Every day we get panic calls at our office. Most if not all of them deal with “What do I do with my mother? She cannot live alone anymore. She has so few resources.” The problem arises not only because seniors find it difficult to communicate with the outside but also the outside is a hard system to navigate. The case of my 92-year-old mother, who speaks very little English, is a good case. She dreads the thought of having to speak with a computerized phone system and follow the instructions. It becomes a labyrinth of sometimes insurmountable barriers.
One of the essential benefits we offer, at the facilities we manage, is to help these seniors navigate the system. If you are low-income there are multiple benefits that can help you get help at home, pay for services if you live in an assisted living facility, get transportation, and many others. The problem is that most of these services are offered by different agencies and these agencies do not talk to each other. So you find yourself calling several agencies, that is, if you know whom to call, and getting different answers.
So let’s take the example of my mother again. She is low-income, has a small pension and several mobility issues that make it impossible to perform easy daily activities. The first step is to decide what services she needs. At this stage of her life, and mainly because she is of sound mind, she needs someone to come to her home 3 or 4 times a week to clean, prepare food, help her with bathing. She lives in Florida and although Florida is one of those states that has yet to place all senior services under one agency, she will first call the Area Agency on Aging for her district. This will be done with the assistance of the helpline (1-800-955-8771) a 24-hour service that directs you to the right agency and/or individual.
There are several programs that seniors and disabled adults are eligible for depending on age, disability and income. These are: Social Security Income Supplementation (SSI), Assistive Care Services (ACS), Medicaid waivers, Diversion programs and Veterans Aid and Attendance. We will cover, in this blog, the first step: applying for Social Security Supplementation.
SSI – Supplemental Security Income
(Social Security Disability)
- You may apply for this online at the Social Security website
- The program is based on Financial qualifications ONLY
- You must be a U.S. Citizen or an eligible non-citizen
- You are eligible for SSI if you are over 18 years old and are deemed disabled by a physician, which means that you have a physical illness &/or mental problem expected to last more than one year or result in death or are considered blind.
- You can get SSI up to age 65, after that your benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits (Monthly Social Security Check).
- You must have worked long enough to have paid into the Social Security System.
- The monthly income requirements, to qualify, are as follows: $00.00 to $710.00 for an individual and $1,066 for a couple.
- Total assets must be less than $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.
- It takes 3-5 months to process claims.
- SSI pays monthly checks to the elderly or disabled person to get their income up to $710.00 (i.e. your monthly income is $300, SSI will send you a check for $410.00, if your income is $600 your SSI check will be $110.00).
- If you are in an Assisted Living Facility, the entire monthly income (less a personal needs allowance) will be submitted to the facility to pay for your care.
- If you are on SSI you may be eligible for other State and County programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. (If the person is in a facility, food stamps will not apply).
- Call the local offices for more information.
In subsequent blogs we will discuss and provide information on the other programs. Stay in tune!