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9 Government Benefits You Might Be Missing Out On

9 Government Benefits You Might Be Missing Out On

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Senior couple meeting with agent

Is there anything more on our minds these days than stretching our dollars? And no question, nothing sabotages your budget like an illness or other health problem, especially one that affects your ability to carry out your everyday obligations. But help is available -- much more help than most people realize. Here are nine government benefits that experts say most people are missing out on.


1. Social security payments to dependents

Who's eligible: Widows and widowers, children, and other dependents of a social security recipient

What you get: Monthly payments based on the social security recipient's work history

How it works: After a death in the family, many people fail to take advantage of money they're entitled to receive from the Social Security Administration. Known as "survivor benefits," these payments are made to the spouse of the deceased and any children or stepchildren under the age of 18. To qualify, the widowed spouse must be over the age of 62 or over the age of 50 and disabled; if the spouse is caring for children under the age of 16, then this age restriction doesn't apply. And in some cases, grandchildren can also collect. If a child is severely disabled, he or she can collect on a parent's social security for as long as needed.

Each family member individually may be entitled to up to half the amount of the deceased's social security retirement or disability benefit. And one more thing that few people know: The parents of a social security recipient can collect up to one half that person's social security payment if they were dependent on the deceased for at least half their support. For more information, go to the government's Social Security site and scroll down to see the section titled "Benefits for your family."

Tip: Divorce doesn't disqualify you. You can collect on an ex-spouse's social security if you were married for more than ten years before you divorced and the benefits you are entitled to from your own work are less than his (or hers). If your ex-spouse has not yet filed for social security benefits, then an additional requirement is that you have to have been divorced for at least two years.

2. Shoes for diabetics

Who's eligible: Anyone with diabetes who's eligible for Medicare Part B

What you get: Custom-made shoes and inserts

How it works: If you have diabetes, it might surprise you to know that Medicare Part B will pick up most of the tab for therapeutic shoes. The criteria are fairly simple: You need to be under the care of a doctor for diabetes management and also suffering from serious foot problems, including ulcers, calluses that can lead to ulcers, nerve damage, poor circulation, or deformities.

The coverage is extensive; Medicare will cover 80 percent of the cost of one pair of specially made shoes and three pairs of inserts. Once you get a prescription for therapeutic shoes either from your doctor or from a podiatrist, the shoes will be fitted and provided by a podiatrist or licensed specialist who participates in Medicare.

Tip: You have to have met your Medicare yearly deductible to get this coverage, so wait a few months into the year until you've had a few other medical bills before pursuing.