Approximately 26% of Americans live with a disability that can impact cognition and mobility skills, according to the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. These disabilities can make it challenging to manage daily tasks or full-time employment, putting a significant strain on finances and possibly making it challenging to make ends meet.
On top of that, according to research from Stony Brook University, the University of Tennessee, the National Disability Institute, and the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, a household containing an adult with a disability (with limited ability to work) requires 28% more income (or an extra $17,690 annually) to meet the same standard of living as a household without someone with a disability.
Fortunately, various programs are available that provide financial assistance to disabled adults. So, whether you need help with housing costs or healthcare, understanding your options can help you get the assistance you need.
Read on for the details.
How Many People Have Disabilities in the U.S.?
As briefly noted above, about 26% of Americans live with a disability; that means more than one in four people are facing issues with mobility or cognition.
That is a significant number. If you or someone you care about is living with a disability, it’s important to know about the programs that can help access aid.
Types of Help Available for People With Disabilities
When it comes to financial help for the disabled, there are many options. Here are some programs that can assist in this situation.
There are healthcare programs that provide financial help for disabled adults, so medical bills don’t seem so overwhelming. Available programs include:
• Medicare. Usually, enrolling in Medicare is a program associated with seniors. However, Medicare also offers medical cost assistance for folks with disabilities under 65 years old. If you just began receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you usually have to wait 24 months before your Medicare coverage kicks in. However, eligible applicants can forgo the waiting period if they meet specific requirements.
• Medicaid. Medicaid is designed to offset the cost of medical bills for low-income and disabled individuals. To see if you qualify for this federal and state-funded program, you can check with your state’s Medicaid office. Usually, your eligibility depends on your age, income, the number of people in your family, and if you’re disabled.
• Marketplace health insurance coverage. If you don’t qualify for instant Medicare coverage, you can apply for a low-cost private insurance plan to fill in your coverage gap while you complete the waiting period. In addition, depending on your income and level of need, you may qualify for a “premium tax credit,” which can reduce your monthly premium payment.
Housing assistance can help you identify an affordable place to live, modify your home for your disability, or help you toward a path to live independently. Housing programs that provide financial help for people with disabilities include:
• State-run independent living centers. Living independently can be difficult for those with a disability. That’s why states and local municipalities offer independent living centers to help folks develop their skills to live without assistance.
You can also contact your state’s department of human services or disability office to discover programs that assist with home modifications, locating housing, and housing counseling for first-time home-buyers.
• Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV). Public Housing Agencies (PHA) offer this government-backed housing program to help people with disabilities buy homes and pay housing expenses. However, since every PHA jurisdiction is allowed to decide whether or not HCVs are offered within their jurisdiction, check with your local PHA to see if this program is available in your neck of the woods.
• Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) Voucher. If you’re not a senior but have a disability, you may qualify for a Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) Voucher. This voucher gives you access to housing communities usually explicitly reserved for seniors.
• Public housing. Local housing agencies (HA) offer affordable public housing to low-income families or individuals with disabilities. Each local HA determines eligibility based on your income and disability. Nationwide, close to a million families live in public housing units.
• Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This government-funded program offers financial help for people with disabilities who have difficulty paying their utility bills. Also, if your utilities are turned off due to unpaid bills, the LIHEAP can provide emergency assistance.
Income and Daily Expenses
If you have a disability, you may also need help paying for basic expenses, such as food and clothing. Here are some programs available that can provide monthly financial assistance for disabled individuals and their families.
• The Social Security Administration. Through the Social Security Administration (SSA), you may qualify for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which both offer financial assistance for people with disabilities. SSDI offers financial support to disabled individuals who have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to qualify for assistance (you may be able to have a savings account while on SSDI incidentally). SSI also offers financial support to meet the basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter) of disabled people with limited (or no) income.
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• Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Also known as the food stamp program, SNAP helps low-income or disabled folks suffering financial hardship save on their grocery bill. This can include using food stamps online. As a disabled adult, you could qualify for increased assistance.
• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). If your SSI benefits haven’t kicked in yet and you’re tight on cash, you may qualify for TANF. This is another government-backed program that offers grants to families in need of immediate financial support. It can be a source of financial assistance for the disabled in the short-term.
• Veteran disability compensation. If you have a disability that either resulted from or worsened due to service in the military, you could qualify for a government grant or other financial assistance through government disability programs.
If you have a disability but want to achieve a degree, financial assistance for people with disabilities is available. Here are some programs worth exploring.
• Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To ease the financial burden of higher education costs, you can use the FAFSA to determine if you qualify for a variety of aid programs such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity, Grant Federal Pell Grant, and Federal Work-Study programs.
• State and independent education agencies. You can also seek financial support from your state’s department of education or independent agencies around where you live. Remember that eligibility requirements and guidelines will vary by state and organization.
• Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge. If you took out federal student loans to pay for higher education costs but can no longer work due to your disability, you could qualify for a TPD discharge. If you’re eligible, the TPD will serve as a disability discharge for student loans, wiping away your student debt.
What’s more, you won’t have to repay your federal loans or meet your TEACH Grant service obligations.
Other Financial Assistance for Disabled Adults
There are other programs that can offer financial assistance for disabled adults. Here are a few other options to consider.
• Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings account. Individuals with disabilities may qualify for an ABLE account, a tax-advantaged saving vehicle. This means account holders are not taxed on the earnings if they use the money within the account to cover qualified disability expenses such as education, housing, or medical costs. You can contribute up to $17,000 per year as an account holder as of 2023.
• Disability loans. A disability loan is a personal loan that provides financial support for disabled adults while they wait for disability benefits to kick in. Applicants can use this type of loan to cover living costs, medical bills, or any other expense they have pertaining to their disability. Borrowers must meet the lender’s eligibility requirement to qualify. Remember, the disability loan must be repaid according to the lender’s terms and conditions.
• Disability insurance. Many employers offer disability insurance as part of their compensation package. So, if you become disabled, your disability insurance will pay a portion of your income. Usually, short-term disability insurance supplements your salary for three to six months, while long-term disability can supplement your income from two years until the time when you can retire, depending on the plan and your condition. Plans can pay between 40% and 70% of your salary.
Worth noting: You can buy private disability insurance if you don’t have a plan through your employer.
• Debt repayment plans.You can consider a debt management plan if your credit card debt is weighing you down. With a debt repayment plan, you work with a credit counseling agency that helps you create a solid repayment plan and can even negotiate with your creditors.
• Loan forbearance. Some lenders offer forbearance programs if you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, halting your payments for a provisional amount of time. Your lender may also be willing to revamp the terms of your loan to make payments more manageable.
Tips on Applying for Financial Assistance
Applying for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) might be a great place to start sourcing financial assistance if you have recently become disabled from a medical disorder.
To determine if your disability meets the eligibility requirements for benefits, you’ll want to complete the Social Security Disability (SSD) application online, via or at your local Social Security office. The application is detailed and requires documentation to support your case. Preparing carefully in advance may help you improve your chance of approval.
Here are some tips to streamline the process.
• Include detailed responses to all application questions. It’s best to provide as much information on your application as you can. Since the purpose of the application is to prove your disability doesn’t allow you to work, you’ll want to make your answers very detailed. Simply providing “yes” or “no” answers can result in an application denial.
• Submit ongoing medical records. Your doctor will provide your initial medical records for your application proving your disability. In addition, you should provide any other medical records when you receive them. Medical records can include lab tests, medication paperwork, treatment documents, and more. Whenever you receive a medical record from your medical professional’s office, you could forward it to the SSA. The more supporting documentation you have, the better your chances of qualifying.
• Partner with a disability lawyer. Disability lawyers are well-versed on SSD applications. Yes, it could be an additional expense, but their expertise could be advantageous when completing the application. It might even increase the odds of benefit approval.
You can expect the entire application process usually takes anywhere between three to six months. However, the SSA may grant you an expedited process if you have a rare condition or aggressive disease.
In addition to benefits from the SSA, other government and non-profit organizations provide financial assistance to disabled adults and their families. If you’re in need, explore all available options starting with the list above. Once you pinpoint several programs to apply for, gather all your documentation (i.e., income documents, medical records, etc.) in advance to streamline the application process. Keep in mind there might be a waiting period before benefits are approved. So, it’s best to apply as soon as you can.
Having a disability can be emotionally, physically, and financially challenging. The same applies if you care for a person with disabilities, literally or figuratively. Fortunately, plenty of programs are available to help with medical bills, income, housing, education, and much more. These can be available to help with short-term and ongoing needs. By doing some research and outreach, you may be able to get financial assistance to help with your needs.
Is there an income limit for these financial assistance options for the disabled?
Income limits vary by the program you’re applying for. For example, the monthly income limit is $1,470 for non-blind disabled SSDI or SSI applicants, and $2,460 for blind SSDI applicants in 2023.
Is there a chance that someone can get denied assistance?
Yes, but it depends on the program. For example, only about 20% to 30% of disability benefits applicants are awarded financial support. Denials can result from a variety of factors, including technical errors and issues with medical information.
What is the criteria for getting financial assistance as a disabled person?
Criteria and eligibility depend on the program. So, before you apply, make sure you understand the requirements of the aid you are hoping to qualify for.
Photo credit: iStock/Renata Hamuda
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