9 Government Benefits You Might Be Missing Out On

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 60 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, stepchildren, grandchildren, or step 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.

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.

Transportation and Loans

3. Free rides

Who's eligible: People with mobility problems and seniors

What you get: Transportation to and from your home to appointments and activities

How it works: Paratransit is the official term for transportation provided by local communities for those who can't drive or comfortably use regular public transportation. These services vary by community, but typically it's a door-to-door van service that's available by appointment. The services are provided by local government agencies, but they receive federal funds intended to guarantee access for the disabled and elderly.

To find out more about the federally funded transportation options in your area, contact your local Area Agency on Aging. More transportation resources are available by searching the Department of Health and Human Service's Eldercare Locator on the topic Transportation.

Tip: These services typically require advance planning. It works best if you establish a regular weekly schedule, so you don't have to remember to call each time.

4. Low-interest loans for small businesses affected by disaster

Who's eligible: Any business or nonprofit damaged in a disaster

What you get: Up to $2 million in low-interest, long-term loans

How it works: If your business is affected by a natural disaster such as a flood or hurricane, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest long-term loans to help you rebuild, make repairs, restock inventory, and do anything else you need to do to get your business back off the ground. The loans can be used to make repairs to the property itself or to machinery and equipment; the money can also be used to replace furnishings and inventory.

Tip: You can get a larger loan to pay for improvements to your property that protect against future damage.

5. Home or car modifications for veterans

Who's eligible: Veterans with a disability

What you get: A loan or loan guarantee to buy a house or car or modify an existing house or car

How it works: The Veteran's Administration provides extensive services to veterans who are considered to have a service-related disability that prevents them from performing normal, everyday activities. But this doesn't mean that you had to become disabled during service; for many veterans, a mental, emotional, or physical condition that began decades before in the military only becomes disabling with age. In this case, you may qualify for service-connected disability benefits at the point that your condition actually becomes disabling.

A key V.A. disability benefit comes in the form of loans and loan guarantees to help veterans buy or refinance a home or condominium. These loans can also be used to modify a home or car. For some veterans with service-connected disabilities, the V.A. also gives Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants, which pay for modifications to a home to adapt it to accommodate their disability.

Tip: If you live with family members, the grants may also be used to modify the home you're living in or the car in which you're being driven, even though it's not owned by you.

Credit Ratings and Therapy

6. Free credit check

Who's eligible: Everyone

What you get: Three credit reports per year at no cost

How it works: Don't get sucked in by the offers from for-profit credit repair companies; you can monitor your credit and fix any problems without spending anything. One of the ways the government helps us protect ourselves from fraud is by offering a free yearly credit check. By law, you're entitled to request one free annual credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Stagger your requests, and you could monitor your credit every four months at no cost. However, many experts advise ordering all three reports at once so you can compare them. To find out more, go to the federally authorized website www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

7. Therapy for Alzheimer's patients

Who's eligible: Patients with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia covered by Medicare Part B

What you get: Specialized services including outpatient physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy

How it works: For those dealing with memory loss, occupational therapy and physical therapy can be key to coping with the tasks of daily living. To qualify, you just need your doctor to prescribe the treatment, and then use a Medicare-certified therapist. Although Medicare doesn't usually cover psychological services by nonphysicians, there's an exception for Alzheimer's care. (Coverage extends to clinical psychologists or medical social workers who are Alzheimer's care specialists, as long as they're Medicare-certified.)

Tip: If you have Medicare Part C coverage, also called Medicare Advantage, you may be entitled to even more counseling or to additional services.

Veterans' Benefits and Household Help

8. Burial benefits for veterans

Who's eligible: Veterans approved for eligibility with the Veteran's Administration

What you get: A grave site and headstone and, for some, a burial allowance for funeral expenses

How it works: If you're a veteran, you're eligible to be buried in any of the 131 national cemeteries, or in the state cemetery in the state you're living in at the time of death. Your spouse and children are eligible for the same benefit. The choice to be buried in a particular cemetery depends on whether there are grave sites available, and grave sites can't be reserved prior to death. There's no cost to your family for the grave site or for a government headstone or marker, which the cemetery provides. However, this benefit doesn't include the cost of either a funeral or cremation, which must be made privately.

For vets who prefer to be buried in a private cemetery, the government will still provide a government headstone or marker and burial flag. In addition, the Veteran's Administration offers a funeral and burial allowance to some veterans. If a veteran dies of a service-related disability, the V.A. pays up to $2,000 for burial expenses, plus the cost of transportation to a V.A. national cemetery. If the death isn't service-related but the veteran died while receiving care at a V.A. hospital or one under contract to the V.A., or the veteran is on a veteran's pension, the V.A. will pay up to $700 for funeral and burial expenses and another $700 for the cost of a burial plot or interment space. To find out more about medical and death benefits for veterans, contact the Department of Veterans Affairs.

9. Help with household chores

Who's eligible: Those over 60 or disabled

What you get: Free or low-cost home and yard maintenance and moving help

How it works: If you're struggling to maintain your home, it may be possible to obtain help with all those household tasks that have become difficult or impossible to cope with. Under the auspices of the Older Americans Act, many Area Agencies on Aging offer help with household chores as part of the umbrella of services they offer to help people live independently in their homes. In Florida, for example, the Mid-Florida Area Agency on Aging covers a wide array of household chores including seasonal cleaning, yard work, and household repairs that don't require a specialized license. They'll sometimes even cover pest control if it's part of overall house maintenance. They'll also send someone out to help with lifting and moving furniture, appliances, and other heavy objects.

In some areas, the Area Agency on Aging charges a fee for these services, but it's typically much less than you'd normally pay. In Minnesota, for example, one agency charges $15 an hour for snow removal and yard work. Some programs are free but require participants to pay for the services upfront, then apply for grants for reimbursement. In many cases, the minimum age to qualify is 60. Get started by finding your local Area Agency on Aging.


11 days ago, said...

Hi, my children and i lost there disabled father im 2006. In 2009 i was diagnosed with a life thteatening disease among many other illnesses. I am now disabled and am trying to survive and meek a roof over our head. They are uneligable for ssi or child dupport onviously because hes dead. I have to do treatments again and my health is very bad.i lost my license for not paying my cae insurance because i had to pay the house payment. I then had to sell my car 2 months later to keep our home. I... Show more Hi, my children and i lost there disabled father im 2006. In 2009 i was diagnosed with a life thteatening disease among many other illnesses. I am now disabled and am trying to survive and meek a roof over our head. They are uneligable for ssi or child dupport onviously because hes dead. I have to do treatments again and my health is very bad.i lost my license for not paying my cae insurance because i had to pay the house payment. I then had to sell my car 2 months later to keep our home. I have been in a deep depression and have been fighting to stay alive and keep from becoming homeless i dont even have a bed to sleep in. Would anyone like to tell me how the government thinks im supposed to go on like this. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. My children should have been receiving some kind of benefits from the government as it is not our fault there father never paid in to social security and i didnt ask to become ill my self. If you know of any programs that we might benefit from i would be happy to hear aboug them as our lives have been a living hell trying to survive eveysince this happened in 2006. I would love to have my license and a car again so that i could go to my treatments. My kids have allready lost there father and would really like to keep there mother. Ty pforrest and girls Hide


3 months ago, said...

My boyfriend of 7 years age 69 and I, Anna of 55 years are looking for a A.L.F. that will take us and our cat,Stella. I get socialsecurity disabilities. James gets S.S.I. We need affordable low income :housing. I would like to be close to my brother in Seminole or St. Petersburg. Please help. My boyfriend of 7 years age 69 and I, Anna of 55 years are looking for a A.L.F. that will take us and our cat,Stella. I get socialsecurity disabilities. James gets S.S.I. We need affordable low income :housing. I would like to be close to my brother in Seminole or St. Petersburg. Please help. Hide


4 months ago, said...

I am retired and have two minor grandchildren and I am their legal guardian. Do they qualify for ss benefits and medical benefits. I am retired and have two minor grandchildren and I am their legal guardian. Do they qualify for ss benefits and medical benefits. Hide


4 months ago, said...

Hello, my name is JJ I have been disabled now for over 14 years now, due to a domestic violence situation. I had to close my business and move in with my 82 year old mom, I am now 40 and getting ready to live independently, but I'm afraid to leave mom she is not doing well, with her SS income from her 1st husband and with my SSDI we were able to get the house paid off luckily the payment was low and with help from an outside person we did it, but the house is too big for her alone and she... Show more Hello, my name is JJ I have been disabled now for over 14 years now, due to a domestic violence situation. I had to close my business and move in with my 82 year old mom, I am now 40 and getting ready to live independently, but I'm afraid to leave mom she is not doing well, with her SS income from her 1st husband and with my SSDI we were able to get the house paid off luckily the payment was low and with help from an outside person we did it, but the house is too big for her alone and she really wants to downsize, but my sisters think she should just stay here because it is paid for, but it makes her very depressed; because she can't keep it as clean as she would like it, and the yard is way too much, I suggested that when I go into my apartment she get one and we sell the house and finish her bucket list, which isn't much at all, just go to the beach 1 more time and us just doing things together. We also have 2 dogs that of course are our family too. It's very hard to find an apartment with a fenced in yard.
 I've made a duplex plan out and I would love to get them built, not just for mom and I but for all the people who are veterans and disabled and cannot walk their dog. I was wondering if there was a grant I could get or some sort of loan so I could get these built for All of us. Hide


4 months ago, said...

Please help in one week I will be completely homeless and no where to go not to mention, I am 57 years old on disability right now just need some kind of guidance to help me get to the next step Please help in one week I will be completely homeless and no where to go not to mention, I am 57 years old on disability right now just need some kind of guidance to help me get to the next step Hide


4 months ago, said...

I am a 55 yr. Old spouse n need of information on what if any I am elegible for under veterans administration. .not disable..but I do receive spousal support and n my own home.can anyone show me ... I am a 55 yr. Old spouse n need of information on what if any I am elegible for under veterans administration. .not disable..but I do receive spousal support and n my own home.can anyone show me ... Hide


4 months ago, said...

I am 61 years old, am on disability and only get 1500.00 per month between my disability and less than half of my husband's social security, who died in Oct of 2014. I got behind on a couple of bills including my light bill and cable bill, which includes my phone bill. TV is my only entertainment, and I am cutting that back to the bear minimum. I still have more bills than money each month. Unfortunately, I got involved with the wrong person for 3 months and he stole from me, and really... Show more I am 61 years old, am on disability and only get 1500.00 per month between my disability and less than half of my husband's social security, who died in Oct of 2014. I got behind on a couple of bills including my light bill and cable bill, which includes my phone bill. TV is my only entertainment, and I am cutting that back to the bear minimum. I still have more bills than money each month. Unfortunately, I got involved with the wrong person for 3 months and he stole from me, and really got me behind on my bills. Up until then I was doing fine. What options do I have considering I am not allowed to get a part time job to help with my income. I don't know what to do: I am at a lost. Hide


5 months ago, said...

Hi am Patricia I M diabete, disabete, I do not have enough income for to pay my ; co-pay, buy food,,eye glasses,Somet . Pay my bills from month to month nor get my medicationl Hi am Patricia I M diabete, disabete, I do not have enough income for to pay my ; co-pay, buy food,,eye glasses,Somet . Pay my bills from month to month nor get my medicationl Hide


5 months ago, said...

Hello, My Dad died when I was 19 my Mom has been a widow ever since, due to the high cost of rent in Calif she continued to work till she was 80 before retiring . At that time we moved her to a retirement community where the rent was lower ( just under $1,000 ) still high by my standards for anyone on a fixed income. She barley makes it each month. My husband & I pay for everything else like car repairs, eye glasses, dentist appointment , everything medical, I'm sure you get the picture... Show more Hello, My Dad died when I was 19 my Mom has been a widow ever since, due to the high cost of rent in Calif she continued to work till she was 80 before retiring . At that time we moved her to a retirement community where the rent was lower ( just under $1,000 ) still high by my standards for anyone on a fixed income. She barley makes it each month. My husband & I pay for everything else like car repairs, eye glasses, dentist appointment , everything medical, I'm sure you get the picture here! We are approaching retirement ourselves now and need to cut some of these exspences. Mom is now 87, is there any programs that would possibly help pay for her eye glasses and dentures? Any little bit would help! She will not give up her independence and I don't want her to... But I also don't want to ask my husband to continue to work just because of my mom either. Hide


6 months ago, said...

I am 84 and medicare denies me my insulin and shoes and anything else I need
 I have just one more shot of INSULIN (levimire( left) and don't have $400.00 to buy any if given a prescription.
 Apparently New Hampshire doesn't care if their seniors die. They refuse all help saying I am over the limit!!! I only get $1148. a month and I pay mortgage and all household expenses with no money left over for food or my meds. I have had to go to a food bank and they don't have my food that... Show more I am 84 and medicare denies me my insulin and shoes and anything else I need
 I have just one more shot of INSULIN (levimire( left) and don't have $400.00 to buy any if given a prescription.
 Apparently New Hampshire doesn't care if their seniors die. They refuse all help saying I am over the limit!!! I only get $1148. a month and I pay mortgage and all household expenses with no money left over for food or my meds. I have had to go to a food bank and they don't have my food that I need!!!!
 Dorothy J. Smith
 smithdot84@gmail.com Hide


6 months ago, said...

I'm a widow with a disabled now 30 year old. It's time for me to look at options for my daughter to live, thrive and care independently. The assisted and or group homes are expense. How do you manage to prepare your disabled 30 year old to have a safe environment when I'm gone. She makes too much for Medicaid. The program's I think she would thrive best in are independent and cost 3k a month. Now what can I do? I'm a widow with a disabled now 30 year old. It's time for me to look at options for my daughter to live, thrive and care independently. The assisted and or group homes are expense. How do you manage to prepare your disabled 30 year old to have a safe environment when I'm gone. She makes too much for Medicaid. The program's I think she would thrive best in are independent and cost 3k a month. Now what can I do? Hide


6 months ago, said...

My husband was sick for many years we couldn't afford life insurance. He passed away .my son is 27 and I have a high mortgage is there any financial help? With utilities taxes or anything? I also have multiple scelorisis working full time. I feel like you are punished if you are sick can't afford life insurance but I'll where you cant make more money. :( My husband was sick for many years we couldn't afford life insurance. He passed away .my son is 27 and I have a high mortgage is there any financial help? With utilities taxes or anything? I also have multiple scelorisis working full time. I feel like you are punished if you are sick can't afford life insurance but I'll where you cant make more money. :( Hide


6 months ago, said...

Wife disabled largely due to fibro mylagia. I am on disability and workman's comp total 2200 month. I have medicare part B. Also the medicine. I cannot afford a supplement or insurance for my wife. Medicade said income is too much amassing large medical bills that will never be able to pay Wife disabled largely due to fibro mylagia. I am on disability and workman's comp total 2200 month. I have medicare part B. Also the medicine. I cannot afford a supplement or insurance for my wife. Medicade said income is too much amassing large medical bills that will never be able to pay Hide


7 months ago, said...

Hi Melanie, I am writing to ask if there are any programs for individuals who are disabled, lupus, diabetes, osteoarthritis, bone infarcts in my back, shoulders, knee, hips, and need to move into a downstairs place or floor level residence. With my doctor adding fibromyolgia; lupus complications from my age and now koint pain, I am only 55, are the services to buy a home or condo in Sacramento. I worked for State government for 30 years and my pension is life time. When I can I pick... Show more Hi Melanie, I am writing to ask if there are any programs for individuals who are disabled, lupus, diabetes, osteoarthritis, bone infarcts in my back, shoulders, knee, hips, and need to move into a downstairs place or floor level residence. With my doctor adding fibromyolgia; lupus complications from my age and now koint pain, I am only 55, are the services to buy a home or condo in Sacramento. I worked for State government for 30 years and my pension is life time. When I can I pick up parttime work if I need to. I bring in about $36,000 a year, my tax preparer reported in April, 2015. I haven't been given good information by realtors, agencies, etc. and am no longer able to walk up m6 17 steps. Any info you can provide would be great. Phyllis Hide


7 months ago, said...

I was attacked and nearly killed by pit bulls 2 1/2 yr.s ago. I lost my job 9 months later because I was and continue to be unable to return to work due to the extensive damage to my arms as well as PTSD. I've been denied SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, SNAP(food stamps), LIHEAP, VA benefits and Unemployment. Im still waiting for a hearing with Social Security. I've exhausted my entire retirement account and I am behind on my mortgage , my property taxes, my utility bills and home/car insurance. I... Show more I was attacked and nearly killed by pit bulls 2 1/2 yr.s ago. I lost my job 9 months later because I was and continue to be unable to return to work due to the extensive damage to my arms as well as PTSD. I've been denied SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, SNAP(food stamps), LIHEAP, VA benefits and Unemployment. Im still waiting for a hearing with Social Security. I've exhausted my entire retirement account and I am behind on my mortgage , my property taxes, my utility bills and home/car insurance. I live in a rural community and can't even get transportation for shopping or medical appt.s. my home is owner financed and they want to foreclose as does the county(for land taxes). I'm desperate for help but can't find any. Was told by surgeon that all that's left for me is pain management and I can't even get that. Hide