Millions of elderly folks are struggling to make ends meet, particularly in these times of inflation. However, a lot of people are unaware that support is available, and several well-known organisations that provide financial assistance are underutilised.
a few instances According to current estimates, about 14 million persons 60 or older are eligible for assistance from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps), but they haven’t signed up.
Additionally, more than 3 million persons 65 and older are qualified for Medicare Savings Programs, which cover Medicare premiums and cost sharing, but they are not enrolled in them.
The Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy programme, which pays plan premiums and cost sharing and reduces the price of prescription medications, may also be unavailable to 30% to 45% of seniors.
According to Josh Hodges, chief customer officer at the National Council on Aging, an organisation that advocates for senior citizens and manages the National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment, “tens of billions of dollars of benefits are going unused every year” because seniors are unaware of them, find the applications too challenging to complete, or feel conflicted about asking for assistance.
Numerous initiatives are geared for seniors with very low incomes and few assets. However, it’s not always the case: While those with modest incomes are often given preference, means testing is not necessary for programmes supported by the Older Americans Act, such as home-delivered meals and legal aid for seniors facing home foreclosure or eviction.
Additionally, anybody 65 years of age or older is eligible for several municipal programmes, such as homeowner property tax discounts.
For older persons who struggle to pay for necessities like food, housing, transportation, and healthcare due to low earnings, even a few hundred dollars in monthly help may make a significant impact.
However, many individuals are unaware of how to inquire for benefits and if they are eligible. And senior citizens are often hesitant to ask for assistance, particularly if they have never done so before.
Hodges advised seniors to see their perks “like their Medicare and Social Security” since they “earned these advantages.”
Here are some details on a few applications as well as instructions for getting started.
Area Agencies on Aging, organisations committed to helping seniors, provide benefits evaluations in every town or may direct you to other groups that do so.
(To find the phone number for your local Area Agency on Aging, call 800-677-1116 on weekdays during business hours or utilise the Eldercare Locator, a service provided by the federal Administration on Aging.)
Evaluations pinpoint the federal, state, and local programmes that may help with a variety of requirements, including those for food, housing, transportation, healthcare, utility bills, and other necessities. The agency’s employees often assist elders with application forms and paperwork collection.
Waiting until a crisis occurs and there is no food in the refrigerator or the power is ready to go out is a typical error.
Being ready is always a good idea, said to Sandy Markwood, CEO of USAging, a national group that speaks for Area Agencies on Aging. Come in, have a seat, and discuss your choices with someone.
BenefitsCheckUp, a programme run by the National Council on Aging, is available to older persons who are at ease online and want to do their own research at benefitscheckup.org. Call 800-794-6559 if you’d rather communicate over the phone.
assistance with food costs
Some groups for the elderly are responding to the increased need for assistance from seniors by concentrating emphasis on fundamental services like food stamps, which have become even more significant since food inflation hovers around 10%.
There is a huge opportunity to assist elders with these costs. The AARP Public Policy Institute estimates that 71% of persons 60 and older who are eligible for benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program haven’t applied for them in a new series of papers.
Elderly people sometimes may believe the advantages are insufficient to justify the difficulty. But in 2019, the average food stamp payment for elderly people living alone was $104 per month.
According to AARP, at least 3 million seniors aged 50 and older with very low incomes would get more than $200 each month.
According to Nicole Heckman, vice president of benefit access programmes at the AARP Foundation, AARP has launched a marketing campaign in Atlanta and Houston explaining that “food prices are rising and we’re all trying to stretch our grocery budgets” to combat the stigma that some older adults associate with receiving food stamps.
AARP intends to carry out a significant expansion next year if the campaign changes seniors’ perceptions of the programme and boosts membership, she added.
assistance with medical expenditures
In South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi, AARP works closely with neighbourhood groups to assist seniors in applying for Medicare Savings Programs and low-income subsidies for Part D prescription drug insurance. It intends to bring this initiative to as many as 22 states the following year.
These health care benefits, aimed at elderly people with little financial resources, are quite expensive. Medicare Savings Programs will at the very least pay the Part B premiums for Medicare, which for the majority of elderly citizens is $170 per month or $2,040 per year. Benefits are considerably more extensive for senior citizens with modest incomes, and cost sharing for medical care is also covered.
Meredith Freed, a senior policy analyst for KFF’s Program on Medicare Policy, said: “Even if you believe you may not qualify, you should apply since there are varied standards among states.”
According to the Social Security Administration, low-income subsidies for Part D prescription medication coverage, commonly known as Extra Help, are worth $5,100 yearly.
Currently, some seniors only get a portion of the benefits; but, starting in 2024, all older individuals with incomes that are less than 150% of the federal poverty threshold ($20,385 for a single person in 2022) will be eligible for the entire range of Extra Help benefits.
It is a good idea to acquire assistance with your application since these health care programmes are difficult. Freed advised folks to begin by getting in touch with their state’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program (contact information can be found here).
The Medicare helpline (800-633-4227) and the department of ageing in your state, which may point you in the direction of community groups that assist with applications, are other possible sources of assistance. (You may see a list of the state departments here.)
Other forms of support
As part of a larger “benefits review,” make sure to look into local senior property tax reduction programmes.
Through the Modest Income Home Energy Assistance Program, older persons with low incomes may also get help with their high energy expenses. Seniors who are unable to pay their payments may potentially be eligible for emergency assistance from your local utility provider.
Rebecca Lerfelt, a former assistant director of a Chicago-area Aging and Disability Resource Center, suggested placing a call to find out.
These resource centres provide aid to anyone looking for long-term care services and are another possible source of support for senior citizens. (You may look for one around here.)
According to Diane Slezak, head of AgeOptions, an Area Agency on Aging in suburban Cook County, Illinois, “now may be the time to look at utilising your VA benefits.” I often come across persons who are entitled to veteran benefits but are not using them.
obstacles to receiving aid
Supporters of several programmes point out that personnel shortages at organisations that serve older individuals are making it more difficult to provide support. One often claimed reason is low salary. According to Markwood, for instance, 41% of Area Agencies on Aging report staff shortages of up to 15%, while an additional 18% report vacancies of up to 25%. Additionally, the covid-19 epidemic has resulted in huge volunteer losses for organisations.
Due to the epidemic and rising inflation, there is also a greater need for assistance and more complicated client demands.
The financial pressures that older folks are experiencing, according to Markwood, “are amplifying all of this.”