The growing number of destitute older people can seek out these resources
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Many older people are not taking advantage of all the food aid available to them, experts say. A 2015 study found that less than half of eligible seniors participated in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
“For older people, there’s usually a lot of misunderstanding about the program and a lot of stigma, and unfortunately that stops people from seeking help,” said Josh ProtaVice President of Public Policy at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
The extra money can be very useful for retirees on fixed incomes: the maximum monthly benefit for a one-person household is $250. grocery stores, online retailers and agricultural markets accept the funds.
SNAP has rules around how many assets you can own and earn income to get help, and social security checks are taken into account. Still, some expenses, including your rent and childcare costs, can be deducted, and experts say anyone who suspects they might be eligible should to apply.
The United States Department of Agriculture also has the Commodity Supplementary Feeding Programunder which certain low-income people over the age of 60 are entitled to a monthly food parcel containing fruits, vegetables, cheeses and more.
Meanwhile, retirees covered by a Medicaid health plan may be eligible for free food through Mom’s Meals. And some Medicare Advantage health plans offer meal benefits under the program for people recently discharged from hospital or with chronic illnesses.
Meals are usually delivered every two to three weeks and include dishes like Salisbury steak, pasta and meatballs, and sweet and sour chicken. People can tell the program about any allergies and they accommodate diets suitable for vegetarians as well as people with certain conditions like cancer or diabetes.
A spokesperson for Mom’s Meals recommended seniors who think they might qualify for free meals contact a Medicaid or Medicare representative.
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High health insurance and prescription costs can take a toll on retirees’ incomes.
Fortunately, some seniors may be eligible for assistance with paying their monthly premiums under the Health Savings Programsaid Caitlin Donovanspokesperson for the National Patient Advocate Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps patients access and pay for health care.
“If you qualify, your premiums, deductibles and copayments will be covered, which would be a huge financial relief for anyone,” Donovan said.
Additionally, those enrolled in Medicare Part D, which covers prescriptions, should check to see if they are eligible for Additional help. This program can reduce your drug costs. The benefit can be worth more than $5,000 a year, Donovan said.
There are also a number of charities that help seniors pay for their healthcare costs. For example, at Copays.org you can request funds to be used for copayments, premiums, deductibles, and over-the-counter medications.
Although you must be on an extremely low income to qualify, some retirees will qualify for the Supplemental Security Income program, a means-tested program for people over 65 or with disabilities.
Last December, more than 2.5 million people received both Social Security and the complementary payment, which can go up to $841 one month for an individual. You can apply to the social security administration website or by calling 800-325-0778.
For further assistance, the National Council on Aging has a “Benefits reportwebsite where you can discover over 2,000 resources available for struggling seniors by postcode. The council also has a guide called You gave, now saveincluding information on the most generous benefits that help seniors with expenses such as their phone bill and property taxes.
Also, some seniors may be able to accept a small part-time job to supplement their income.
More than a third of Americans over 65 currently work part-time, according to Teresa Ghilarducci, Director of The New School’s Retirement Equity Lab.
The US Department of Labor has a program which helps low-income, unemployed seniors find jobs and take certain training courses, Ghilarducci said. Another resource is the national nonprofit SER and its network of community organizations that offer vocational training.