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5 Government Benefits for Seniors Over 65

Summary: With rising costs for everything from healthcare to groceries, it can be tough to pay the bills. This is especially true for seniors on a fixed income. There are federal programs that provide help for older Americans to cover the costs of essentials. Here are five government benefit programs for seniors that can help you save money. Estimated Read Time: 10 mins

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Table of Contents:

  1. What Are Government Benefits for Seniors?
  2. Social Security
  3. Medicare
  4. Housing Assistance
  5. Food Assistance
  6. Employment Assistance
  7. Benefit Resources for Seniors

Government benefits for seniors can be a source of stability for those needing additional help as costs continue to rise across the board. This is especially true for those on a fixed income as they settle into retirement. There are several government programs available to help seniors with their most important expenses, including healthcare, food, housing, and utilities, and can even help with finding a new job if you decide to go back to work after retirement. Below, we review the top five government benefits for seniors so that you can worry less about your finances and enjoy your golden years.

What Are Government Benefits for Seniors?

Government benefits are social programs that are generally meant to give financial assistance and support to low-income individuals. There are various federal benefit programs just for senior citizens as many live on fixed or limited incomes and are most in need of extra assistance.

There are federal programs that can help elderly Americans with costs related to healthcare, housing, food, and more. We will share what these programs are, how they can help, and who is eligible for them. The programs we will be discussing are:

  • Social Security
  • Medicare
  • Housing Assistance
  • Food Assistance
  • Employment Assistance

Social Security

Each time you are paid during your working life, you may have noticed a deduction for Social Security. Everyone pays into Social Security through their taxes for as long as they’re employed. You pay Social Security taxes whether you work for a company or you’re self-employed. These taxes are providing part of your retirement fund as you are able to start collecting Social Security retirement benefits when you turn 62.

However, even though you can collect Social Security retirement benefits at 62, you won’t get as much money as you could if you wait until full retirement age or longer. Retirement age in the United States is 66 or 67, depending on the year you were born. However, if you delay collecting Social Security retirement benefits until you’re 70, you could receive an even higher monthly payment.

Retirement benefits can also be paid to your spouse if they’re 62 or older or at any age if they’re caring for a child under 16 or a child with a qualifying disability.

In addition to standard Social Security income, Social Security also provides disability insurance benefits (SSDI) for those under retirement age with a qualifying disability and supplemental security income (SSI) for very low-income seniors 65 and older. Many disabled older adults can qualify for both SSI and SSDI prior to retirement age.

Widows and widowers may also apply for survivor’s benefits from Social Security. They can apply if they are at least 60 years old when their spouse dies or at least 50 years old with a qualifying disability. They can also apply at any age if they are caring for a child 16 years old or younger at the time of their spouse’s death. Divorced widows and widowers may also receive survivor’s benefits if they meet eligibility requirements.

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Social Security benefits can provide guaranteed monthly income payments to seniors. These payments can supplement personal or employer-based retirement accounts or pension funds, but they are rarely able to cover someone’s full monthly bill expenses. However, there are other federal programs that can help you lower your essential costs.

Medicare

Healthcare costs can be a main cause of financial insecurity, especially for seniors. The Medicare program exists so that those 65 and older or those with qualifying disabilities can be able to afford the care they need.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program that generally covers those who are 65 and older. Younger individuals with disabilities such as end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and ALS can also qualify for Medicare. You are typically first eligible to enroll in Original Medicare three months before you turn 65.

Original Medicare consists of two main parts: Medicare Part A, which covers hospital expenses, and Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient medical services.

There’s also Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, which can help cover prescription drug costs. You would need to enroll in and pay for a Part D plan separately with a private insurance company.

Medicare Advantage Plans (Medicare Part C) are offered by private insurance companies, too, and must follow rules set by Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans provide Medicare Part A and Part B coverage, and some plans may offer Medicare Part D coverage as well.

Furthermore, there’s the option to purchase a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan, which can help cover premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs Original Medicare may not fully cover.

Medicare Savings Programs & Extra Help

There are Medicare Savings Programs for low-income elderly adults who can’t afford Medicare premiums and other costs. There are four different MSPs with their own income limits and eligibility requirements.

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The Medicare Savings Programs are:

  • Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB)
  • Specified Low-Income Beneficiary (SLMB)
  • Qualifying Individual (QI)
  • Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI)

These programs are determined by federal guidelines but states can choose to adjust income limits so it’s best to check your state’s government website and resources for more information.

Low income Medicare beneficiaries can also apply for Extra Help which may be able to help you cover the costs of your prescriptions through the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy (LIS).

Housing Assistance

Unfortunately, there isn’t much federal housing assistance available for senior citizens or any other age group in the United States.

However, there are programs that can help seniors in the U.S. to keep a roof over their heads and provide help with the costs of essential utilities such as gas, electricity, and internet.

There is a public housing program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but you may be placed on a long waiting list for assistance. This program provides eligible low-income adults with an apartment.

HUD also offers housing vouchers (also known as Section 8) that can help low-income adults pay rent on apartments not in the public housing program. However, a limited number of landlords can or will accept these vouchers, so your options may be limited when using a Section 8 voucher. The HUD website can help you find federal housing assistance in your area.

If you don’t qualify for public housing assistance or a voucher, there are a few other ways to help with housing costs.

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If you’re a homeowner, you could tap into your home equity or take out a reverse mortgage.

Home Equity Loan

Home equity is the monetary gap between your home’s current market value and any outstanding mortgage debt you may have.

In contrast, a home equity line of credit works like a credit card. It allows you to access funds up to a predetermined limit for a specific period, typically 10 to 15 years. During this period, you can withdraw however much money you need, and you may be obligated to pay only the interest on the borrowed amount.

However, once this time frame expires, you’re required to repay both the principal and interest over a specified repayment period, often around 10 years, resulting in higher monthly payments. The expenses associated with establishing these loans are typically modest.

Similarly, a home equity loan provides you with a lump sum of money that you must repay over a specified period. This repayment entails consistent monthly installments that cover both the borrowed principal and interest.

Reverse Mortgage

If you have full ownership of your home or just a small remaining mortgage balance, the concept of a reverse mortgage may pique your interest. This unique financial option is tailored to homeowners aged 62 and above. With a reverse mortgage, you can transform a portion of your home equity into cash without the need to sell your home or handle extra monthly payments. Unlike a traditional home equity loan, the repayment of a reverse mortgage is deferred until you either no longer use the home as your primary residence or fail to meet the loan obligations.

There is a federal reverse mortgage program called the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), and it’s only available through a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) approved lender. The HECM would allow you to take out a portion of your home equity for general living expenses or home repairs. HECM borrowers can remain in their homes if they continue to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance.

The amount that would be available to withdraw depends on several factors, including the age of the youngest borrower or eligible non-borrowing spouse, current interest rate, and lesser of appraised value or the HECM FHA mortgage limit or sales price.

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It’s crucial to recognize that a reverse mortgage isn’t suitable for everyone. This financial choice becomes more appealing if your home’s value is steadily appreciating, and you intend to reside there for many more years.

Help with Housing Utilities

There are also federal programs that can help you pay your utility bills. One of these is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). If your household income falls within certain low-income criteria, you may be eligible to receive aid for your home energy expenses, as well as assistance with weatherization and minor energy-related home repairs through LIHEAP.

The Department of Health and Human Services provides a roster of states offering online application options for these benefits. They also have a search tool to help you find local state agencies responsible for administering the program in your area.

There’s also the Lifeline program provided by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that provides a $9.25 monthly discount on phone and internet service for low-income adults. The FCC also provides the Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers up to a $ 30-a-month discount on internet service to eligible households.

Food Assistance

According to Feeding America, one in 14 seniors in the U.S. was food insecure in 2021. However, there are a few ways to get assistance so you’re able to get groceries. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) division through the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a few programs to help with food expenses.

One is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. This program provides a monthly food stipend on a debit card to low-income adults.

There’s also the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides low-income seniors 60 or older with a monthly food package.

Another program for those 60 and up is the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which provides coupons that can be exchanged for healthy food at participating farmers’ markets.

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Lastly, there’s the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provides free food to low-income people through state and local agencies like food pantries.

Each state has its own income limits and eligibility requirements for these food programs, so you must contact your county social services agency for more details.

Employment Assistance

Many senior citizens work after retirement because they don’t receive enough money from their retirement benefits alone to pay all their bills. However, finding a job can be difficult, especially for older adults.

The U.S. Department of Labor offers the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). This federal program is a community service and work-based training program for older adults aged 55 and up. SCSEP provides help for low-income, unemployed seniors who want help getting back into the workforce.

SCSEP participants gain valuable work experience through a diverse range of community service activities at non-profit and public institutions such as schools, hospitals, day-care centers, and senior centers. Participants typically get 20 hours per week and receive compensation based on federal, state, or local minimum wage rates.

To qualify for the SCSEP, individuals must meet specific criteria, including being at least 55 years old, unemployed, and having a family income that does not exceed 125% of the federal poverty level. Enrollment priority is granted first to veterans and eligible spouses, followed by individuals over the age of 65, those with disabilities, individuals with low literacy skills or limited English proficiency, residents of rural areas, individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, those with limited employment prospects, or individuals who have not found employment after using the American Job Center system.

Government Benefits for Seniors Resources

Government benefits are a great source of stability for many seniors across the country as these programs aid where it is needed most. Benefits.gov is the official website for U.S. government benefits for seniors. You can get information on any federal benefits you may be eligible for here.

At MedicareFAQ, we pride ourselves on being a premier Medicare education center for anyone enrolling in Medicare benefits. Our team of licensed agents provides one-on-one reviews for plans in your area and helps you determine which options are right for you.

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To get started with Medicare coverage or review your options to ensure your plan is right for you, call the number above or complete our online rate form for more information.

Sources

MedicareFAQ is dedicated to providing you with authentic and trustworthy Medicare information. We have strict sourcing guidelines and work diligently to serve our readers with accurate and up-to-date content.

  1. Social Security Benefits. Accessed September, 2023.
    https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/
  2. Social Security: Understanding the Benefits. Accessed September, 2023.
    https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10024.pdf
  3. Government Medicare Homepage. Accessed September, 2023.
    https://www.medicare.gov/
  4. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Information for Senior Citizens. Accessed September, 2023.
    https://www.hud.gov/topics/information_for_senior_citizens
  5. HUD Home Equity Conversion Mortgages for Seniors. Accessed September, 2023.
    https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/hecm/hecmhome
  6. LIHEAP Homepage. Accessed September, 2023.
    https://www.liheap.org/
  7. Feeding America: The State of Senior Hunger in 2021. Accessed September, 2023.
    https://www.feedingamerica.org/research/state-senior-hunger
  8. FNS Nutrition Programs. Accessed September, 2023.
    https://www.fns.usda.gov/programs
  9. Department of Labor Senior Community Service Employment Program. Accessed September, 2023.
    https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/seniors
  10. U.S. Aging Guide to Benefits for Seniors. Accessed September, 2023.
    https://www.usaging.org/Files/Guide-to-Benefits%20508%20Compliant.pdf
Kayla Hopkins

Kayla Hopkins

Content Editor
Kayla Hopkins is an accomplished writer and Medicare guru serving as the Editor of MedicareFAQ.com. Upon completing her Communications degree from Ohio University, Kayla dedicated her time to understanding the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare. With her extensive background as a Licensed Medicare Insurance Agent, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her writing.
Ashlee Zareczny

Ashlee Zareczny

Compliance Manager
Ashlee Zareczny is the Compliance Manager for MedicareFAQ. As a licensed Medicare agent in all 50 states, she is dedicated to educating those eligible for Medicare by providing the necessary resources and tools. Additionally, Ashlee trains new and tenured Medicare agents on CMS compliance guidelines. Ashlee is a Medicare expert who specializes in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D education.

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