Nearly one in five adults will experience some form of short- or long-term disability by the time they reach retirement age. These diagnoses inevitably bring financial burdens that can range from mild to extreme. While financial assistance for people with disabilities is certainly available, sorting through your options can be time-consuming and exhausting.
Asking yourself, “What help is available for disabilities?” We’ve compiled key information about financial assistance and support services for people with disabilities to make the vetting process a breeze.
Already know what you’re looking for? Click the links below to jump directly to that section.
- Medical Assistance
- Housing Assistance
- Employment Assistance
- Educational Assistance
- General Financial Assistance
- Other Assistance
Many people with disabilities find themselves saddled with expensive medical bills they have no way to pay. Luckily, there are a variety of financial assistance and support services that can help defray some of these costs.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Offered by the Social Security Association (SSA), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides assistance to “insured” individuals. To qualify, you must have worked long enough (and recently enough) and paid sufficient Social Security taxes on your earnings.
SSDI is designed to function as emergency health insurance when you’re unable to work due to an injury or serious medical condition (like a disability). Along with federally-mandated benefits, SSDI may offer cash assistance in certain circumstances.
Medicaid provides healthcare coverage to eligible low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities. It’s funded jointly at the state and federal levels and administered by individual states according to federal requirements. As a result, 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).
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
If you have children and are struggling to afford their healthcare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) may be able to help. Offered through Medicaid, CHIP helps families who can’t afford health insurance or don’t receive it through work pay their medical bills.
Medicare / Social Security Benefits
If you’re over the age of 65, under 65 but have a disability, or have end-stage kidney disease, you’re eligible for Medicare. While some people are automatically enrolled in Medicare, others have to sign up. Your local Social Security Administration office can help you learn more about your options and submit your application.
Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare
If you served in the active military and received an honorable discharge, you’re eligible for VA healthcare benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Individuals with service-connected disabilities or who were discharged for a disability resulting from something that happened in the line of duty will receive higher priority.
There are also a variety of ways for people with disabilities to receive assistance with prescription drug costs. Most major pharmaceutical companies offer vouchers through pharmaceutical assistance programs. These provide medication savings, and some drugs may even be free. You can also look into the following programs and nonprofit organizations for assistance:
- Medicare Extra Help
- State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAP)
- National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
- National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF)
Nonprofit & Community Assistance
Many community clinics offer free or low-cost medical services for people who can’t afford healthcare. You should also look into charity care programs for uninsured individuals who don’t qualify for government aid. Start by contacting your local or state social service agency to determine what you might qualify for.
If you’re ready to purchase a home or find a new apartment, there’s a financial assistance and support service for you.
Assistance for Veterans
If you’re an honorably-discharged veteran with an age- or service-related disability, you may be eligible for a VA housing grant. These are designed to help disabled veterans build or modify a home to suit their needs. This assistance is offered in two ways: the Specially-Adapted Housing (SAH) Program and the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Program.
Home Improvements & Modifications
Looking for money to improve or modify your existing housing? There are several government and nonprofit grants available that are designed to improve the safety of homes for people with disabilities. These are available at the local, state, and federal levels and can be put towards repairs, improvements, and removing safety hazards.
The federal government offers vouchers to qualifying individuals that are designed to cover mortgage and homeownership expenses. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development provides assistance for homeowners in rural areas who want to modify their home to accommodate someone with a disability.
You may also be eligible for a Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) Voucher, which helps non-seniors with a disability secure housing in communities traditionally intended for seniors.
Section 8 Vouchers
Funded by the federal government, the Housing Choice Voucher Program Section 8 is designed to help low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities afford safe housing. This can include single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments offered on the private market. Housing must meet certain requirements, and you must pay up to 30% of your income towards rent.
If you’re struggling to pay your utility bills, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may be able to help. This program is funded by the federal government, but enrollment takes place at the state and local levels. Community action agencies are typically responsible for administering LIHEAP protections.
You can also receive money to make low-cost weatherization improvements or minor home repairs that will make your home more energy efficient. Additionally, LIHEAP offers emergency services in case of utility shutoffs. You cannot use LIHEAP money to pay water or sewer bills, though.
There are a variety of employment assistance programs and opportunities designed to make finding gainful employment easier for people with disabilities.
An independent federal agency, the AbilityOne program is one of the largest job providers for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. AbilityOne provides training and employment opportunities, allowing participants to market their skills to other public and private sector jobs.
Ticket to Work Program
The Ticket to Work Program is offered through the Social Security Administration and provides everything from job referrals and vocational rehab to employment training and legal aid. You must be receiving SSDI or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cash benefits to qualify.
Work Incentive Program
So-called work incentives are special dispensations allowing people with disabilities who receive Social Security or SSI to work and still receive monthly Medicare or Medicaid benefits. You can qualify for work incentives regardless of whether you work part- or full-time.
Whether you’re a high school senior or want to finish your college degree, be sure to look into educational financial assistance for people with disabilities.
Federal Student Grants
While there are no federal grants geared specifically towards people with disabilities, you should still apply for them. Unlike loans, grants don’t have to be paid off, making them a great option for low-income individuals. Be sure to check out the following grants:
- Pell Grants
- Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
- National SMART Grants
- Academic Competitiveness Grants
Disability Grants & Scholarships
There are a wide variety of private educational grants and scholarships designed for people with disabilities. Visit the Foundation Center to learn more about grants and help that is available for disabilities from private organizations and foundations.
Federal Student Loans
There are three federal student loan types that you can use to pay for educational expenses. While some of them are need-based, none of them are specifically intended for students with disabilities. If you decide to apply for a federal student loan, you can choose from:
- Direct subsidized loans
- Direct unsubsidized loans
- Direct PLUS loans (Parent PLUS or Grad PLUS)
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created to ensure a free public education for children with disabilities, along with special education and related services. However, IDEA also includes discretionary funding to make institutions of higher education more accessible for people with disabilities.
General Financial Assistance
There are a wide range of financial assistance and support services to help you manage your money, save for the future, file your taxes, and more.
Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Savings Accounts
These tax-advantaged savings accounts are designed for individuals with disabilities and their families. Contributions can be made by the account owner, family, friends, or special needs trusts, and any income earned is non-taxable.
Eligibility for ABLE savings accounts is limited to individuals who have a disability that occured before age 26. You can use the money in your ABLE account to pay for a variety of qualified disability expenses, including:
- Employment training
- Assistive technology
- Personal support services
- Healthcare expenses
- Financial management services
Social Security Emergency Loans
If you receive Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you may qualify for a Social Security emergency loan. These are designed to pay for a variety of emergency expenses, such as unexpected medical bills or home repairs. Your loan will be equivalent to one month’s benefits entitlement and must be repaid from your Social Security or SSI checks. Some states also offer additional Interim Assistance (IA) programs to people who qualify for SSI.
Need help doing your taxes? Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) generously provides free tax preparation services for people with disabilities. You can find more information about tax services for people with disabilities through your local IRS office or online.
The programs and assistance below don’t fall into any of the previous categories, but they’re still a central aspect of financial assistance for people with disabilities.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is offered through the Social Security Administration and pays benefits based on financial need. SSI is funded by general tax revenues, rather than Social Security taxes. 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 SSI checks on a monthly basis, and payment amounts vary by state.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Otherwise known as “food stamps,” the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increases the grocery budget of low-income households. While it’s offered by the federal government, SNAP is actually run on the state and local levels.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides grant money states can use to provide financial assistance and support to needy families. To qualify, you must be unemployed or underemployed and have low or very low income, among other criteria. TANF funds can be used to pay for basic necessities, like food, rent/mortgage, and medical expenses. Depending on your state, you may also be eligible for childcare assistance, job preparation, work assistance, and more. As the name implies, TANF assistance is typically limited to a set period of time.
Vehicle Modifications Assistance
If you’re interested in modifying your vehicle to accommodate your disability, start by contacting your state vocational rehabilitation agency. They can help you with state-level grant and loan programs to help defray some of the costs. If you’re a qualifying veteran, you may also receive VA assistance.