Government Benefits for Seniors Over 65: A Simple Guide
8 MIN READ
Published December 04, 2023 | Updated February 23, 2024
Managing finances in your retirement can be tricky. With a fixed income to rely on each month and a constant year-to-year increase in core living expenses, such as healthcare and food, it’s not surprising that an estimated 23% of Americans over the age of 65 live in poverty.
One of the best ways to make your financial life more comfortable is through one of several financial assistance programs that are available specifically for older Americans.
There are a number of government benefits for seniors over 65 that help make it easier to pay for housing, healthcare, food, and other everyday expenses. Many of these programs have an age and income restriction, but if you qualify, they can help you live more comfortably as you grow older.
What Are Government Benefits for Seniors?
Senior citizens have specific needs we all have as we get older, such as enhanced healthcare, in-home care services, nutritious food delivery programs, and transportation assistance. Government benefits for seniors over 65 are all designed with these specific needs in mind.
Federal, state, or local governments can, and often do, fund and administer these programs. Each program comes with its own eligibility requirements that spell out who may qualify for them. You’ll also need to go through an application process, either in person or online, to apply for the program you’re interested in.
Once approved, you may receive the benefits in the form of money directly deposited into your bank account, a paper check, a pre-loaded benefits card, vouchers, or other free services offered to you directly.
Are You Eligible for Government Benefits?
Before you apply for financial assistance for seniors, it’s important to check whether you’re eligible for these programs ahead of time. Since these programs are usually targeted to older adults, naturally, there’s an age restriction to qualify.
Depending on the specific program, you may be able to qualify if you’re over the age of 60 or 65. Most programs also have income limits because they’re designed specifically to benefit low-income seniors. Your monthly income must fall below the specified threshold, such as the federal poverty level, to qualify.
You must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (aka, a Green Card holder) to qualify for each program. Additionally, some programs will have other qualification requirements, such as specific medical conditions or disability.
How To Apply?
Most government benefits available for seniors over 65 are administered by his or her state government, though they may be federally funded. You’ll need to get in touch with the local agency in your state for the specific benefit to apply.
Application is usually done in person at the agency but can also be done online in most cases. If you have mobility issues, you may appoint a qualified representative to apply on your behalf.
To apply, read the qualification requirements to ensure you’re eligible. Gather the necessary documents, such as your driver’s license or identification card, proof of residence, proof of income, copies of your bank statements, and copies of your other supporting documents.
Fill out the application form, attach your documents, and submit it. The agency will then review your application to determine your eligibility for benefits.
Types of Assistance Available for Seniors Over 65
Government benefits for seniors over 65 are available in many forms, such as nutrition programs, retirement income benefits, healthcare, transportation, and housing assistance. Other than the federal benefits that are available nationwide, your state may have specific benefit programs to provide further assistance for seniors.
With more than 65 million current enrollees representing approximately 19% of the entire U.S. population, Medicare is the largest healthcare benefits program in the country for those who are 65 and older. Medicare (Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D) can cover hospital costs, prescription drugs, temporary nursing home stays, medical equipment, doctor’s visits, and more.
Additionally, enrollment in the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) helps low-income seniors pay for Medicare premiums, coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles. You can use the Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to see if you qualify.
Medicare Savings Programs are administered by states, so specific coverage may vary by state.
Food and Grocery
Most states offer access to federal food benefits and grocery stimulus for seniors who have a low income. These programs aim to alleviate financial burdens and ensure that seniors have access to nutritious food. Eligible seniors can receive a food allowance, which provides them with additional funds to purchase groceries. Additionally, the food stimulus program provides extra support to seniors on fixed incomes, helping them afford essential items from grocery stores. These initiatives play a crucial role in enhancing food security among older adults, ensuring they can maintain a healthy diet and overall well-being.
- The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides free coupons that can be used to purchase fresh fruits, herbs, honey, and vegetables from local roadside stands and farmers’ markets.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest food benefit in the country. Qualified beneficiaries receive an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card preloaded with SNAP benefits. Use the card to purchase groceries from approved stores.
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) distributes nutritious food like meat, fresh produce, and dairy through local organizations.
- The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) offers monthly senior food boxes containing essentials like fresh produce, rice, cereals, dairy, and juice.
Financial aid for older adults is available through the Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The earliest full retirement age (referred to as your FRA) in the U.S. is age 66 years and 2 months for those born in 1955 or earlier, and increasing gradually to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. If you wait till full retirement to collect benefits, you can receive up to $3,627 per month in Social Security retirement income benefits.
If you need additional assistance, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program offers a boost to those who are 65 and older and have limited resources and income. SSI doesn’t require the full 40 Social Security credits needed for Social Security retirement benefits, but instead, eligibility is determined based on age, marital status, location, citizenship status, and income level.
Brad Reichert, financial expert and founder and managing director of Reichert Asset Management LLC, explains more about how SSI can help seniors. “While many retirees earn more, recent statistics indicate the average monthly benefit for those who are receiving Social Security retirement income benefits is around $1,700 per month,” Reichert shares. “For seniors who rely solely on Social Security benefits, SSI can help provide additional monthly income,” Reichert explains.
Some government benefits for seniors over 65 can also help you pay for necessary repairs to your home to make it safer and more energy efficient.
The USDA Repairs Grant is available to those who are 62 or older. If you live in a rural area, you may be able to get qualified repairs done for free.
The Weatherization Assistance Program can help reduce your utility costs through necessary improvements, such as window replacement, door repairs, repairs to heating and cooling systems, and more.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can also help low-income seniors and households reduce their energy bills through free energy-related repairs and weatherization.
If you have a disability, mobility issues, or simply need reliable transportation services, here are a few resources to explore:
- The Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Program from Medicaid can provide free transportation for doctor’s appointments.
- Your local transport department may offer paratransit service through the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- You can also call 211 for transportation assistance in your area.
Where To Find Government Agencies and Organizations
With dozens of government benefits for seniors over 65, it can be overwhelming to find a program that matches your needs. We recommend starting your search with a few of the resources we’ve mentioned below:
- Grants.gov offers a list of all federal grants currently available.
- Use the BenefitsCheckUp tool to find government and private benefit programs.
- The Benefit Finder tool is a great resource to find programs based on your eligibility.
- For state-specific benefits, use the benefits database from AARP.
- Find programs available in your community through the Eldercare Locator or call 1-800-677-1116.
- Call 211 to find local organizations that offer essential community services.
Government Benefits for Seniors
Whether you need help paying for nutritious food to support your physical and mental health or a little boost to your limited income, there are many state and federal government benefits for seniors over 65 you can depend on.
The resources we’ve shared in this guide are a great place to start. We also recommend searching for free services for senior citizens you may be able to get through the government or non-profit organizations for extra help.