.