For many seniors, the “Golden Years” is just a mirage. Their ideas of retiring, living comfortably and enjoying themselves always appeared on the horizon like an oasis in the desert. Once they got there, however, they found only struggle.
Inflation, low-wage jobs, health issues, improper planning, the recent financial crisis or dozens of other reasons now find them just scratching by rather than savoring this time comfortably.
Like many seniors in this country, you are in survival mode. Some of you have been barely surviving for years. Others, like the 10,000 Americans who turn 65 every day, are just now facing the reality.
In reality, Senior’s resources are limited to what they accrued in life. There are options to add or supplement those resources. Using AARP, Administration on Aging and other agencies we put together this list so you can help your loved ones with their financial or social struggle. Several agencies at the federal or state levels provide funding and additional help to senior citizens.
If the person you are caring for is 65 or older and collecting Social Security, it is likely that they receive Medicare Part A for free and their Medicare Part B automatically deducted from the monthly benefits they receive from the Social Security Administration. Part D prescription drug coverage is approximately 90% subsidized by Medicare unless they qualify for Medicare Savings Program. Another program called Extra Help is also available to minimize costs associated with Part D plan costs. These options may provide substantial cost savings but requires some qualification.
Let’s be clear: many retirees or soon-to-be retirees are in fine shape. They’ve worked at good-paying jobs for decades, saved through 401Ks, and have their homes paid off. But there’s another group in a much different situation. Consider that nine out of ten Americans 65 and older are receiving Social Security. And the average monthly Social Security benefit for those 65 and older is $1,262. Many receive much less than that.
If your loved one’s Social Security benefits were earned through lower-paying jobs and these benefits are their only source of income, there may be a larger monthly benefit available from the SSA called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Qualification for SSI might indicate individuals also qualify for Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Administration on Aging (AoA)
The AoA administers national programs and services for elders, including health insurance counseling, legal assistance, protection from elder abuse. The AoA also oversees a network of community-based organizations, such as Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs), that offer in-person assistance with accessing these programs and services. Staff is very knowledgeable and they can walk you through the specific qualifications and even help prepare the necessary applications and documentation.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
If your loved one is a military veteran or spouse they may be entitled to several benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA offers health care services, pensions, disability compensation, burial benefits, and other services to eligible vets and their qualifying family members. While the application and approval processes can be lengthy, the best place to start is locating a veteran’s discharge papers. These papers are used by the VA to determine the nature of a veteran’s discharge or separation from active duty in the armed forces, one of the fundamental eligibility requirements for most VA benefits.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 protects each person’s rights over their health care information. HIPAA sets rules for health care providers and health plans to regulate who can view and receive patients’ sensitive medical information. This law also prohibits family members from viewing one another’s medical records, which can seriously complicate the task of helping an aging loved one manage their health. Unless your loved one signs a HIPAA release form granting you permission to discuss their condition with physicians, you will be unable to access any information about their health. You can learn more about this law on the HIPAA website.
The Americans with Disabilities Act National Network
If your loved one has a disability, it may be helpful to learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) administered by the U.S. Department of Justice. The ADA prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in all aspects of public life, such as employment, state and government programs, transportation, public accommodations, telecommunications, and commercial facilities. The Department of Health and Human Services can be accessed by visiting their new resource center called ADA National Network.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
As a caregiver, it is important to be aware of what prescriptions your loved one is taking and why, as well as the side effects and interactions these drugs can have. The National Library of Medicine, a part of the NIH, hosts a comprehensive online database of every drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration called MedlinePlus. Caregivers can use this database to search for information on medications, including active ingredients, uses, dosing recommendations, special precautions, side effects and interactions. MedlinePlus also features a database for herbal remedies and dietary supplements.
Your U.S. Senators
Every senator has a staff specialist on elder affairs, programs and services, who can both advise and advocate for benefits or services for you and your loved one. You can find contact information for both of your state’s senators using the U.S. Senate website.
Your Congressional Representatives
Most congressmen/women in the House of Representatives also have staff specialists on elder affairs, programs and services and can provide both information and advocacy services. Contact information for all of your state’s representatives is available on the U.S. House of Representatives website.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health coverage to low-income Americans. Adults may qualify for Medicaid if they are disabled or age 65 or older. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid covers various types of long-term care and home and community based care services. Each State manage their own Medicaid program, so the exact eligibility criteria vary. For more general information on the program, visit Medicaid.gov. For information specific to your state’s Medicaid program, visit your state’s government website.
We hope this list helps you identify the most common Government Resources available to your loved one. Always check your local programs, many of these services varies from State to State.