“The sad reality is that the government denies benefits to the vast majority of people the first time they apply to programs such as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), even with severe medical conditions.”
The good news is that there are many government assistance programs for seniors with disabilities. The bad news is that it would take Sherlock Holmes to track down all of the benefits you are eligible to receive. These benefits programs have their eligibility rules scattered across many websites. Once you enter that labyrinth, things only get more confusing.
Thankfully, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has developed a user-friendly website, Benefits Check-Up.org, for people to find the benefits for which they qualify. The website is a lifesaver when you are navigating public benefits for disabled elders.
How to use Benefits Check-Up
First, enter your zip code. Designate whether you are searching for benefits for yourself, your spouse, a relative, a client, a test case or someone else. Click on your date of birth, your combined monthly gross income, your marital status and whether you are a U. S. veteran.
You can then select any or all of these categories of benefits:
- Health Care
- Income Assistance
- Food and Nutrition
- Housing and Utilities
- Tax Relief
- Veterans Benefits
- Other Assistance
After running a test case for a fictional 70-year-old veteran in California, the Benefits Check-Up site listed 20 potential state and federal health care benefits programs and five potential state and federal income assistance programs. With a click, you can get more information on each program. If you provide additional information, you can get more personalized results. The possible income assistance programs for this test case included:
- Social Security – Old Age, Survivors, Disability and Health Insurance Programs (OASDHI)
- Supplemental Security Income
- California Supplemental Income Program
- Federal Retirement System
- Railroad Retirement
Finding the benefits programs is the easy part
It would be great if you could get the benefits you deserve simply by locating their programs. The sad reality is that the government denies benefits to the vast majority of people the first time they apply to programs, such as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), even if they have severe medical conditions. Most people have to go through the appeals process to get their benefits.
SSDI requires that your medical condition satisfies the standards outlined in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments, also known as the Blue Book. If your medical condition is severe enough to meet the Blue Book criteria, then you must also satisfy these requirements:
- Your health condition must prevent you from performing any work
- Your monthly income must be below the SSDI limit
- You must have paid into the Social Security system for a long enough period, through employment at a job where your employer withheld money from your paycheck for Medicaid and Social Security. This requirement is called “work credits.”
If you do not have enough work credits, you may qualify for SSI if you meet all of the other requirements of SSDI. You can increase your chances of being approved for government benefits, such as SSDI, SSI and veterans benefits, if your initial application builds a rock-solid case of your eligibility. Most people do not know how to do this the first time that they apply for benefits. It can be helpful to have a local elder lawyer walk you through the process to make sure that you are submitting all of the required documentation.
Benefits programs are different in every state, so be sure to talk with an elder lawyer in your area.
National Council on Aging. “Benefits CheckUp.” (accessed July 12, 2017) https://www.benefitscheckup.org/#/
Social Security Administration. “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security: Listing of Impairments – Adult Listings (Part A).” (accessed July 12, 2017) https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/AdultListings.htm