How to Get Financial Assistance if You Have a Disability

Mother daughter sitting on couch nonverbal communicating with sign language

About 1 in 4 people in the U.S. has a disability that impacts their mobility, cognition, hearing, vision or their ability to live independently, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are living with a disability and having trouble making ends meet, government and nonprofit programs may be able to provide financial assistance for housing, medical bills or other living expenses. Below, you'll find resources you may be able to turn to when financial help is needed.

Financial Resources for People With Disabilities

Financial assistance for those with disabilities may include direct payments or subsidies that reduce out-of-pocket costs for monthly expenses. Here are a few key resources to consider if you need help paying for housing, food and medical care:

Social Security Administration: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two programs that offer monthly payments to help cover living expenses.

Medicare: Medicare is a health insurance program that can help cover medical costs for people 65 or older and people younger than 65 who have disabilities.

Medicaid: Medicaid is a health care assistance program that can help adults with low income cover medical bills.

Housing Voucher Program (HVP): This Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program—also known as Section 8—provides housing vouchers that pay part of your rent in an approved rental.

Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Homeownership Program: People who receive a housing voucher and want to buy a home may qualify for the homeownership voucher program. This program offers homebuyer counseling and assistance in covering housing expenses.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): The SNAP program helps low-income families put food on the table. People with disabilities may qualify for an increased SNAP allotment.

Assistance for Specific Financial Situations

If you need money in an emergency or cash to pay for school or a home modification, the programs below may be able to help you fill a specific financial gap.

Emergency Relief

If you're waiting for SSI benefit payments to start or you're facing a financial emergency that affects your health or safety, you may be able to get an advanced payment from Social Security to help make ends meet. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is another program run by states that may offer temporary assistance to families in need.

Home Modification Assistance

If you need to make a change to your home—such as installing a wheelchair ramp—the state you live in might offer grants and loans to help you make the modification. For example, residents of Illinois may qualify for home modification loans of up to $5,000 through the Illinois Assistive Technology Program.

National housing modification programs also offer assistance to those who are eligible. For veterans, the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant and Home Improvements and Structural Alteration (HISA) Grant can be used to pay for home accessibility modifications. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Section 504 Home Repair program provides loans to low-income homeowners that can help cover the cost of home repairs and advancements, including changes to make your home more accessible.

Education Assistance

If you need help paying for school, you may be eligible for financial aid, such as the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Federal Work-Study programs. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is required for many aid programs.

Schools and independent organizations may also provide their own financial aid and scholarship programs. State education agencies could give you a better idea of what's available locally.

If you have federal student loans and are unable to work, a Total and Permanent Disability loan discharge could relieve you from the responsibility of repaying loans. The Federal Student Aid website outlines the eligibility conditions to apply for this discharge.

National Charities and Organizations Providing Services

Many charities and organizations offer independent services to people with disabilities. For example, if someone infringes on your rights guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you may be able to find charities and organizations that offer pro bono legal counsel. While this isn't an exhaustive list, here are a few organizations that provide different services:

  • National Disability Rights Network: This is a nonprofit that operates in every state and U.S. territory advocating for the rights of people with disabilities by helping them get adequate health care, education, employment, housing, transportation and more.
  • Disability Rights Legal Center and Cancer Legal Resource Center: These organizations work to protect the rights of people with disabilities and those affected by cancer by providing legal assistance.
  • National Disability Institute: This charitable organization partners with financial institutions, governments and community organizations to provide financial resources to those with disabilities.
  • Friends of Disabled Adults and Children: This organization refurbishes equipment—such as wheelchairs, medical beds and more—for people with disabilities.
  • Wheelchair Foundation: The Wheelchair Foundation aims to give a wheelchair to everyone in the world who needs one, even if they can't afford it.
  • Patient Advocate Foundation: The Patient Advocate Foundation offers cash management, copayment relief and financial aid funds for people dealing with chronic, life-threatening and debilitating diseases.
  • HealthWell Foundation: The HealthWell Foundation helps cover out-of-pocket costs for those who are underinsured.

Other Financial Options for People With Disabilities

Aside from the assistance programs above, there are other financial tools that could help you save money and manage debt that you're trying to pay off.

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts are a type of tax-advantaged savings method for people with disabilities. You don't have to pay tax on account earnings as long as the money is used for qualified expenses. Qualified expenses include money spent on education, housing, transportation, employment training, legal fees, health care, basic living expenses and other expenses related to a disability.

If you're having trouble tackling credit card debt, contact your creditors because they may be able to offer payment arrangements. Another option to consider is working with a credit counseling agency to establish a debt repayment plan.

Under a debt repayment plan, a counselor reviews your budget and negotiates a reduction of fees or interest with your creditors. Then, you make one payment to the credit counseling agency and it pays off your debt for you. This could save you money and take away the stress of juggling multiple payments.

If mortgage payments are becoming hard to manage, you may be able to request loan forbearance, which pauses payments temporarily. In some cases, a lender may even be willing to modify your loan to make it easier for you to repay. If you can no longer afford the home, a last resort could be a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

The Bottom Line

Many governments and nonprofit agencies offer assistance to persons with disabilities. If you need help paying for daily expenses or medical care, Social Security benefit payments, housing vouchers, food stamps and Medicare or Medicaid could offer temporary or long-term relief.

One thing to keep in mind is there may be a waiting period to get approved for certain benefits, such as a housing voucher, so apply as early as possible if you think you'll need help.

Assistance applications may ask for information like your income, medical history and job history, so getting that documentation together ahead of time could help you get through the paperwork faster so you can get the support you need more rapidly.

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