Financial Help for Disabled Persons

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Financial Programs for the Disabled

One in four Americans – 61 million adults — live with a disability and face disheartening financial problems because of it. This page contains information on many state and federal government programs as well as nonprofit charities designed to assist people with disabilities.

Some specific programs available include:

ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) savings accounts are tax-advantaged accounts for disabled people and their families. Contributions can be made by the account owner, family, friends or a special needs trust. Income received is not taxable, and the 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 who are below certain income caps. 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).

Federal financial benefits for disabled people and families, as well as those with low incomes, are:

  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) pays medical bills for children whose families cannot afford health insurance.
  • SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) helps pay for groceries.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) helps unemployed or low-income earners pay for necessities like rent or mortgage and medical expenses.
  • The local vocational rehabilitation agency can help you find state-level grants and loans to help if your car or truck needs modifications so that you can drive it.

The Social Security Administration website has a benefits finder that has information about programs and resources. The calculator asks basic questions, then suggests government programs that can help.

Unemployment Rate and the Disabled

By the end of 2021, the number of people with disabilities who are employed had risen to the highest level since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping track in 2008. Even so, it is still often more difficult for someone with a disability to get a job than those who don’t have one.

The BLS reports:

  • By the end of 2021, the amount of working-age people with a disability who were in the labor force (whether employed or unemployed) rose 3.5 percentage points, to 36.8%, from the same time the previous year.
  • Some 33.2% of working-age people with disabilities were employed by the end of 2021, an increase of 4 percentage points from 2020. The number for those without disabilities was 73.5%, an increase of 2.2 percentage points.
  • By the end of 2021, among workers ages 16-64, about 3.6% of the total U.S. workforce of 144,505,000 had a disability.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is emergency health insurance for those who can’t work because of a medical condition that includes a disability. SSDI helps those who have not paid into the Social Security system because they haven’t worked or haven’t worked enough to have paid sufficient Social Security taxes to qualify. Applicants must fill out several forms, and should be sure to be honest and thorough in explaining their condition. A doctor’s written statement may help. Some may find it helpful to hire a disability lawyer.

Supplemental Security Income Disability Program

Supplemental Security Income pays based on financial need. The program, overseen by Social Security, is designed to help people who are elderly or have disabilities and little or no income. SSI pays for expenses like food, clothing and shelter. Participants get monthly checks. Payment amounts vary by state and individual situations.

VA Disability Benefits

Veterans who have disabilities as a result of their military service could and should qualify for tax-free monthly payments via VA disability benefits.

Rates vary depending on the condition and family status. Level of disability is ranked by the VA from 10% to 100%. In 2021 a 50% disabled veteran who is married with one child received $1,056 a month. A veteran with 70% disability of a leg and married with two children received $1,717 a month. The VA provides a disability calculator to help determine your benefit.

Financial Help for Disabled Veterans

About 3% of all veterans don’t have health insurance, according to the Wounded Warriors 2020 Survey, which does an annual report on veterans and in-service military personnel who have been injured, either physically or mentally. This despite the fact that about 26% of veterans have a disability, and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates more than 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. More than twice that will find themselves homeless every year. Most homeless veterans have medical and mental issues and difficulty accessing care or paying for it.

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers programs and benefits specifically for disabled veterans, including:

  • Disability compensation — (see previous section)
  • Automobile Allowance — Help adapting cars to meet the needs of the disability.
  • Clothing Allowance — Annual stiped for those who have unique clothing needs.
  • Housing Grants — Money for housing needs.
  • 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 veterans who have been approved for a VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant
  • Job Training —Training to help gain employment.
  • Education Assistance — Education benefits for those seeking a degree or other eligible education and training.
  • Dependents’ Educational Assistant — Helps survivors’ dependents earn a degree or receive training.

The VA also offers programs for all veterans, including:

  • Caregiver Support — Support and services for family caregivers of veterans.
  • GI Bill — Education training and assistance for veterans.
  • Health Benefits — Those who have served in any branch of the military qualify for VA health care benefits.
  • Patient Care — Hospitalization, prescriptions and medical care for veterans and active military at 1,233 VA hospitals or health care centers in America.
  • Pension Benefits — Tax-free monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime veterans with at least 90 days of active duty service.
  • Vet Centers — Provides counseling, outreach and referral services to veterans.
  • Free Financial Counseling — Available from nonprofit debt management agencies.

Other agencies provide financial help to disabled veterans. A sampling:

  • Lifeline — A government program that helps pay for veterans’ phone services.
  • VA.gov — Provides veterans a list of prescription resources that help pay and manage prescription refills.
  • The National Association of American Veterans Emergency Assistance — Refers 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, with 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 money is for anything from rent and medical bills to emergency transportation and vehicle repair. As of late 2021, the fund wasn’t accepting applications because of a lack of donations. It had 5,600 veterans on its waiting list.
  • American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance — Awards families of eligible veterans with minor children grants to pay for shelter, food, utilities and health care.
  • Vantage Mobility International Operation Independence — Offers eligible disabled veterans up to $49,000 to help pay for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
  • Luke’s Wings — Provides families of disabled veterans the means to visit the veteran during hospitalization and rehabilitation by buying plane tickets and planning the trips.
  • Recycled Rides — Provides refurbished vehicles that have been restored to driving condition to qualifying veterans at no cost.
  • Wounded Warrior Project – Provides a variety of programs and help for disabled veterans, in-service military personnel and their families and caregivers, all at no cost.

Financial Help for Disabled Children

There are several government benefits and nonprofit resources for disabled children, including the SSI program, Medicaid, Medicaid waivers, tax deductions, scholarships and grants for children with disabilities.

SSI for Children with Disabilities

Supplemental Security Income is for children under 18 who meet the Social Security Administration definition of disabled. Children get the same SSI benefit as disabled adults, if their income or the family’s doesn’t exceed limits. The federal base rate increases every year with cost of living, and 2022’s monthly payments are $841 a month for individuals. Some states add to the benefit – the federal base is the minimum.

Medicaid and Medicaid Waivers for Children with Disabilities

Medicaid is another health care program for disabled children of families with limited income. In most states, children who get SSI payments also qualify for Medicaid, and some states even offer Medicaid automatically if the child is getting SSI.

Disabled children may also qualify for a Medicaid waiver, available in 44 states, if they don’t qualify for Medicaid. The most common waiver is for the income cap. Medicaid counts a family’s income when determining if a child is eligible, but many states only count the child’s income, which allows the waiver. This was made possible by the 1982 TEFRA Act, and the term “TEFRA waivers” is used frequently. That said, what the 44 states and District of Columbia that allow waivers cover, and what Medicaid requirements they waive, differ wildly. To check what’s available in your state, visit kidswaivers.org. In all cases, to be eligible, the child must require a certain level of care. Also, because the waivers aren’t an entitlement under federal law, many states have long wait lists.

Adult children with disabilities who are under the care of a parent or guardian may also qualify for Medicare, the program that provides health care for those over 65. An adult child with a disability who is younger than the qualifying age and being cared for by a parent or guardian qualifies if they have kidney disease that requires a transplant or maintenance dialysis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Tax Deductions for Children with Disabilities

The Internal Revenue Service has several tax credits and deductions for parents of disabled children, even if they’re no longer minors. A tax credit lowers the amount of tax you pay; a deduction is deducted from your taxable income.

Deductions can be taken for things like home improvements to accommodate a disability, medication, trips related to medical care, equipment and more.

The IRS defines a dependent child of any age as one who is permanently and totally disabled and cannot engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a physical or mental condition.

The IRS determines who qualifies, and requires a doctor’s determination of the condition, including that it is expected to last continuously for at least a year or can lead to death.

Tax credits include:

  • Dependent with a Disability Working at a Sheltered Workshop: Gross income can’t include income from the services the dependent child performs at the workshop.
  • Adoption Credit: For parents who adopt a child with special needs.
  • EITC for Parents of Children with Disabilities: If the parent cares for a child in the home who is permanently and totally disabled, regardless of age.
  • Child or Dependent Care Credit. If someone comes to your home to care for a child who cannot care for themself.

Grants for Children with Disabilities

There are many nonprofit organizations that offer financial help for children with disabilities, including paying for equipment, medical visits, care and more. The best way to find a grant that suits your situation is to look online for grants for disabled children, or for your child’s specific disability.

Some organizations that offer a variety of grants nationally are:

  • Easter Seals – Provides a variety of services and resources for children and adults with disabilities. The website has a form in which you can find services in your area.
  • The M.O.R.G.A.N. Project – Connects parents with resources and information, as well as provides financial assistance for travel related to medical care, medical equipment and more.
  • The Federation for Children with Special Needs – Provides support, resources, education, information and assistance for families with special needs and disabled children.
  • Parker’s Purpose Foundation Assistance – Provides grants up to $1,000 for a family in immediate financial need because of medical expenses who has a child with a life-threatening illness or disability. Ohio residents get priority, but those from other states who are eligible can still get a grant.
  • First Hand Foundation. Provides financial help for medical expenses for those experiencing an immediate need.

Government Programs for Children with Disabilities

Other government programs that provide benefits for families with disabled children include:

Financial Aid for Disabled Students

While 45% of Americans over 25 who do not have a disability have at least an associate degree, only 25% of those with a disability do. About 19% of college students have a disability, ranging from learning challenges to mental health to mobility challenges.

Some of reasons students with disabilities don’t pursue higher education are that they don’t feel they’ll have a good support system, or they’re not encouraged to go to college. But one of the biggest barriers is finances. College is often more expensive for students with a disability, sometimes involving increased housing, technology, transportation costs and more. If the student comes from a low-income family, that increases the challenge. The good news is that there many scholarships and other financial services available to disabled students.

Some scholarship resources for disabled students are:

Financial Assistance for Older Adults with Disabilities

There are many government benefits, as well as nonprofit resources, that offer financial help for seniors with disabilities. Many programs for seniors that help provide meal, housing, health care and financial assistance aren’t specifically for seniors with disabilities, but can often provide needed help to those who have them.

Benefits for seniors with disabilities include:

  • Supplemental Security Income. SSI is federally funded financial assistance to those over 65, as well as people younger than 65 who have mental or physical disabilities. It provides monthly payments to meet basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. The base monthly federal amount varies depending on living situation and income. SSI is for individuals who have not paid into the Social Security system through employment, or as a supplement to Social Security Disability or Retirement Benefits for individuals whose benefits don’t meet basic needs. Those who qualify for SSI also automatically qualify for SNAP food benefits and Medicaid.
  • Medicaid. Provides medical coverage for those over 65 who are under a certain income level, or those who have a severe medical or physical impairment, even if they’re under 65. People who get Medicaid may also get Medicare, which is general health coverage for those over 65.
  • National Council on Aging Benefits Checkup. Provides information on benefits for seniors with disabilities, and others over 65.
  • Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). Provides Medicaid and Medicare-covered home care for those over 55, allowing them to stay in their homes. It’s free for Medicaid patients, fee-based for those on Medicare.
  • Area Agencies on Aging. Designated agencies on aging coordinate Meals on Wheels deliveries, provide resources and help for seniors, as well as classes and activities.
  • Eldercare Locator. The U.S. Administration on Aging webpage connects seniors to resources in their community, including housing, transportation, health care, financial help and more.

Disability Grants

Grants for people with disabilities – financial help that doesn’t have to be repaid – are available from both the federal government and private organizations. To get one, you must fill out an application, and sometimes even write a proposal.

Eligibility requirements are usually on the website of the organization offering the grant. If you can’t find it, or have questions, contact the organization to make sure you understand what’s involved.

Some available grants are:

  • Housing — The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers programs funded by grants that assist people with disabilities in getting housing vouchers, rental assistance, buying a home and making homes accessible. For information, visit the HUD website or contact your state’s housing authority or housing financing agency.
  • Education — Private foundations offer grants from $1,000 to $25,000 for individuals with mental, physical or sensorial disabilities. To find the foundations through their 990 tax forms, visit Foundation Center.
  • Starting A Business — The federal government offers grants for disabled people starting a business. Visit grants.gov.
  • Personal Needs — Local community agencies offer grants for people with disabilities who need help to pay household expenses. Local social service programs can provide money for groceries, utilities, transportation, as well as vocational rehabilitation. Check with your town or city hall, or state Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Government Cash Grants — State and federal governments offer grants for veterans, children, low-income people, families with newborns and others. Proof of disability, type of need and household income must be provided to apply. The grants pay for utilities, transportation, education and more.

Low Interest Loans for the Disabled

There are several low-interest loan programs for people with disabilities – all of them much better than payday loans, car title loans and same-day disability loans, which often have crippling interest rates that made a bad financial situation much worse.

Government and nonprofit disability loans, which will help, not hurt your situation, can be used for everyday needs and expenses. They are available for individuals who are physically or mentally disabled, or take care of someone who is.

Check benefits.gov or disability.gov for a directory of assistance programs.

Government disability loans are different from other government disability assistance in that they require repayment. Unlike same-day disability loans, government disability loans have strict approval criteria. Government disability loans also have better interest rates, repayment terms and customer service. Eligibility could be affected by whether you already receive government assistance.

U.S. Department of Agriculture housing repair loans can pay to modify a home to accommodate a disability. There are 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 62 or older at a maximum of $7,500. To apply, contact a USDA home loan specialist. To see if your live in an eligible area, visit the USDA address check page.

Your local bank or credit union may also be a loan resource. Government and nonprofits often partner with lenders to provide services for veterans, low-income families and those with disabilities.

Federal Agencies that Help the Disabled

Many government agencies can help people with disabilities.

Here’s a sampling:

Speak with a Professional

While there are plenty of programs for disabled Americans that offer financial assistance, benefits and resources, sometimes they’re not enough or you have difficulty accessing them. If you can’t get benefits that you’re eligible for, you may want to speak with a disability lawyer, Social Security lawyer or other disability advocate. A disability lawyer or other disability advocate will assess your situation for free, and only charge you if they take on your case.

If you need financial assistance, a nonprofit credit counselor can help you work out a budget and review your finances. Many people who have trouble making ends meet max out their credit cards, and a nonprofit credit counselor, at no cost, can help sort out the best debt management options for your situation. You may qualify for a nonprofit debt management program that consolidates your bills and lowers your interest rates, another financial resource that may help if you’re living with a disability.

About The Author

Pat McManamon

Pat McManamon has been a journalist for more than 25 years. His experience has mainly been in sports, but the world of athletics requires knowledge of business and economics. He also can balance a checkbook and keep track of investments with Quicken quite adeptly. McManamon’s experience includes covering the NFL for ESPN, LeBron James for the Akron Beacon Journal and AOL Fanhouse, and the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes for the Palm Beach Post.

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