Social Security can help pay for assisted living in most states through Optional State Supplements. These supplemental payments can cover part or all of the cost of room and board and are made directly to assisted living facilities. 

According to data from the Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2020, the average cost for assisted living in the United States is $4,300 per month. Unfortunately, regular Social Security benefits are rarely enough to completely cover assisted living costs. Optional State Supplements can help cover part or all of the gap, depending on the state program and your income level.

What Are Optional State Supplements?

Optional State Supplements help pay room and board at senior care facilities options for certain low-income individuals. OSS benefits are paid in addition to normal Social Security benefits; the exact amount depends on the applicant’s income. In some cases, OSS benefits can be less than $100 per month, but some recipients get more than $1,000 per month. All payments are made directly to the assisted living facility or other care location. 
The OSS program operates under some other names as well. Wisconsin’s program is called SSI Exceptional Expense Supplement, and Maryland’s program is known as the Assisted Living Subsidy. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma and West Virginia do not offer Optional State Supplements. Some of these states have their own unique programs to subsidize assisted living.

Who Qualifies for Assisted Living Assistance Through OSS?

To qualify for OSS, you must meet certain income requirements. In many states, people eligible for Medicaid and/or Supplemental Security Income automatically qualify for OSS. Some other states, however, make their income eligibility level higher or lower than the SSI threshold. There are also states where qualifying for additional benefits is based on other state metrics unrelated to SSI measurements.

How to Apply for Optional State Supplements

Most applications for OSS are handled through Departments of Health or Social Services in their respective states. The following states handle applications for OSS through Social Security Administration offices:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Some states, such as Kansas, do not require any application for OSS. The state discovers eligible recipients based on a list of Social Security and Medicaid recipients.

During the application process, you may be required to provide identification, proof of income, work history and proof of living arrangements. Seniors in or looking for assisted living are encouraged to use a benefits checkup tool, such as SSA BEST, to check all potential funding sources.