Free Government Money for Senior Citizens: Assistance Programs

Seniors do not have to wait until they are over 65 to tap into financial assistance. You can start at any age as most programs target help to households with low incomes.

Sometimes, the best way to tackle a problem is to attack it from multiple angles. While you might run across duplication, you unearth hidden opportunities you might otherwise miss.

Therefore, we break down senior assistance opportunities into two categories: programs connected to a $3,000 resource limit for married couples and benefits pertinent to three milestone birthdays: 50, 55, and 60.

Good luck finding the help needed to live your later years with dignity.

Senior Assistance Programs $3,000

One assistance program for seniors on social security (or not) holds the key to unlocking doors to numerous government benefits. However, it has a $3,000 resource limitation, plus a ceiling on countable income.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients may qualify automatically for other helpful entitlements with entwined eligibility. Therefore, prepare to meet the critical criteria.

SSI

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the essential senior assistance program with a resource limitation of $3,000 for married couples and $2,000 for single individuals. SSI pays a monthly cash benefit to qualified individuals to help with necessities: food, clothing, and shelter.

Apply for SSI benefits by calling the Social Security Administration or making an appointment at a local office. People over 65 cannot apply online. However, the extra effort is worthwhile.

Approved SSI recipients often qualify automatically for the other government benefits listed below in this section. However, those declined because combined resources exceeding the $3,000 threshold may still be eligible. After all, the rules for each program vary.

Extra Help

Extra Help (Low-Income Subsidy Rider) is a senior assistance program with an SSI-connected resource limit of $3,000 for married couples and a $2,000 ceiling for single adults.

Medicare beneficiaries can get “Extra Help” paying for Part D prescription drug coverage premiums, plus applicable deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments.

Apply for Extra Help online at the SSA.gov website. However, you must enroll in a Part D prescription drug plan first, but it is worth the effort. The Social Security Administration values the benefit at $5,100 per year, a relatively easy pill to swallow.

SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is another senior assistance resource with a possible SSI-connected resource limitation of $3,000.

SNAP, otherwise known as Food Stamps, provides nutrition benefits to augment the food budget of needy families to purchase healthy fare at grocery stores.

Apply for SNAP benefits at your state office. Many older people receiving SSI qualify automatically as their state may deem them “categorically eligible.”

LIHEAP

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a fourth senior support resource with a possible SSI-related $3,000 resource limitation.

LIHEAP provides federally funded assistance to reduce the costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization, and minor energy-related home repairs.

Apply for LIHEAP through your state agency. Older adults receiving SSI benefits may qualify automatically, as do households living within specific percentages of the federal poverty guidelines.

WAP

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is a fifth SSI-connected senior support resource with a possible $3,000 resource limit.

(WAP) helps low-income families reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient through repairs and equipment replacement (refrigerators, furnaces, air conditioning, water heaters, etc.).

Apply for WAP through your state agency. SSI recipients automatically meet the income criteria. However, an energy audit must first identify home improvements with a significant Savings to Investment Ratio (SIR).

LIHWAP

The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) is the sixth senior support resource with a possible SSI-related $3,000 resource limit for married couples ($2,000 for single people).

LIHWAP helps households pay for water and sewer services by providing up to $5,000 per family towards past-due invoices to avoid service disruptions.

Apply for LIHWAP benefits through a local agency. Most SSI recipients delinquent on water and sewer bills qualify automatically, as do others living in poverty.

Medicaid

Medicaid is the final senior assistance program with a possible SSI-connected $3,000 resource limitation for married couples. Medicaid covers three health-related areas crucial for older adults.

  1. Medical care as a secondary payer to Medicare
  2. Dental care for adults per state guidelines
  3. Long-term Services and Supports (LTSS)

Medicare does not cover long-term services and supports (adult daycare, assisted living, home health aides, nursing home care for dementia, respite care, etc.). Therefore, you must qualify for Medicaid to receive help with these expenses.

Apply for Medicaid LTSS coverage through healthcare.gov or your local state agency if you want more personalized service. Each state has unique eligibility criteria, but most people receiving SSI qualify automatically.

Free Money For Seniors Over 50

Senior citizens over 50 can often find free government money by applying for benefits designed for low-income families – even if you do not qualify for SSI (see above). These programs lower costs for many everyday expenses regardless of age or possible disability.

Government Grants

Government grants are not a way for seniors over 50 to get free money directly. Federal agencies award grants to universities, non-profit organizations, and state departments, not individuals.

Free grant money for bills and personal use does not come in a check deposited into your bank account. Instead, benefits for low-income families help lower other everyday living expenses not mentioned elsewhere.

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Individual Development Accounts
  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit
  • Premium Tax Credit

Home Repair

Seniors over 50 often qualify for free government money for home repairs when they meet low-income family guidelines, and the upgrade saves energy.  

Free home repair for senior citizens through charitable organizations can address needs not covered by WAP or LIHEAP. Many projects yield poor SIR scores, such as flooring, plumbing, or foundation work.

  • Energy Conserving Measures score higher
  • Incidental Repair Measures score lower

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) calculate a Savings to Investment Ratio (SIR) before approving projects.

Appliances

Free government appliances for low-income seniors come primarily through WAP more than LIHEAP because the former allocates more funding to energy-conserving measures.

Plus, some appliances consume more electricity than others, making them a higher priority under WAP.

  1. Refrigerators run 24/7
  2. Dishwashers operate once per day
  3. Stoves run for brief periods daily
  4. Washers and dryer use varies by family size

Roofs

Free roof replacement for seniors is most challenging through WAP because new shingles, trusses, rafters, flashings, and underlayment typically fall into the incidental repair measure category with lower SIR scores. 

In other words, upgrading appliances or HVAC equipment is more viable than roof replacement, but it never hurts to try.

HVAC

HVAC assistance for seniors is most likely to come through WAP when you meet the low-income criteria. An energy audit must show that replacing a furnace or air conditioner has a viable SIR, which is often the case for older units.

Older people can often find additional ways to get free air conditioner units outside of WAP, as many government agencies prioritize those with chronic breathing issues.

Windows

Free window replacement programs for seniors meeting the low-income criteria also come primarily through WAP. Once again, scheduling an energy audit is the first step in the process.

Drafty windows in an older home allow heat to escape your home in the winter, making your furnace burn more gas or causing your air conditioner to work overtime in the summer.

Dental Work

Seniors over 50 sometimes get free government money to pay for expensive dental work. The IRS makes these costs tax deductible for people with higher incomes, which might not help those with little money.

Dental grants for low-income seniors come primarily through the Medicaid and Medicare programs, which follow vastly different rules, as we will illustrate for implants and dentures.

Implants

Free dental implants for seniors on Medicare are scarce because this government health insurance program does not cover oral care. You must show that the more expensive tooth replacement option is medically necessary.

Medically necessary dental implants treat a disease or illness. For instance, oral care to address a broken jaw or prevent osteoporosis might qualify for coverage under Medicare.

Dentures

Free dentures for seniors on Medicare are more abundant for older people who are dual-eligible for Medicaid, which covers this less expensive tooth replacement alternative in many states.

Dual-eligible Medicare Medicaid recipients fall into one of five categories while meeting federal poverty guidelines.

  1. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients
  2. Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB)
  3. Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB)
  4. Qualifying Individual (QI)
  5. Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI)

Rental Housing

Low-income seniors over 50 can also get free government money to offset the cost of rental housing. The Section 8 Voucher Program helps qualifying families, the elderly, and the disabled afford a decent, safe apartment.

Apply for Section 8 rental vouchers at your local Public Housing Agency (PHA). The PHA will collect information on family income, assets, and household composition.

Catch Up Contributions

The government provides free money to seniors over 50 via IRS-sanctioned catch-up contributions to retirement savings accounts. These additional deposits allow you to defer tax payments until after you stop working, when your marginal rate might be lower.

Individuals aged 50 or over can make annual catch-up contributions at the end of the calendar year, thereby increasing possible tax savings through these retirement accounts.

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • SARSEP
  • Governmental 457(b)

Government Benefits for 55 and Older

Senior citizens age 55 and older often see rule changes to government benefits once they reach this milestone birthday. These new parameters help you keep more of your money.

401K Distributions

Penalty-free workplace retirement plan distributions are a government benefit available to some seniors age 55 and older. Younger people must forfeit 10% of any funds withdrawn from a 401K or 403B plan.

Your employer must offer the rule of 55 withdrawals; otherwise, you may have to wait until age 59 and ½ or 62 to avoid the 10% penalty. Also, seniors who roll their 401K or 403B money over to an IRA lose this opportunity.

Estate Recovery

Medicaid estate recovery is a reverse government benefit for seniors over 55. In this case, older adults reaching this milestone birthday lose privileges rather than gain them.

States can pursue reimbursement of Medicaid costs for services provided to recipients age 55 and older. However, do not be alarmed, as the estate recovery process does not begin until the person dies. Plus, most people receiving Medicaid have few assets to go after.

Also, estate recovery does not apply to money spent on premiums and cost-sharing benefits for the Medicare Savings Program (see MSP below).

VA Disability

Former armed service members receiving veterans’ disability payments may receive a modest government benefit at age 55. They may be exempt from periodic reexaminations to determine if their condition has improved.

The VA 55-year-old rule applies to veterans with service-connected disabilities, exempting them from future periodic exams. However, the practice has exceptions for those under unusual circumstances, such as certain cancers.

HSA Contributions

Catch-up contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA) is an enhanced government benefit that kicks in when seniors reach their 55th birthday. Older adults can realize more significant tax savings.

People age 55 and older with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) can contribute an additional $1,000 to their HSA annually, allowing them to avoid or defer paying up to three types of taxes.

  1. Federal income
  2. FICA
  3. State income

Free Money For Seniors Over 60

Seniors over 60 have multiple age-specific pathways to receive free money from the government. In these cases, several milestone birthdays unlock further opportunities to reduce everyday living costs or bring in extra cash. 

MSP

The Medicare Savings Program (MSP) provides free government money to seniors over 60 to help them pay their insurance premiums and Parts A & B deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments.

Contact your state to apply for MSP, which has four benefit tiers with progressively higher income and resource limits.  

  1. Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB)
  2. Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB)
  3. Qualifying Individual (QI)
  4. Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI)

Retirement Income

Social Security Retirement benefits can seem like money from the government for many seniors over 60 because we forget about the FICA taxes taken from our paychecks over the years.

Apply for Social Security retirement benefits online. However, you do not have to wait until you are over age 65 to begin, but your start date affects the monthly amount you might receive.

  • Age 62: Lowest
  • Age 66 and 8 months (full retirement): Middle
  • Age 70: Highest

Widows

The federal government offers free money for seniors over 60 who are widows or widowers. The Social Security Administration provides benefits to surviving spouses and dependents.

Apply for survivor benefits by providing the correct social security number to the funeral home so they can accurately report the death to the Social Security Administration.

  1. Special lump-sum death benefit ($255)
  2. Monthly payments for qualified survivors
    1. Widows age 60 or older
    2. Widows age 50 + if disabled
    3. Widow of any age caring for a child
      1. Under 16
      2. Disabled and receiving child’s benefits
    4. Some unmarried children of the deceased

Tax Savings

Tax savings can work like free money from the government for seniors over 60. A penny saved is earned, so you do not want to miss any of these opportunities to reduce your bills.  

Deductible Premiums

Seniors over 60 pay Medicare Parts B (medical services and supplies), C (Advantage plans), and D (prescription drugs) pay premiums without the benefit of pretax payroll deductions.

However, Medicare premiums are deductible medical and dental expenses per IRS publication 502. Potential savings kick in after meeting two separate thresholds.

  1. Itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction
  2. Medical and dental expenses top 7.5% of adjusted gross income

Tax Credit

The IRS Credit for the Elderly and Disabled provides up to $5,000 for individuals and $7,500 for seniors over 60, meeting eligibility criteria. Credits can increase the size of your refund even if you do not owe any taxes!

IRS Publication 524 defines who qualifies to receive the $5,000 to $7,500.

  • Age 65 or older
  • Under age 65 on disability
  • US citizen or resident alien
  • Meeting specific income limits

Property Tax Exemptions

Seniors over 60 often qualify for local property tax exemptions that reduce the amount paid to support community schools and other neighborhood infrastructure.

The exemptions typically reduce the assessed value of your home. We cannot provide a central link to every resource with thousands of cities and towns across the country. However, below are several examples.