Millions of adults live with a disability, and the financial demands and access to medical care their condition requires can create an additional burden. When times are tough, Americans living with disabilities have a special set of resources available to them, including financial assistance that can help with daily living.
These programs enable people with disabilities to cover food and housing expenses, pay for health care and prescriptions, and even assist with tax filing. Veterans with disabilities may qualify for special benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Find out more about the financial assistance options available and learn how you may take advantage of them.
- There is a wide variety of state- and federal-level programs available for those with disabilities.
- Most assistance programs provide financial help to meet basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter.
- Veterans have specific benefits available to them through the VA.
- Certain disabled graduates can have their student loans discharged.
Income, Loans, and Daily Expenses
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
People with disabilities may be eligible to get assistance with food under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program lays out several ways to qualify, including receiving disability or blindness payments from federal or state agencies. Disabled railroad workers, veterans, and disabled spouses or children of veterans may qualify for food assistance.
Each state has its own application process, so you’ll need to contact your state agency to learn the rules and apply.
Social Security Disability Income
Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is a federal program that provides cash to meet basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) for certain populations, including disabled people. If you have a condition on the SSDI Compassionate Allowances list, there may be a reduced wait time for determining your eligibility.
Your monthly SSDI payment is based on your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security. You can check the Social Security Administration’s online benefits calculator to estimate the amount you might qualify for, or you can create an online Social Security account to get your Social Security statement.
You can check the eligibility requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) before you start your application and then apply online, or call 800-772-1213 or 800-325-0778 (TTY) to make an appointment.
Federal Disability Retirement Benefits
Federal employees who finished at least 18 months of federal civilian service may be eligible for disability retirement through the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). To qualify, you have to meet six requirements, including:
- The disability occurred while you were employed in a job that paid into the retirement system.
- The disability is expected to last at least a year.
- Your agency can’t provide a job that accommodates your disability.
You’ll have to provide complete documentation of your medical condition, and your agency will have to exhaust all reasonable attempts to retain you in a productive capacity.
People with disabilities receiving Social Security or SSI may be able to work and still receive monthly payments and Medicare or Medicaid. These “work incentives” allow you to transition to employment while keeping some or all of your benefits.
SSDI recipients can take advantage of a nine-month “trial work period” to test their ability to work before losing benefits. You can have your benefits reinstated if they were previously paused but you are no longer able to work because of your medical condition.
Learn more about work incentives by enrolling in SSDI’s online webinar or by calling 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY).
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, states can provide families with financial help for child care, job preparation, and work assistance. Because the program is managed by each state, you must be a resident of the state where you apply. While disability is not part of the eligibility criteria, you must be unemployed or underemployed and have low or very low income.
Contact your local social services agency or human resources department to learn more about eligibility criteria or to apply.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
People with disabilities can receive free tax prep from IRS-certified volunteers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. You don’t have to apply to use the service. You can locate a VITA program provider near you using the IRS’ online search tool.
Phone or Internet Service
You may be eligible for a $9.25 discount on your phone or internet service through the federal Lifeline program. To qualify, either your income must fall below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or you must participate in a qualifying program, including:
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
Only one member of your household can receive a Lifeline benefit.
Medicaid provides free or low-cost medical benefits to people with disabilities. There are two ways to apply for Medicaid: Contact your state Medicaid agency, or fill out an application through the health insurance marketplace. You must be a resident of the state where you apply.
Children’s Health Insurance Program
If your income is too high for Medicaid, your child may still qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program covers medical and dental care for children and teens up to age 18.
There are two ways to apply for CHIP. You can contact your state Medicaid agency for eligibility requirements, or you can apply through the health insurance marketplace online or by calling 1-800-318-2596.
You automatically get Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) and Part B (medical coverage) after you get disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months or certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months.
If you’re medically disabled, you may be able to receive Medicare coverage if you go back to work. However, you’ll have to pay the Part A premium after 8 1/2 years.
People with disabilities are eligible for all public housing programs, rental assistance or subsidized housing, and Section 8 vouchers. In addition, those with disabilities may be eligible for a Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) voucher, which helps disabled people who are not seniors access affordable housing in a development set aside for seniors.
If you’d like assistance purchasing a home, the Housing Choice Voucher program can provide monthly financial assistance for homeownership expenses. There may be specific income requirements to qualify, including completing a housing counseling program.
Contact your local public housing agency to learn more about how you can qualify for any of the benefits mentioned above.
Student Loan Forgiveness
Total and Permanent Disability Discharge
You may be able to have your federal student loans and grant service discharged if you can provide documentation showing you are totally and permanently disabled. Loans that are eligible for discharge include:
- Direct loan
- Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL)
- Perkins loan
- TEACH Grant service
To qualify, you’ll need to provide documentation from the VA, Social Security Administration (SSA), or a physician. You can learn more about the process and get an application at the U.S. Department of Education’s Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge website.
Benefits for Veterans Living With Disabilities
Veterans who were honorably discharged and have a service-connected disability may be eligible for special veterans’ options.
The Veteran Readiness and Employment program helps veterans with career counseling. If you qualify, you may be eligible to receive several services, including job training, résumé development, on-the-job training, postsecondary training, and special employer incentives. The program also provides independent-living services for veterans who have a service-connected disability that limits their ability to work.
Veterans who have a disability that occurred during their service, was worsened or aggravated by their service, or is presumed by the VA to be related to military service may be eligible for disability compensation. Disability compensation, which is a tax-free benefit, is available to you if you were honorably discharged.
Veterans, regardless of disability status, may be eligible for the VA’s home loan program to purchase a home, manufactured home, lot for a manufactured home, or a condo. You can also use a VA loan to build, repair, or improve a home. VA loans have favorable terms, which often include no down payment or mortgage insurance premiums.
Certain severely disabled veterans are eligible to receive grants for suitable housing.
You may be eligible for health care benefits through the VA if you served in the active military and received an honorable discharge. Higher priority is given to those with service-connected disabilities or who were discharged for a disability resulting from something that happened in the line of duty.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loans to any business owners that qualify. If you’re a disabled veteran and a business owner, you can work with the Office of Veterans Business Development to apply for SBA loans.
SBA microloans provide loans up to $50,000 and may be ideal for working capital, inventory, supplies, furniture, or equipment for your business. Interest rates are generally between 8% and 13%, and the maximum repayment term is six years. Contact your local SBA office to locate a microloan lender near you.
SBA 7(a) Loan
For larger funding needs, an SBA 7(a) loan may be more ideal. Loan amounts are up to $5 million and provide business owners with funds for working capital, purchase of equipment or machinery, capital for real estate purchases, purchase of a new business, or refinance of certain business debts. The SBA’s 7(a) loan checklist can help you determine whether you qualify and help you prepare for the application.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long can you collect student grants if you live with a disability?
If you have an intellectual disability, you may qualify for the federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and work-study programs. You’ll need to be enrolled in a comprehensive transition and postsecondary (CTP) program for students with intellectual disabilities, maintain satisfactory academic progress, and meet basic federal student aid eligibility requirements.
If a judge grants you disability, how long does it take to get a check?
You’ll generally have to wait five months before receiving your first SSDI benefits payment. If your disability results from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and you are approved for SSDI on or after July 23, 2020, there is no waiting period.
Your Social Security benefits may be reduced if you receive certain government benefits, including workers’ compensation, public disability benefits, or government pensions.
Which agency grants disability benefits?
Several programs offer disability benefits. The SSA grants SSDI. Local public housing agencies under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offer housing benefits. SNAP is administered by a partnership between state-level organizations and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP are government-sponsored medical insurance programs that are managed by state agencies.