A long list of everything we 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.
No doubt we have missed or forgotten a few (million) things. Please comment below with more ideas.
💠 If you need a wheelchair: How to Get an Electric Wheelchair or Scooter Through Insurance
💠 If you don’t have insurance: How to Pay for Medical Equipment Without Insurance
💠 If you need other types of equipment: How to Get Medical Equipment
💠 You may be eligible for home modifications even if you are a renter
💠 Home modifications can include wheelchair ramps, widening doorways, installing grab bars, stair lifts, and other changes. Some programs also provide basic home repairs, furnace replacements, and safety modifications. Learn more How to Get Free Home Modifications
💠 Many areas also have programs that provide free modifications to make homes more energy efficient. Here’s a great story from someone who got $18,000 in energy-efficiency improvements.
💠 There are many excellent programs that provide affordable housing: How to Find Open Waiting Lists for Affordable Housing
💠 Section 8 Housing is the key to financial survival and stability for many people people with disabilities. Section 8 Guide for the Plucky and Disabled
💠 Did someone tell you that all low-income housing are rat-infested hovels of misery? Not true! Can Affordable Housing Be Nice? (See for yourself)
💠 If you are looking to make a big and interesting change in your life, learn more about How to Join an Intentional Community.
💠 Not available everywhere. It’s sometimes possible to find help with security deposits, utility deposits, pet fees, application fees: How to Escape Move-In Fees
ALREADY IN HOUSING?
💠 You may find it helpful to learn How to Calculate (and sometimes lower) rent in Affordable Housing
💠 Also check out: Section 8 Secrets for People with Disabilities
🌷 Going to the doctor: How to Get Free Local Transportation to Your Doctor
🌷 Going to the doctor long distance (planes, trains, hotels): How to Get Free Long Distance Transportation to Your Doctor
💠 Most cities and some rural areas have paratransit programs that offer low-cost, door-to-door transportation for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses How to Apply for Paratransit
🌷 If your disability makes walking difficult: How to Get a Disability Parking Placard
💠 Not available everywhere. In some cases, it’s possible to get small amounts of Help with Car Expenses
💠 Airport wheelchair services: How to Wheel Around an Airport
💠 Learn more about how to get free or discounted Transportation Assistance for People with Disabilities or Chronic Illness.
💠 If you are in need of a caregiver, and cannot afford one, check out: How to Get a Caregiver to see if there are any programs in your area.
💠 State home aide programs are the most common home care programs our readers participate in. These programs provide free aides and other services to help people stay out of nursing homes. How To Apply for a State Home Aide
💠 If you are homebound, check out How To Be Homebound for other ideas for at-home services.
ALREADY HAVE A CAREGIVER?
💠 If your disabling condition is severe and a friend, loved one, or family member is already providing personal care for you, in some situations, state home aide programs will allow you to qualify for funding for salary for the person who is caring for you now.
💠 If you are in a home aide program through Medicaid or Medi-cal program, 15 Secrets for People in Medicaid Home Aide Program.
💠 If you are living with someone who is providing care for you (paid or unpaid), check out: Ten Secrets for People with Live-In Caregivers
💠 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: Food Stamps Regulations you might not know
💠 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.
💠 Can’t leave the house? How to Get Groceries Delivered with SNAP Food Stamps
💠 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
💠 Also check out: How to Respond When You Are Told You Can’t Get Medicaid
💠 If you can’t afford a doctor: 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
💠 If you can’t afford the dentist: How to Go to the Dentist When You Can’t Afford to Go to the Dentist
💠 If you can’t afford lab tests: How to Get Free or Cheap Lab Tests
💠 Sounds too good to be true. But it is true! Prescription eyeglass for $7. You have to know what your prescription is. Try to exercise a lot of self-control at check out. Uncheck all the boxes to add bells and whistles and just buy the basic glasses. $7. Really. Zenni Glasses.
💠 Some areas offer small amounts of cash assistance in certain situations: How to Get State Cash Assistance
💠 Programs that offer assistance with vet bills.
💠 Emotional Support Animal – If you have an emotional support animal, in some types of housing, you will not be charged pet fees and pet deposits. In certain types of housing, food and vet bills can be declared as a medical expense. Learn About Emotional Support Animals
💠 Trained Service Animals – Different than emotional support animals. Service animals are trained (including psychiatric service dogs). Same housing rules listed above. In addition, food and vet bills can also be declared as a medical expense for food stamps.
💠 If you have a mental health diagnosis and history of homelessness, some of our readers report that Supportive Housing programs are GREAT! We can’t seem to find any kind of national link. 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
💠 Some companies offer low cost internet for people who are low-income. Programs vary by state. Good News! $10 Internet! For Real!
💠 Some low income internet programs will not approve anyone who was an existing customer in the past 90 days. If you get caught in this loophole, here’s some ideas to get out: Comcast Internet Essentials & The 90 Day Waiting Period
💠 If you are applying for assistance, you may need to fax things from time to time. Here’s an inexpensive way to fax that doesn’t involve leaving the house: Hello Fax
💠 In some areas the social service agency that administer food stamps also offers free trash stickers. But they don’t tell you this. You just have to know to ask. They may also provide free air conditioners or house fans.
💠 You can get a discount on amazon prime if you have Food Stamps or Medicaid.
💠 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. Also check out this great article on Discounts from Power Companies.
💠 Your local social services agency offers utilities assistance through Liheap. In some areas, they three different utility programs: Winter, Summer, and Emergency. If you need all three, make sure to apply for all three. For example, if you apply for winter, you still have to put in another application for summer.
💠 If your utilities are included in your rent, you may still be eligible for Liheap. However, rules vary by state.
💠 Many Liheap programs have free weatherization services. They will evaluate your home and make free repairs and upgrades which can lower your utilities, improve your safety, and make you more comfortable.
💠 If you are a renter, you may still be eligible for the free Liheap weatherization. Inquire with the program in your area.
💠 Some areas provide free programmable thermostats. This can save you an average of $180/year in utility bills. Inquire at Liheap or your local energy assistance program.
💠 Here’s a good list of 22 other ways to lower your utility bills.
💠 If you are living with a caregiver or live-in aide, they will not count the aide’s salary, so you may be more likely to qualify. More information about how to do this is on this page: How to Get Extra Benefits and Help if You Have a Live-In Aide
💠 Most communities have other programs that help low-income people with utilities. Dial 2-1-1 on your phone and ask what is available.
💠 In California, there are several different PG&E programs you can apply for, including one called “Medical Baseline Allowance” Story from a reader: “I was able to get a permanent reduction in my city Gas & Electric bill by providing a doctors note indicating that I had heat sensitivity due to ME/CFS. There were no income specifications. Just a medical necessity.”
💠 Many people with chronic illnesses start online fundraising to help pay medical or life expenses. Ironically, this can cause you to lose your Medicaid, Food Stamps, SSI, Medicare Savings Programs, utilities assistance, or subsidized housing. In some cases, there are safe ways to fundraise. Please take a look: How to Fundraise Without Losing Your Benefits
💠 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)
💠 Update: This is very easy to get in some places. Just say “I would like a disability pass for my caretaker.” That’s it!
💠 Update #2: Some of our readers report they were able to request free admission for an aide or caregiver by asserting that this was a reasonable accommodation for a person with disabilities under the ADA. The laws on this are not perfectly clear, but here is more information from a disability rights group: Personal Assistants and the ADA and here’s a Court Case About Personal Assistants
💠 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.
💠 Is it your birthday? How to Live Like a King or Queen on Your Birthday for FREE
💠 Social Security is not the only game in town. Here’s How to Apply for Other Kinds of Disability
DISABILITY: BEFORE APPLYING
💠 Please read this If There is Any Chance You Will Ever Apply for Disability…
DISABILITY: WHILE APPLYING
💠 Many people (wrongly!!!) think that they cannot get any help until after they are approved for Social Security. No, no, no. You can apply for 90% of the things on this page.
💠 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.
💠 If you are applying for SSI, the way you are living right now can cause your check to go up or down later: How to Apply for SSI Without Falling into Quicksand
💠 Most disability applications take two to three years. If you can get approved quicker, this will help you in all the ways you already know it will help you: How to Greatly, Greatly (Greatly!) Improve Your Disability Application
💠 It’s a great idea to collect your medical records yourself. Here’s How to Get Your Medical Records Without Paying an Arm and a Leg
DISABILITY: AFTER APPROVAL
💠 If you were approved recently: Everything No One Ever Tells You After You Get Approved
💠 If you were approved a while ago: Everything No One Ever Tells You About Living on Disability
💠 In most situations, your check will be at least $750 per month ($910 in California). If you think your check id lower then it should be, there may be a solution. Check out: How Come My Check is So Low?
💠 It is not easy to survive on SSI, but it is possible. Check out: How to Survive on SSI
💠 If you are sent an overpayment notice or your check is being lowered: How To Deal with an Overpayment
💠 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
💠 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 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
💠 Here’s a guide to Requesting Disability Accommodations in your workplace.
💠 Common question from our readers: How Do I Prove That I Am Really Disabled for Workplace Accommodations?
💠 The Pajama Daze ideas for jobs you can do in your pajamas.
APPLYING FOR… ANYTHING
💠 No matter what you apply for, you will almost certainly be told “no” at some point. Sometimes this no is correct. Very often it is not.
💠 If someone is not following the policies or a mistake gets made, this is a good time to discover How To Get Help from Your Congressperson
💠 Many cities and counties offer real estate tax relief for the elderly or disabled and other programs to reduce property taxes. Learn About Property Tax Relief
💠 There are quite a few more tax breaks you may wish to look into. How to Get Tax Breaks for Disabilities
💠 If you are planning a withdrawal from your 401k or pension plan: How to Avoid Penalties from Retirement Plan Early Withdrawals
JANE AND SALLY
💠 Sally is low-income and disabled. She is unable to care for herself and has no family to help her. Many people in Sally’s situation wind up in state nursing homes or institutions. Luckily, Sally found a better way. By learning about different services available, Sally is able to live in her own apartment, have the care she needs, and afford to cover all her expenses. How does she do it? Meet Jane and Sally
💠 HUD Links to food banks, diaper banks, AIDS/HIV housing, homeless services and more
WHAT ARE WE MISSING?
💠 Please comment on the bottom of this page. Tell us everything we don’t know about and everything that is missing from this list. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.
💠 Updated Sept 2019