Resources for the Physically Challenged
I have recently become classified as totally disabled & am newly on SSI disability. I wondered if there are any little-known programs, discounts or money-saving offers that might be available to the disabled that are not normally known?
The only one I currently am aware of are the passes to get into and camp with, the National Park Services, (I think this is correct), that you can get a golden eagle pass or something that gives you half price entrance and camping fees. As I am only 53, don't quality for the "senior" type discounts, (although I certainly feel senior with my aches and pains at times). I just KNOW that there MUST be some discounted perks or money-savings programs offered to those who are disabled and on SSI that may not be well known and therefore, obscure to most.
As I am totally "new" to this category, could use some help, as after 35+ years of working and earning, "money", the SSI income looks pretty "grim" right now, and trying to figure out how to conduct life as I had previously known it, seems rather far removed from the current reality of having so little an amount to subsit on. ANY help your readers can offer will be MOST appreciated!
Fortunately, I do own my own home and do not need any ideas of living facilities or low-cost housing. As my home being already paid off is about as low as one can go in this arena. Although there may be some savings in real estate taxes, I suppose if one is disabled? Will have to check into this one. I also realize that once the government determines that you are totally disabled, you may then access your IRA accounts without the 10% penalty you would previously have gotten at the age of 53, being disabled makes you "retired" in the government's eyes, at least for IRA purposes anyway! I also realize that you can, after 2 years on SSI, apply for medicare insurance, which in most cases, is more reasonable than private insurance.
American Red Cross
Special equipment costs can be outrageous for those necessities including raised toilet seats, bath benches, comodes, etc. The local American Red Cross and local Senior centers can be wonderful resources for free equipment. Another possible resource is your local university that offers occupational therapy as a major. Occupational therapists are specially trained at adapting environments to improve independence. Local O.T. students may be willing to come out and make recommendations and help set up equipment for the opportunity to learn and help!
Several of the local phone companies across the country have a program for those receiving SSI to receive a substantial discount on their monthly recurring charges for phone service. They require you send or fax documentation and the phone service needs to be in your name. Call your local phone company for specific details and/or restrictions.
Centers for Independent Living
Your reader should contact her local center for independent living. CIL's are federally funded community groups that coordinate services for people with disabilities. They can tell her about everything from obtaining a handicapped parking placard or half fare card to putting a ramp on her house to dealing with medicaid. Many of them also spearhead advocacy projects aimed at advancing civil rights for people with disabilities. They have membership meetings, invite speakers, throw parties and generally work very hard to link people up with each other and with whatever services they need.
Dept. of Human Resources
I, too, have just gotten on SSI disability. The help you can get probably depends on the state you live in. In my home state, you can apply for food stamps, and section 8 housing.
There are also special electricity rates, and a telephone discount. If you get section 8 housing, your utilities are included in the rent. I have heard about some help with heating bills, but haven't checked into that yet.
You should contact the Department of Human Resources in your state to get information. You don't know what's available unless you ask. I, for one, am bringing a written list of questions with me when I go to my Food Stamp appointment next month. If they can't answer the questions, maybe they can tell me who can.
Living on that SSI check every month certainly is a challenge.
My 20 Years of Experience
I have 2 mentally disabled grown daughters who have been on SSI and SSD for over 20 years. There are many discounted or FREE programs available to physically and mentally challenged/disabled citizens. Here are some suggestions from my learning process:
Consult with Social Security to see if you qualify for SSD benefits rather than SSI. It may provide increased income.
Check with your County Health agencies for access to home health care, social programs and other assistance they may provide.
Contact the local United Way Help Line to see what free/discounted services your local community might provide.
Call your local bus company to see if you qualify for a free or reduced rate bus pass.
Call your telephone and electric utility companies to apply for a reduced service rate offered to disabled/handicapped citicens.
Contact your State's Vocational Rehabilitation Office to see if you qualify for job training in a limited capacity.
Contact local Temporary Employment agencies. They often hire handicapped people for limited temporary work assignments.
Contact local Social Services Agency to see if you qualify for AFDC, Food Stamps, Health Care or other services.
You Need to Ask
There are several money-saving programs that I know about in my area. Utility companies often have energy assistance programs in the fall to help with winter heating bills. Ask at the local utility company if they have such a program or check with your local public aid office to see if they are aware of that program or any beneficial programs in your area. The telephone companies often waive the initial start-up costs for those on disability or low-income. Some telephone companies have programs to subsidize the basic phone costs so people can afford to have phones for emergencies. Amtrak also offers a discount to riders who show proof of disability. There are even some theatres, restaurants and other places of business that offer discounts. Ask when you conduct business with different places whether they offer discounts. You will be surprised at the places that will give you discounts and save you money. Hope these suggestions help.
S. A., Illinois
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