Here is a long list of everything I know in the world about how to be poor and disabled and still (most of the way) alive.
It may please you to learn that you do not need to be on disability to qualify for most of the programs on this page.
Some programs will have a form your doctor can sign and some programs do not need disability proof and are available to anyone who is low-income.
No doubt I have missed or forgotten a few (million) things. Please comment below with more ideas.
💠 If you were turned down for food stamps, or if you are not getting enough food stamps to make it through the month, there are some special regs that may help you out: How to Get Enough Food Stamps to Actually Eat
💠 Many areas have food banks that offer free groceries. National food bank directory.
💠 Meals on Wheels and other home meal programs offer free or low cost meals in many areas. Some programs are restricted to seniors, but others will serve anyone who is homebound or has difficulty leaving their home. Contact your local area agency on aging and they can hook you up.
💠 If you are on Medicaid, they can offer free taxis or transport to doctor appointments.
💠 Para-transit services are the bomb. At least the one in my area is really great. And really cheap. Learn more about paratransit and other transportation programs: How To Get a Free Ride
💠 Amtrak gives a 15% discount to people with disabilities, plus a traveling companion.
💠 If you are traveling by plane check out: How to Wheel Around an Airport
💠 Some areas offer transportation discounts to people with disabilities: ID cards, driver’s licenses, bus and subway fares, and parking. Inquire with your local transit authority and your local Department of Motor Vehicles.
💠 Some companies offer low cost internet for people who are low-income. Programs vary by state. I have met people who were very happy with AT&T Access, though it is not available in all states. The other programs vary, some are good deals and some are not worth it. List of programs offering this service.
💠 In my area, the social service agency offers free trash stickers. But they don’t tell you this. You just have to know to ask. Do they do this other places? Please let me know.
💠 Most communities have other programs that help low-income people. Dial 2-1-1 on your phone and ask what is available.
💠 Many utility companies, including electric, gas, phone, water and trash services offer discounts to customers who are disabled, elderly or low income. Contact your utility company and ask.
💠 Your local social services agency offers utilities assistance through Liheap. Most people already know this. What you may not know: There are often three different utility programs: Winter, Summer, and Emergency. If you need all three, apply three times every year.
💠 Here’s something else you probably don’t know about Liheap: If you are living with a caregiver, they will not count the caregiver’s salary. This is an obscure little rule that your Liheap caseworker probably won’t know. You’ll need to research it and point it out. If you got turned down in the past, try again using this rule. It works!
💠 Most communities have other programs that help low-income people with utilities. Dial 2-1-1 on your phone and ask what is available.
💠 If your disabling condition is very severe and a friend, loved one or family member is providing personal care for you, you may be able to get pay for the person who is caring for you.
💠 Hint: If you are paying for a caregiver through a medicaid program, and your caregiver lives with you, they can save a lot of money by filing for a difficulty of care income tax exclusion.
💠 If you are homebound, check out How To Be Homebound for other ideas for at-home services.
💠 If you are on Medicare, you may be charged a lot of co-pays for medical visits, plus your disability check will be lowered by about $100 per month to pay Medicare premiums. Don’t worry, you have options. How to Escape Medicare Fees
💠 If you are having trouble qualifying for Medicaid: How To Get On Medicaid Even if You Can’t Get On Medicaid
💠 If you can’t afford a doctor or lab tests: How to Get to the Doctor When You Can’t Get to the Doctor
💠 If you can’t afford meds or supplements: How To Be Broke & Medicated
💠 There are lots of ways to get cheap rent. So many ways, that this article was getting too long and I had to create a whole separate article on How To Get Cheap Rent.
💠 If you are working, you can save money to buy a first house in an IDA. It is matching program. Every time you put in one dollar, they put in one dollar. If you are on SSI, and IDA can also keep your disability check from being reduced.
💠 If you have a mental health diagnosis and history of homelessness, many Supportive Housing programs are GREAT!!! I can’t seem to find any kind of national link, so I don’t know what to tell you here. Try googling the name of your state or city and the words “Supportive Housing” or “Supported Housing.”
💠 If you have a mental health diagnosis and you are currently homeless or at risk for becoming homeless, contact The Amazing SOAR Program to see if they are in your area. They can help get disability applications approved quickly for people who are homeless and disabled.
💠 Many other places have already created lists of homeless resources, so no need to reinvent the wheel: HUD Links
💠 National parks give free lifetime passes to people on disability. America The Beautiful Access Pass
💠 Many movie theaters, museums, and parks allow an caregiver to get in free if you are in a wheelchair (ask)
💠 Many parks, zoos, amusement parks, beaches, fishing licenses, and other recreational activities offer disability discounts. Some of these places also offer special parking areas and other accommodations (such as reduced wait time for lines). Be sure to inquire at Guest Services/Relations before you go. And always ask about available discounts because many parks don’t publicize them.
💠 If you are disabled, the Library of Congress will send you free books on tape. Back in the days before internet, I used to love this service more than anything. Now it seems kind of quaint and obscure.
💠 If you are here reading this, I am assuming you are already on disability, or already applying for disability. But maybe I am wrong! Here’s How to Apply for Social Security Disability
💠 Social Security is not the only game in town. Here’s How to Apply for Other Kinds of Disability
💠 Many people (wrongly!!!) think that they cannot get any help until after they are approved for Social Security. No, no, no. There are bunches of other things you can apply for.
💠 If you are willing to plan ahead, be creative and reach out for help, there are many more ways to survive while applying for disability.
💠 In most situations, your check will be at least $753 per month ($880 in California). If you think your check may be lower then it should be, there may be a solution. Check out: How Come My Check is So Low?
💠 If you are on SSDI, hopefully you have already done this, but just in case…. You can collect extra benefits for your kids (including kids who don’t live with you) and sometimes for the parents of your kids. Important: This will not happen automatically. You must sign them up. I have seen people throw away $10,000+ by not knowing they could do this.
💠 If you are on SSI, please please please learn How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI. It will save you a world of heartache down the road.
💠 Pause for station identification: SSI and SSDI are different programs. If you don’t know what you are on, look here: How to Tell What You’re On
💠 There are several good options for escaping student loans: How to Escape the Crushing Weight of Student Loans
💠 It may please you to know there are special rules in place that protect people on Social Security from debt collectors: How To Protect Your Social Security Check
💠 Most debt collectors cannot take your Social Security money no matter what they tell you and no matter what they do: Who Can Take My Social Security Check?
💠 If you are poor or disabled and paying debt from credit cards, medical bills, or other places, it’s good to know your options: How To Deal with Debt
💠 If you are sent an overpayment notice or if your Social Security check is lowered because of overpayment, you have the right to appeal or request a waiver: How Sandra Got Her Overpayments Waived
WORKING WHILE ON DISABILITY
💠 If you are on disability, you are allowed to work and there are programs that can help you with working. There are also problems that can happen from working. Here’s the low down on How to Work Without (Too Much) Trouble
💠 Most cities and counties offer real estate tax relief for the elderly or disabled. Some also offer rent relief. Check with your local government tax and property assessors office.
💠 Here are a few regs for How to Get Tax Breaks for Disabilities
💠 Need Help Paying Bills is a fantabulous site for everything in the world. But it is slightly outdated and some programs no longer exist. Also, weirdly, it includes almost no website links. If you see a program you are interested in: Google.
💠 HUD Links to food banks, diaper banks, AIDS/HIV housing, homeless services and more
HELP YOURSELF! HELP EVERYONE ELSE TOO!
💠 Trump and company are attempting to cut many of the programs on this page. If you believe that people with disabilities should still be allowed to do things like eat and stay alive, please share your voice and lend a hand.
💠 Don’t worry if you are not well enough to leave your house, or even leave your bed: How to #Resist Without Using All Your Spoons
WHAT AM I MISSING?
💠 Please comment on the bottom of this page. Tell me everything I don’t know about and everything that is missing from this list.