If you are homebound or bedbound or disabled, phone and internet can be your key to survival and connection with the outside world. Lilac got a free phone through a “lifeline” service and she was kind enough to share her experiences and everything she learned along the way:
Lilac Gets a Phone
If you are low income, you can get a free cell phone or landline phone through Lifeline. This service is available to all low income people and you do not have to be approved for disability to qualify.
Here’s the trick: Stay the hell away from SafeLink.
After years of languishing in SafeLink desolation, I finally switched to a new service. Now I have a great, free smartphone with two surprising features: You can talk…. and you can listen! That’s right. Talk AND listen!!!! Take that SafeLink! But don’t just take my word for it, see what customers have to say about Safelink.
Assurance Wireless – Provides monthly data, unlimited texts, and monthly minutes. Available to people who receive Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You can also qualify based on your household income.
Qlink Wireless – Provides limited free monthly calling and unlimited free texting. You may qualify if you already receive government benefit programs like: Food Stamps, Medicaid, Federal Housing / Section 8 Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, or Veteran’s Pension and Survivors Pension Program
Other Free Phone Services – Please comment below with your experiences.
Land Lines – It is also possible to get a landline instead of a cell phone. These phones are discounted, not totally free (Reader review: “My phone bill went from $35 per month to $6 per month”).
Before selecting a phone company, it’s a good idea to check and make sure they will be able to provide service and connection in all the locations you will be using the phone.
There are also several services that offer low-cost internet. Here is a great article on How to Get Internet for $5 per month.
Financial Survival for People with Disabilities
If you are low-income and disabled, there are many other programs and services that may be able to help you. Learn more about ways to get assistance with rent, food, utilities, medical equipment, home modifications, medications, electric wheelchairs, disability benefits, and more: How to Be Poor in America
If You are Married
If you are married and your spouse and you live together, you are only allowed to have one lifeline phone. You cannot each get your own lifeline phone.
If You Live with Other Adults
The rule is one phone per household. But wait!!! This rule is very tricky. A household is not what you think it is….
“The definition of a household is anyone living at an address who share income and household expenses.” The rules are explained here.
Suzy and Grace Example: Suzy lives with her sister Grace. They each pay half the rent and half the utilities. They do not share their income and keep separate bank accounts and finances. Suzy and Grace are two households. They are eligible for two phones.
Suzy and George Example: Suzy lives with her boyfriend George. Suzy and George share a bank account and share their money. Suzy and George are one household. They are eligible for one phone.
Lilac Cancels SafeLink
Several people asked me how I switched phones. Here’s how it worked for me: I cannot believe how long I stayed with SafeLink. I could not hear anything and half the calls were dropped. I tried to request a new phone, but there is no way to contact them online, and they are only reachable by phone… super helpful for someone without a working phone!
At some point they sent me a little text noting that due to such-and-such lawsuit they were required to offer me a new phone. I spent some time online trying to apply for this supposed new phone, only to be told that I don’t live where I (obviously) do live and that I should call them with my broken phone upon which I (obviously) cannot call them.
One day someone told me that some companies give smart phones. I thought there was no possibility on earth that this could be true. I was wrong.
I canceled SafeLink by going to my account online on the SafeLink website. Oddly, the SafeLink phone does not turn off when you cancel! My phone kept whatever minutes were still on there and kept working. They did not ask for it back.
It’s important to cancel your old account before applying for a new phone anywhere else. You are not supposed to sign up for two services at the same time. I printed out the page online verifying that my Safelink phone was canceled and kept it, just in case anything ever came up.
I applied for Assurance Wireless online. They sent me a form in the mail to sign. Then they sent me a phone. Whole thing took 2-3 weeks.
When I got the new phone it did not work correctly right away. It turned on, but it wasn’t sending texts. I finally figured out that I had to call Assurance and activate it. They were very nice and I have been quite happy with my new phone.
Landline or Cellphone?
Some people with chronic illness find that cell phones cause symptoms. Learn more about Electrohypersensitivity.