Many seniors know that living on a fixed income isn’t always easy—especially when it seems that the price of virtually everything is rising daily. Whether you find yourself in a position where you need extra help or care for a loved one who needs help, know there’s help for seniors. We’ll look below at some of the top government benefits for seniors.

Government Programs for Seniors Who Need Assistance

Life can be stressful and expensive, especially when in your golden years. Thankfully, should you find yourself in a position of need, there are various assistance programs available that may help you? Government benefits for seniors can help with food, employment, monthly income, and even housing.

Social Security Benefits for Seniors

Social Security benefits are designed for older adults 65 and up. Average monthly benefits are around $1,614 for older Americans. Most retirees receive Social Security. And for seniors who rely solely on Social Security benefits, SSI (Supplemental Security Income) can help to provide additional monthly income. The average SSI amount per month in 2022 is around $841 for a single adult and about $1,261 per couple.

Medical Expense Assistance

Nearly 59 million citizens receive insurance coverage through Medicare. Health care expenses can be sky high, especially for seniors. With an already strained budget, it can be overwhelming for many to pay for doctors’ appointments, prescriptions, emergencies, and hospital stays. Medicare is an excellent source of health insurance for senior citizens in the United States and is one of the oldest federal programs.

Medicare helps cover bills that result from hospitalizations (Medicare Part A), doctor visits (Part B), and prescription costs (Part D). Although Medicare can help seniors save lots of money, it’s not entirely free. Medicare covers 80% of your medical expenses, and you’ll be responsible for the remaining 20%, deductibles, and copays. Should you find yourself needing extra assistance with the cost of your prescriptions, know that there are prescription drug savings cards that can ultimately help discount your out-of-pocket drug costs.

Additional Senior Assitance Programs

In addition to Medicare, seniors may look into several other programs that can be of assistance.

Medicaid is available for those who meet the qualifications based on income. Medicaid services can cover both outpatient and inpatient services and can help cover Medicare deductibles and premium costs.

The PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) program is another useful program that can assist seniors with additional care. Dental care, home health care, X-rays, nursing homes, and meals are just some services that this program can help cover for you. The Dental Lifeline Network is beneficial in assisting qualified patients in receiving adequate dental care. Medicare tends only to offer minimal dental care, and many seniors may find that all-inclusive Medicare plans such as Advantage plans or Medigap plans may not fit their budgets.

The SHIP (Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program) program helps seniors with medical bills and insurance coverage benefits and will even provide vouchers for prescription medications. The group of volunteers at SHIP will even help Medicare beneficiaries with insurance appeals and denials.

Similarly, Health Insurance Counseling has counselors specializing in health insurance and can help explain anything and everything Medicare. The experienced counselors will even help answer medical questions about long-term care coverage.

Transportation may not always be easy to obtain. Thankfully, seniors can receive transportation to and from doctors’ appointments through various organizations. Churches, senior care centers, and other charities may help provide these services. Extra help is a federal program that offers savings and discounts on prescription medications.

Both private organizations and government agencies can help provide seniors with DME (Durable Medical Equipment). DME can include wheelchairs, walkers, lift chairs, and more. Seniors in need can receive this equipment at a discounted rate and may even be able to loan this equipment at no cost.

A Medicaid Waiver can help seniors who require long-term care stay within a community rather than moving to a long-term care facility. The Senior Medicare Hotline is an excellent resource for seniors who need help learning to pay their medical expenses. In addition to helping educate seniors, the nonprofit organization also offers grants for medical bills.

Food Assistance for Seniors

Groceries are necessary; for many seniors, the grocery budget gets stretched thin when the cost of goods increases and fixed incomes remain the same. Several government benefits for seniors programs help seniors with the cost of food, whether through direct donation or a program that provides funds to seniors to grocery shop.

SNAP (The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is a government food program that provides seniors with qualifying low incomes monthly deposits on an EBT (Electronic Benefits Card) card, specifically for groceries. Food Stamps is another name for the SNAP program.

Qualifying recipients’ monthly gross income must equal or be less than 130% of the poverty level. So, individual households would have to make $1,396 or less per month, and couples will have to show an income of $1,888 or less per month in 2022.

Both federal and state governments offer nutrition programs designed to help educate seniors in nutrition and meal planning. For example, the Congregate Meal Site Program provides help at various senior housing centers and churches. The program provides hot meals and educational workshops.

The SFMNP (Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program) is also an excellent resource for seniors. The program offers low-income seniors booklets packed with coupons at various farmers’ markets. It’s important to know that these coupons are solely for fresh produce, not dried and canned foods.

Seniors can also utilize the TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) program. The donated foods include meats, dairy, produce, and canned food items. The program is run through the state, and most who qualify for SNAP will also qualify for TEFAP.

Another food assistance program available for those needing extra help is the CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program). Hot and healthy meals and groceries are provided to seniors with low incomes.

Meals on Wheels is a fantastic program for seniors who are homebound. Volunteers work to deliver meals and groceries while also providing good company for seniors who can’t leave their homes. In addition to meals for seniors, the program also gives pet food for those with cats or dogs. Even the holidays are considered with this program, as volunteers work through the holidays to deliver yummy holiday meals.

Employment Assistance for Seniors

For those with stretched incomes, finding a source of employment can provide additional monthly payments that will help with expenses. Many even find that work helps alleviate boredom and loneliness, two things many seniors may experience in their golden years. The SCSEP (Senior Community Service Employment Program) program employs those 55 and up with community or government agencies. Some of the available jobs include technician and assistant teaching positions.

The program provides in-depth training for different opportunities, which gives seniors an excellent chance to succeed. The program will assess former work experience and can receive a free physical exam to evaluate physical capabilities for job training. Generally, seniors are offered part-time employment to begin with, but it may develop into a full-time position if seniors are successful within the position.

Housing Assistance for Seniors

Housing costs are skyrocketing. Not only is the cost to rent or purchase prohibitive, but the cost to heat and cool your home is also. The HUD (The Housing and Urban Development) program helps to provide rental assistance vouchers to those in need. In addition to rental assistance, the program can help provide transportation, meals, and cleaning services to qualifying recipients.

The Congregate Housing Services program provides support and subsidies through the state for qualifying seniors. The income must be moderate or below and need to reside in senior housing. Recipients of this program are typically much older or have severe health issues and can receive house cleaning and meals.

Lifeline is a program that helps cover the cost of phone services for low-income seniors. If you’re a recipient of SNAP or Medicaid, you automatically will qualify for Lifeline phone services. The LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) program helps pay for qualifying seniors cooling and heating power bills. The US Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program also helps seniors with energy-related maintenance and repairs. They can help install insulation, replace or repair water heaters and AC units, and can replace thermostats. Qualifying seniors are those over 60 with a disability.

How Seniors Can Consolidate Debt

Seniors can consolidate their debt in several ways. A payday loan is usually easy to obtain, and if your credit score and credit report aren’t good, that’s okay. You’ll usually have a short repayment plan and likely face high-interest rates. Another option to help consolidate debt is by getting a balance transfer card. This credit card helps put all your debt into one central account.

Doing this will pay just one monthly loan payment rather than several other payments because you’ll use the card to pay off your existing loans and credit cards. If either of the above options isn’t the avenue you want to take, you can look into debt settlement. Negotiators will negotiate with creditors on behalf of the borrower to achieve a balance that you can realistically afford to pay.

Once you pay the balance, you will be free of that debt. And finally, a reverse mortgage may work well for homeowners if you meet eligibility requirements. You must be at least 62 with a decent amount of equity in your home. You’ll borrow against your equity, and your payments won’t be due until you pass. Then, your relatives can either sell the house or pay the mortgage.

Is Bankruptcy an Option?

Of course, filing for bankruptcy is always an option as well. Your debts, like medical debt, personal loans, federal student loan debt, and more, will be eliminated. Two types of bankruptcy exist. Chapter 7 bankruptcy involves an individual liquidating reasonable assets to repay debtors. Chapter 13 bankruptcy means that the individual starts a payment plan lasting for three to five years, and debt collectors won’t harass them constantly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have additional questions about how to get out of debt? Below are some of the most frequently asked questions among seniors.

How can seniors get out of debt?

If debts are either PLUS or federal debts, they can get reduced. Additionally, some seniors may be available for forbearance, deferment, debt consolidation, or payment plans based on income.

Who qualifies for debt relief?

Individuals must have a minimum of $7,500 in debt to qualify for debt relief. Debts that are eligible for relief include:

  • Medical bills
  • Various private student loans
  • Personal loans
  • Major credit cards
  • Store credit lines

The following debts don’t qualify for relief:

  • Vehicle loans
  • Mortgages

Do seniors Need to Pay Credit Card Debt?

While most strive to pay credit card debt promptly, we know that sometimes it’s not always possible. Seniors’ incomes are protected from wage garnishment if they cannot pay their credit card debt.

How can a 60-year-old get out of debt?

Debt consolidation, paying bills on time, and lifestyle changes are several ways that 60-year-olds can work to get out of debt.

What is the average age of people who have debt?

With the ever-rising cost of daily living steadily increasing, far more people are in debt. Debt typically begins at 18 and tends to increase over time. Individuals between 40 and 55 tend to carry the most debt, weighing around $135,841.

What is a debt forgiveness program for seniors?

Debt forgiveness programs can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Programs that gear towards seniors may include mortgage debt forgiveness, credit card settlement, and debt consolidation programs.

Do seniors need to pay taxes on debts forgiven?

Generally, you’ll still need to report debts forgiven on your tax return. Seniors with a low income can request placement on a Non-Collectible status with the IRS. This placement can buy you time (usually a year) to work on finances and begin paying towards the IRS again.

Is there a debt relief program for seniors?

Seniors can find some relief by searching for debt relief programs, such as AARP. Various companies and programs are available, which can vary depending on what services you need. Some programs offer financial assistance for disabled and low-income seniors. Other programs can help with budgeting and will help negotiate with creditors to help alleviate debt on your end.

What is the process of debt relief?

Debt relief is also commonly referred to as debt settlement. Debt relief resolves any delinquent debt for less than the total amount you owe by paying the original lender in a lump sum.

How does someone qualify for debt relief?

To qualify for debt relief, you must carry at least $7,500 worth of unsecured debt. Unsecured debt stems from credit card debt, personal loans, medical bills, and more. You may not carry more than $100,000 of unsecured debt to qualify for debt relief.

What is the average debt load of a senior?

The average debt load of a senior aged 60-69 is around $50,000. The average debt load for seniors ages 70 and up falls at or below $20,000.

Getting Help With Medicare Costs

Life is expensive, and unexpected costs can throw a monkey wrench in an already tight budget. Don’t let your health care expenses zap your budget even more. Call our experienced Medicare experts today, or fill out our online quote form. Our dedicated team will find the best Supplement plan for you and your budget so that you can sleep sound at night.

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by Lindsay Malzone, Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare editor for Medigap.com. She's been contributing to many well-known publications since 2017. Her passion is educating Medicare beneficiaries on all their supplemental Medicare options so they can make an informed decision on their healthcare coverage.