Options for Financial Assistance for People With Disabilities

Millions of adults are disabled, and the financial demands and access to medical care that their condition necessitates can add to their burden. When times are tough, Americans with disabilities have a unique set of resources at their disposal, including financial assistance to help with day-to-day living expenses.

These programs help people with disabilities pay for food and housing, health care and prescriptions, and even tax preparation. Veterans with disabilities may be eligible for additional benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Learn more about the financial assistance options available to you and how to apply for them.

Important Takeaways

There are numerous state and federal programs available to people with disabilities.
The majority of assistance programs provide financial assistance to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.
Veterans are entitled to specific benefits through the VA.
Certain disabled graduates may be able to have their student loans forgiven.

Monthly Income, Loans, and Expenses

SNP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

People with disabilities may be eligible for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). There are several ways to qualify for the program, including receiving disability or blindness payments from federal or state agencies. Railroad workers who are disabled, veterans, and disabled spouses or children of veterans may be eligible for food assistance.

Because each state has its own application process, you must contact your state agency to learn the rules and apply.

Disability Benefits from Social Security

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is a federal program that provides cash to certain populations, including disabled people, to meet basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter). If you have a condition on the SSDI Compassionate Allowances list, you may be able to determine your eligibility sooner.

Your monthly SSDI payment is determined by the amount of your lifetime average earnings that are covered by Social Security. To get your Social Security statement, you can use the Social Security Administration’s online benefits calculator or create an online Social Security account.

Check the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility requirements before beginning your application, and then apply online or call 800-772-1213 or 800-325-0778 (TTY) to schedule an appointment.

Federal Disability Retirement Compensation

Federal civilian employees who have completed at least 18 months of federal civilian service may be eligible for disability retirement under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). Six requirements must be met in order to qualify, including:

  • The disability occurred while you were working and contributing to the retirement system.
  • The disability will last at least a year.
  • Your agency is unable to provide you with a job that accommodates your disability.

You must provide complete documentation of your medical condition, and your agency must exhaust all reasonable efforts to keep you in a productive position.

To apply, you must fill out FERS forms SF 3107 and SF 3112. If you are under the age of 62, you must also show proof that you have applied for Social Security disability benefits.

Workplace Incentives

People with disabilities who receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be able to work while still receiving monthly payments and Medicare or Medicaid. These “work incentives” enable you to return to work while retaining some or all of your benefits.

SSDI recipients can use a nine-month “trial work period” to put their ability to work to the test before losing benefits. If your benefits were previously suspended but you are no longer able to work due to a medical condition, you can have them reinstated.

Note
Enroll in SSDI’s online webinar or call 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 to learn more about work incentives (TTY).

Temporary Aid for Needy Families

States can help families with child care, job preparation, and work assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. You must be a resident of the state where you apply because the program is managed by each state. While disability is not a requirement, you must be unemployed or underemployed and have a low or very low income.

To learn more about eligibility criteria or to apply, contact your local social services agency or human resources department.

Volunteer Income Tax Help

Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, people with disabilities can receive free tax preparation from IRS-certified volunteers. You are not required to apply to use the service. Using the IRS’ online search tool, you can find a VITA program provider near you.

Internet or phone service

The federal Lifeline program may qualify you for a $9.25 discount on your phone or internet service.
4 To qualify, your income must be less than 135% of the federal poverty line, or you must participate in a qualifying program, such as:

  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)5 SNAP Medicaid SSI

Note
A Lifeline benefit can only be received by one member of your household.

Medical Care

Medicaid

Medicaid provides people with disabilities with free or low-cost medical care. To apply for Medicaid, you have two options: contact your state Medicaid agency or apply through the health insurance marketplace. You must be a resident of the state in which you are applying.

Program for Children’s Health Insurance

If your household income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, your child may still be eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program provides medical and dental care to children and adolescents up to the age of 18.

There are two methods for applying for CHIP. For eligibility requirements, contact your state Medicaid agency, or apply through the health insurance marketplace online or by calling 1-800-318-2596.

Medicare

After receiving Social Security disability benefits for 24 months or certain Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits for 24 months, you are automatically eligible for Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) and Part B (medical coverage).

Note

If you are medically disabled and return to work, you may be able to receive Medicare coverage. You will, however, be required to pay the Part A premium after 8 1/2 years.

Housing

All public housing programs, rental assistance or subsidized housing, and Section 8 vouchers are available to people with disabilities. Furthermore, those with disabilities may be eligible for a Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) voucher, which allows disabled people who are not seniors to access affordable housing in a senior development.

If you need help buying a house, the Housing Choice Voucher program can provide monthly financial assistance for homeownership costs. To qualify, you may need to meet certain income requirements, as well as complete a housing counseling program.

To learn more about how you can qualify for any of the benefits mentioned above, contact your local public housing agency.

Loan Forgiveness for Students

Discharge from Total and Permanent Disability

If you can show that you are totally and permanently disabled, you may be able to have your federal student loans and grant service discharged. Loans that are dischargeable include:

  • Direct lending
  • TEACH Grant service Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL)
  • Perkins Loan

You must provide documentation from the VA, Social Security Administration (SSA), or a physician to qualify. You can learn more about the process and apply at the Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge website of the United States Department of Education.

Veterans With Disabilities Can Receive Benefits

Veterans with an honorable discharge and a service-connected disability may be eligible for special veterans’ benefits.

Career Guidance

The Veteran Readiness and Employment program provides career counseling to veterans. If you meet the criteria, you may be eligible for services such as job training, résumé development, on-the-job training, postsecondary training, and special employer incentives. The program also provides veterans with a service-connected disability who are unable to work with independent living services.

Compensation for Disability

Veterans who have a disability that occurred during their service, was exacerbated or worsened by their service, or is presumed to be related to military service may be eligible for disability compensation. If you were honorably discharged, you are eligible for disability compensation, which is a tax-free benefit.

Home Mortgages

Veterans, regardless of disability status, may be eligible for the VA’s home loan program to purchase a home, manufactured home, manufactured home lot, or condominium. A VA loan can also be used to build, repair, or improve a home. VA loans have favorable terms, including no down payment and no mortgage insurance premiums.

Note
Certain severely disabled veterans may be eligible for housing grants.

Medical Care

If you served in the active military and received an honorable discharge, you may be eligible for VA health care benefits. Those with service-connected disabilities or who were discharged for a disability caused by something that happened in the line of duty are given higher priority.

Loans for Small Businesses

The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides loans to qualified business owners. If you are a disabled veteran who owns a business, you can apply for SBA loans through the Office of Veterans Business Development.

Microloan from the SBA

SBA microloans offer loans of up to $50,000 and may be ideal for your business’s working capital, inventory, supplies, furniture, or equipment. Interest rates typically range between 8% and 13%, with a maximum repayment term of six years. To find a microloan lender near you, contact your local SBA office.

Loan under SBA 7(a)

An SBA 7(a) loan may be more appropriate for larger funding requirements. Loans of up to $5 million are available to business owners for working capital, the purchase of equipment or machinery, capital for real estate purchases, the purchase of a new business, or the refinancing of certain business debts. The SBA’s 7(a) loan checklist can help you determine your eligibility and prepare for the application.

Questions and Answers (FAQs)

How long can you receive student aid if you have a disability?

You may be eligible for the federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and work-study programs if you have an intellectual disability. You must be enrolled in a comprehensive transition and postsecondary (CTP) program for students with intellectual disabilities, make satisfactory academic progress, and meet the basic federal student aid eligibility requirements.

How long does it take to receive a disability check if a judge grants you disability?

You should expect to wait at least five months before receiving your first SSDI benefit payment. There is no waiting period if your disability is caused by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and you are approved for SSDI on or after July 23, 2020. 11

Note
If you receive certain government benefits, such as workers’ compensation, public disability benefits, or government pensions, your Social Security benefits may be reduced.

Which government agency provides disability benefits?

Disability benefits are available through a variety of programs. The SSA provides SSDI. Housing benefits are provided by local public housing agencies that are part of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). SNAP is administered by a collaboration of state-level organizations and the United States Department of Agriculture. Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP are state-managed government-sponsored medical insurance programs.