Government Benefits You May Not Know About

Government Benefits You May Not Know About

You may be familiar with the more well-known government benefits available for seniors, such as Social Security and Medicare, but you might be surprised to learn about some senior assistance programs that are often overlooked. Free government benefits for seniors are based on taxes you’ve paid while working for many years, so take advantage of programs that can make life a little easier as you get older.

Even if you know the basics of some of the government programs for seniors over the age of 50 or 60, you may be missing out on some important benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular programs and learn about some of the benefits you may have missed.

Social Security

Most of us understand Social Security, the social insurance program consisting of retirement, disability, and survivors' benefits. We pay taxes into Social Security while working that provide monthly benefits upon retirement. Full retirement age is currently 67 years of age, but you can receive Social Security benefits after turning 62 with a marked reduction in benefits based on when you start receiving benefits.

What you may not know: Widows, children, and dependents of a Social Security recipient may receive survivor benefits. Payments may be made to the children, step-children, widowed spouse, or even the parents of the deceased based on certain criteria.  If you are divorced, you may still be able to collect survivor benefits if you were married for more than 10 years before your divorce and your own benefits are less than your deceased ex-spouse’s. If your ex-spouse had not started collecting Social Security benefits before their death, then you need to have been divorced for at least two years to qualify. 

Medicare

Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 years of age or older, or under 65 with certain disabilities, includes Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (medical insurance), Part C (Medicare Advantage), and Part D (prescription drug coverage). Most people are automatically enrolled in Part A based on taxes paid while working, but can enroll in Part B and pay a monthly premium and yearly deductible.

What you may not know: Medicare offers an array of benefits, but we may not realize all the ways that your coverage can help you improve or maintain your health. If it is determined to be medically necessary by your physician, Medicare can help cover the costs of some expenses you may not be aware of, including but not limited to:

  • Smoking cessation counseling
  • Weight loss, including counseling for obesity and certain weight-loss surgeries
  • Custom shoes or shoe inserts for patients with serious foot problems resulting from diabetes
  • Annual wellness visits
  • Vaccinations and preventive screenings

Did you know that some Medicare Advantage (MA) plans even include fitness club memberships to their enrollees? It’s true. Through SilverSneakers, many MA plans provide their Medicare recipients with access to fitness clubs across the country.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that can help cover the medical costs for some people (of any age) with limited income and resources. Medicaid programs can vary from state to state, but most health care costs are covered if you qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

What you may not know: Even though benefits can vary depending on where you live, all Medicaid programs must cover specific costs, including, but not limited to:

  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital services
  • Physician services
  • Rural health clinic services
  • Home health services
  • Certified Pediatric and Family Nurse Practitioner services
  • Counseling to help pregnant women quit smoking
  • Family planning services
  • Laboratory and x-ray services
  • Transportation to medical care
  • EPSDT (Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment Services)

Senior Assistance Programs

Aside from the well-known federal and state programs mentioned above, there are other free government benefits you may not be aware of.

Senior assistance programs include:

Free Credit Checks

In an effort to protect us from fraud, the federal government allows for three free credit checks per year. While this benefit is available at any age, seniors are often the target of fraudulent behavior and identity theft. Through the federally authorized website, www.AnnualCreditReport.com, you can monitor your credit and catch and report any inconsistencies quickly.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP is available to low income individuals and families to help buy food. Many seniors live below the poverty level and suffer malnutrition because of the inability to buy healthy groceries. If you or a loved one could benefit from SNAP, contact your state agency to get more information.

Senior Community Service Employment Program

SCSEP is a government benefit for seniors 55 years of age or older who are unemployed and living on a family income of no more than 125% of the federal poverty level. Once a participant is enrolled in this program, they will receive a subsidized minimum wage for work at a nonprofit agency. 

Free Rides

The Area Agency on Aging provides federally funded transportation for seniors with limited mobility or in need of help getting to and from appointments. These door-to-door van services vary by state and area, and most require some advance planning.

Explore the free government programs available for seniors on the local, state, and federal levels. Take advantage of the benefits, discounts, and free assistance in your area.