One in four Americans – that’s 61 million adults — live with a disability and many face disheartening financial obstacles and challenges because of it.
With disabilities that range from mobility issues to partial or full loss of sight or hearing, the disabled struggle to find work, make a living, avoid poverty and stay healthy.
Some financial assistance for disabled adults is available through public and private programs. The aid could include grants that don’t need to be re-paid, loans for people on disability and disability financial assistance from government or private entities.
Some help also is available for a disabled veteran, or a parent of a disabled child. Assistance can come in the form of goods, Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), grants, low-interest loans, or other services.
Among the help available:
- Financial Help for Disabled Veterans
- Financial Help for Disabled Children
- Government & Private Grants
- Loans for the Disabled
- Federal Agencies
Financial Programs for the Disabled
Financial programs available to the disabled that help individuals manage and save money, file taxes, and more.
ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) savings accounts are tax-advantaged accounts for the disabled and their families. Contributions to the accounts can be made by the account owner, family, friends or a special needs trust. Any income earned is not taxable, and money can be used for education, food, housing, transportation, job training, assistive technology and health care.
Medicaid provides health care coverage to people with disabilities. It’s funded jointly at the state and federal levels and administered by states, according to federal requirements. Each state has different rules about eligibility and how to apply. You can learn more about Medicaid through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will pay medical bills for children whose families cannot afford health insurance. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) helps low income individuals pay for groceries; this program is funded by the federal government and run by the states. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) helps the unemployed or low-income earners pay for necessities like rent or mortgage and medical expenses.
If your car or truck needs modifications so you can drive, the best place to start is with the local vocational rehabilitation agency. That group can point you to state-level grants and loans.
Because some programs are run through Social Security, that web site has a benefits finder that allows those interested to see what programs they may qualify for. The calculator asks some basic questions, then suggests government programs that are applicable to the particular situation.
Unemployment Rate and the Disabled
In February of 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that only 17.9% of the disabled were employed in 2020. That is a decrease from the 2019 number of 19.3%. The unemployment rate for disabled adults increased to 12.6% in 2020, far higher than the rate for those without a disability (7.3%).
Clearly it’s a challenge for the disabled to find and keep a job. Add on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenge gets that much more difficult.
The half-full view: From 2009 to 2019 the unemployment rate for the disabled dropped every year.
The BLs reports:
- Half of all persons with a disability were age 65 and over, about three times larger than the share for those with no disability.
- Those with disabilities were much less likely to be employed than those with no disabilities.
- In 2020, 29% of workers with a disability were employed part time, compared with 16% for those with no disability.
- Eight in 10 disabled people are considered not in the labor force, i.e. neither employed nor unemployed.
Social Security Disability Insurance
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is basically an emergency health insurance to those unable to work due to a medical condition, which includes a disability. SSDI helps those who have worked long enough to have paid sufficient Social Security taxes to qualify. Applicants should be sure to be honest and thorough in explaining their condition. Patience is required when filling out the several forms and talking to different people. A doctor’s written statement could help, and some may find it helpful to hire a disability lawyer.
Supplemental Security Income Disability Program
This supplementary income is offered through Social Security and pays based on financial need. The program is designed to help the elderly and people with disabilities who have little or no income. SSI provides cash for expenses like food, clothing, and shelter. Participants receive checks on a monthly basis, and payment amounts vary by state. The money comes from tax revenues, not Social Security.
Veterans Administration Disability Benefits
Those who served in the military and have disabilities as a result could and should qualify for tax-free monthly payments via VA Disability Benefits. Compensation also may be available to those whose disabilities or illness may be a result of military service experience – a condition like post-traumatic stress disorder.
We’re not talking lavish amounts of money, though every little bit helps. Disability rates vary depending on the condition and family status. In 2021 a 50% disabled veteran who is married with one child receives $1,056 per month. A veteran with 70% disability of a leg who is married with two children can receive $1,717 per month. The VA provides a disability calculator to help determine your benefit.
Financial Help for Disabled Veterans
The BLS reported that as of August 2019, 4.7 million veterans had some sort of service disability – 25% of the total number of vets. A survey by Harvard-Public Citizen found that 1.5 million veterans are uninsured, and two million can’t afford care. About 6% of veterans lack health insurance. The Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that 40,000 veterans are homeless.
Clearly we should be asking: Are we doing all we can to take care of those who volunteer to protect us?
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers programs and benefits specifically for disabled veterans, including:
- Disability compensation — Discussed above.
- Automobile Allowance — Help to adapt cars to meet the needs of the disability.
- Clothing Allowance — An annual stiped for those who have unique clothing needs.
- Housing Grants — Provides money to meet the needs of the disabled.
- Veterans Insurance — Life insurance for those given a VA rating for a service-connected disability in the last two years. Totally disabled vets are eligible for free premiums and can buy additional insurance.
- Mortgage Life insurance — Protects disabled vets who have been approved for a VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant
- Job Training — Provides training to help gain employment.
- Education Assistance — Education benefits for those seeking a degree or pursing other eligible education and training.
- Dependents’ Educational Assistant — Helps survivors’ dependents obtain a degree or pursue training.
The VA also offers programs for all veterans, including:
- Caregiver Support — Support and services for family caregivers of veterans.
- GI Bill — One-on-one vocational and personal counseling that could determine educational and work opportunities, perhaps launching a career.
- Health Benefits — If you served in any branch of the active military, you might qualify for VA health care benefits.
- Patient Care — You might qualify for hospitalization, patient care and prescriptions through one of the 1,233 VA hospitals or health-care centers in America.
- Pension Benefits — A tax-free monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime veterans with at least 90 days of active duty service.
- Vet Centers — Provides a broad range of counseling, outreach and referral services to eligible veterans who are making a post-war adjustment to civilian life.
- Free Financial Counseling — available through nonprofit debt consolidation
Other agencies provide financial help to veterans. A sampling:
- Lifeline — is a government program that helps pay for veterans’ phone services.
- VA.gov — provides veterans a list of prescription resources that help you pay and manage prescription refills for your medical needs.
- The National Association of American Veterans Emergency Assistance — helps refer veterans and their families to financial assistance services.
- USACares Emergency America’s Heroes — helps post 9/11 veterans pay essential bills, including food and utilities, by offering them an average grant of $650.
- Operation Family Fund — provides grants to veterans who were severely disabled while serving in Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. The grants help these families pay anything from rent and medical bills to emergency transportation and vehicle repair. However due to 5,600 veterans on the waiting list they are no longer accepting applications currently.
- The American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance — awards families of eligible veterans with minor children cash grants to help pay for shelter, food, utilities and health expenses in order to keep children in a more stable environment.
- Vantage Mobility International’s — program Operation Independence offers eligible disabled veterans up to $49,000 to help pay for a wheelchair accessible vehicle.
- Luke’s Wings — provides families of wounded warriors the means to visit their service members during hospitalization and rehabilitation by purchasing plane tickets and planning the trips.
- Recycled Rides — alleviates the transportation burden for veterans and military families. Refurbished vehicles are given to deserving recipients at no cost, and these vehicles have all been restored to proper driving condition.
Financial Help for Disabled Children
The SSI program is one of few options to help a disabled child financially. Families must meet low income and asset requirements to receive monthly cash payments. The formula for determining eligibility is complicated and based on several factors. The federal base rate for benefits is $794 per month, though benefits vary by state.
The SSI program for children pales in comparison to other Social Security Administration programs. There are about 63 million beneficiaries and recipients of Social Security and SSI payments, which translates to more than $840 billion in benefits. Annual payments for SSI children total about $10.5 billion.
Children receiving SSI payments typically are in families with income below or near the federal poverty standard.
Other government programs that can help disabled children include TANF, SNAP, CHIP and Medicaid. A VA pension is a payment to low-income disabled veterans that can be increased if there is a dependent child.
Grants are financial awards that don’t need to be repaid. They are provided to people with disabilities by the federal government and private foundations. The criteria often includes articulating your need and writing a grant proposal, which must be specific and compelling in order to attract attention.
Applicants should contact the institution for eligibility requirements and the application process. Here are areas where grants are available.
- Housing — The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers grant funded programs that assist people with disabilities in obtaining housing vouchers, rental assistance, purchasing a home and making homes accessible. For information, visit the HUD website: US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- Education — Various private foundations offer grants ranging from $1,000 to $25,000 per year for individuals with mental, physical or sensorial disabilities. To locate these foundations through their 990 tax forms, visit The Foundation Center website: Foundation Center
- Starting A Business — The federal government offers grants for disabled individuals starting new businesses. To locate these opportunities, review the list of grants located at http://www.grants.gov
- Personal Needs — Various local community agencies offer grants for individuals with disabilities who need help in paying for household expenses. Local social service programs can provide funds to purchase groceries, assist in paying utilities and access grants for vocational rehabilitation.
- Government Cash Grants — The state and federal agencies have government cash grants that help veterans, children, impoverished people, newborns and others. In order to apply, you will need proof of disability, type of need, and household income. Once approved, you can use the money to help pay bills for utilities, travel, educational needs, and more.
Low Interest Loans for the Disabled
Several low-interest loans available for people with disabilities – all of them much better than payday loans or car title loans, which are readily available but often have crippling interest rates that can jeopardize your financial situation.
Also, be aware of same-day disability loans offered by private companies. They are flexible and easy to qualify for, but often have steep interest rates and fees.
More legitimate disability loans can be used for everyday needs and monthly expenses. They are available for individuals who are physically disabled, mentally disabled or are responsible for the care of someone who is disabled.
Government disability loans are separate from other government disability assistance as they are still associated with a repayment of debt. Unlike same-day disability loans, the government disability loans have strict approval criteria. Eligibility could be affected by whether you are already receiving government assistance. The government disability loans will have better interest rates, better repayment terms and better customer service.
The USDA’s single-family housing repair loans can be a help to those in rural areas who need to modify their homes because of their disability. There are strict income and residency requirements, and the applicant must show they cannot get credit elsewhere. The maximum loan is $20,000 over a 20-year payoff at 1% interest; grants are available for those in need aged 62 or older at a maximum of $7,500. To start an application, contact a USDA home loan specialist. To see if your home is in an eligible area, the USDA has a check the address site.
A local Community Action Agency has a staff of unbiased professionals who might have information about nonprofits that also provide services or other loans.
Additionally, don’t overlook your bank or credit union as an option. They might not advertise specialty loans that could be available. Sometimes, the government, or large nonprofits, partner with local and national banks to provide specialty services for veterans, low-income families and the disabled.
Federal Agencies that Help the Disabled
Numerous federal agencies can help people with disabilities. Here’s a sampling:
- Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (800-872-2253) — Provides technical assistance on architectural, transportation and communications accessibility issues.
- Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (1-866-633-7365) —Develops and influences disability related employment policy.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (800-669-4000)— Announces or declares regulations and enforces American Disabilities Act Title I provisions prohibiting discrimination in employment.
- Internal Revenue Service (800-829-1040) — Provides specific tax information for people with disabilities.
- The National Council on Disability (202-272-2004) — Advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices and procedures that affect people with disabilities.
- National Institute on Disability Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) — Administers disability research programs and ADA technical assistant centers “to maximize the full inclusion and integration into society, employment, independent living, family support, and economic and social self-sufficiency of individuals with disabilities of all ages.”
- Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division (800-514-0301) — Announces regulations and enforces anti-discrimination provisions involving public services and public accommodations. Official complaints can be filed if you feel your school has denied your child access to their education or violated their civil rights as a protected class.
- Disability.gov (1-877-889-5627) — A comprehensive online resource that provides disabled people with information and resources they need to live full and independent lives in the workplace and in their communities.
- State Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program-Rehabilitation Services Administration (202-245-7488) — Assists employers in recruiting, training, placing and accommodating people with disabilities while offering information on state and local agencies that provide services, training and job-related assistance.
Speak with a Professional
There are plenty of programs for disabled Americans to help them stay afloat or land back on their feet. However sometimes these programs cannot provide enough financial assistance. If you or a loved one need extra financial assistance, try seeking a nonprofit credit counselor to find out the best debt-relief options. A certified nonprofit credit counselor can assist with finding the best financial options for you to become debt free.
- N.A. (2020, September 16) Disability impacts all of us. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/infographic-disability-impacts-all.html
- N.A. (2020, November 30) A Comprehensive Guide to Financial Assistance for People with Disabilities. Retrieved from https://udservices.org/blog/financial-assistance-people-with-disabilities/
- N.A. (2020, March 2) Unemployment rate for people with a disability declines to 7.3% in 2019. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/unemployment-rate-for-people-with-a-disability-declines-to-7-point-3-percent-in-2019.htm
- N.A. (2021, February 24) Persons With a Disability: Labor Force Characterists — 2020. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/disabl.pdf
- N.A. (2021, March 18) Employment Situation of Veterans – 2020. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/vet.pdf
- Waltari, M. (2021) Government Programs for Children With Disabilities. Retrieved from https://www.specialneedsalliance.org/blog/government-programs-for-children-with-disabilities/
- N.A. (2020, February 26) Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm
- N.A. (2020, March 19) Employment Situation of Veterans— 2019. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/vet.pdf