There are a whole host of government programs available to help older adults. These programs can help provide additional income support, healthcare coverage, or reduce costs for housing, utilities and food.
It can be smart to take advantage of these programs to live more comfortably in retirement. So if you're looking to save money, here’s what you need to know about 15 government benefits that can help.
Benefits.gov: This is the official benefits website of the U.S. government. You can use its Benefit Finder tool to see what government benefits you might be eligible to receive – including financial benefits, housing assistance, health care and medical assistance, and Social Security and retirement.
Eldercare Locator: This public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging helps connect older adults with a variety of local support services. Its call center – 800-677-1116 – is open five days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. E.T, or you can visit Eldercare.acl.gov.
National Council on Aging: This organization has a wealth of information on its website, NCOA.org, to help older adults stay economically secure as they age. You can use its free BenefitsCheckUp service to find out what benefits programs you might be eligible for to save money on health care, medication, food, housing, utilities and more.
Social Security: You can start collecting Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. However, you’ll receive a reduced amount for claiming benefits early. To get your full benefit amount, you must wait to claim benefits until your full retirement age – which ranges from 66 to 67, depending on the year you were born. By delaying benefits until age 70, you can actually increase the amount they receive.
Social Security isn’t just a retirement program, though. It provides disability benefits, survivors benefits for widows and widowers, and supplemental security income for low-income seniors and disabled adults. Visit SSA.gov to learn more about benefits and to sign up for a “my Social Security" online account to check your statements and manage your benefits.
[ Read: What to Know About Social Security]
Veterans benefits: If you served in the military,you might qualify for a variety of benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs – including monthly pension payments, disability compensation, housing assistance and health care. If you need help performing daily activities such as bathing and dressing or are confined to bed because of illness, you might qualify for the VA’s Aid and Attendance program, which provides an increased monthly pension to help cover the cost of care at home or in a nursing home.
Medicare: You are eligible at age 65 to sign up for Medicare, the national health insurance program for older adults. There are two ways to get coverage: original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Original Medicare includes Part A (hospital coverage that is free) and Part B (medical insurance with a monthly premium based on annual income). To get prescription coverage, you have to sign up and pay for Part D. There's also an option to purchase a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) to cover costs such as deductibles, copayments and some services not covered by Medicare.
Medicare Advantage is offered by private insurers. It includes Part A, Part B and usually Part D and usually provides other types of coverage such as vision, dental and hearing.
If you need help paying for Medicare, you might qualify for assistance through your state’s Medicare Savings Programs. You might also qualify for a program called Extra Help to get help paying for prescription drugs.
[ Find Out: How Medicare Works ]
Medicaid: If you have limited income and resources, you might qualify for Medicaid to help cover medical costs. This joint federal and state program also covers long-term care in skilled nursing facilities and care at home in some states. Medicare does not cover long-term care. Medicaid.gov has a list of state Medicaid office contacts you can use to find out if you are eligible for this program.
State Health Insurance Assistance Programs: These programs have counselors who can help seniors Medicare options, understand guidelines and find payment assistance programs. You can find your local SHIP at Shiptacenter.org.
Department of Housing and Urban Development: HUD offers housing assistance programs for seniors, including low-rent apartments and housing choice vouchers. Information about federal housing assistance programs for older adults is available at HUD.gov.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: This federal program provides food-assistance benefits to low-income individuals and families. Each state has its own application process, so you must contact your local SNAP office to learn about eligibility requirements.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program: This program provides low-income adults ages 60 and older with a monthly food package. Eligibility requirements vary by state. You can contact your state agency for details.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program: This federal program provides food at no cost to low-income people, including the elderly, through state and local agencies such as food pantries.
Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program: This program provides low-income adults who are at least 60 with coupons that can be exchanged for food at farmers’ markets. State agencies such as state departments of agriculture and area agencies on aging administer this program
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program: You might qualify for assistance with home energy bills, weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs through LIHEAP if you household income is low enough. The Department of Health and Human Services has a list of states with online applications. It also has a search tool for state agencies that administer the program locally.
Lifeline: This Federal Communications Commission program provides a $9.25 monthly discount on phone and Internet services for low-income adults. Universal Service Administrative Company administers the program and lists qualifications on its website.