April 5, 2024

The 6 Most Overlooked Government Benefits for Seniors

Written By
Suzanne Boutilier

Key Notes:

  • Family caregivers often aren’t aware of the range of valuable benefits available to aging family members
  • State programs can help cover Medicare premiums
  • Medicare recipients with diabetes receive an allowance for therapeutic shoes
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Caring for an aging parent or relative can come with serious challenges, not the least of which are financial in nature. On average, family caregivers spend $7,200/year caring for a parent or older adult in our family. That’s a $600 bite taken out of our monthly income, assuming we still have a monthly income—many of us have had to leave our jobs to provide long-term care.

Fortunately, many government programs are designed specifically to provide financial assistance to older adults who need additional support. Despite the various federal, state, and local support sources, many family caregivers don’t take advantage of these benefits, simply because we don’t know they exist.

Six of the most overlooked government benefits for older adults that may make caregiving just a little bit easier are:


1. Money for Veterans to Modify their Caregiver’s Home

2. Utility Bill Assistance

3. Help With Medicare Premiums

4. Help With Chores and Errands

5. Shoe Allowance for Older Adults with Diabetes

6. Subsidized Housing

Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail. 

1.  Money for Veterans to Modify their Caregiver’s Home

If the family member we’re caring for is a retired service member with service-connected disabilities, and they live in our home, we may be eligible to receive a Temporary Residence Adaptation grant. These grants can cover modifications like adding ramps and grab bars, widening doorways, installing accessible bathroom fixtures, and more.

Home modifications for aging in place

What is it?

  • Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grants are offered by the Veterans Administration (VA) to improve accessibility for a family caregiver’s home. 
  • The maximum TRA grant amount is $47,130.

Who’s eligible?

  • Veterans who live in the home of a caregiver.
  • The caregiver’s home does not meet the veteran’s accessibility needs.
  • The veteran must have certain severe, service-connected disabilities that would make them eligible for a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant to improve accessibility for their own home, if they lived in their own home.

How do we apply?

For information on VA programs that pay family caregivers, read our article, Four Ways to Get Paid as a Family Caregiver.

2. Utility Bill Assistance

Utilities can be a significant caregiver expense, especially for those of us who live in more extreme climates. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can help people with limited income pay their energy bills. 

What is it?

  • LIHEAP provides bill payment assistance for energy/utilities.
  • If we qualify, we can get funding for weatherization of our home.
  • Recipients may receive money for energy-related repairs.
  • In some cases, grants to offset the cost of solar panel installation are available.

Who’s eligible?

  • To qualify for LIHEAP, we need to have an income under the established limit for our household size. 
  • If we’re currently receiving benefits from other government programs for low-income individuals—including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—we may be eligible automatically.
  • This table from the LIHEAP page on the benefits.gov website shows the maximum income level allowed by household size in order to qualify for this benefit.
Annual Household Income Limits for Utility Bill Assistance

How do we apply?

  • For information on where and how to apply, contact the National Energy Assistance Referral program by calling 1-866-674-6327, or by emailing energy@ncat.org.

3. Help With Medicare Premiums

Low-income seniors may not be aware that they qualify for help paying their Medicare Parts A and B premiums. These four federal programs can result in significant savings throughout the year.

What is it?

  • Medicare Savings Programs can pay Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B premiums.
  • In some cases, they can also cover out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance. 

Who’s eligible?

  • Eligibility is determined by each state’s Medicaid program.
  • Each state sets an income limit to qualify for the benefit.

How do we apply?

4. Help With Chores and Errands

Thanks to the Older Americans Act (OAA), older adults who need assistance keeping up with household responsibilities may be able to get free or discounted outside help. This could free up family caregivers’ time by taking a few things off our To Do list every week.

Groceries Benefits

What is it?

  • The OAA provides benefits for homemaking services, which include chores and grocery shopping. 

Who’s eligible?

  • The applicant must be 60 or older.
  • While there’s no income limit federally, this benefit is administered by individual states, so there may be additional requirements.

How do we apply?

  • Contact the agency that administers elder care services in your state for more information on how to apply. Click here for a directory of state elder care agencies.

5. Shoe Allowance for Older Adults with Diabetes

Medicare will help pay for therapeutic shoes for aging adults with diabetes. 

What is it?

  • Medicare covers 80% of the cost of custom shoes and inserts for enrollees with diabetes.
  • Annual coverage includes one pair of custom-molded shoes and inserts OR one pair of extra-depth shoes.
  • Coverage also includes two to three additional pairs of inserts per calendar year.

Who’s eligible?

To qualify, our family member must be enrolled in a Medicare plan, must be receiving treatment through the plan, and must have at least three of the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Foot deformity
  • Nerve damage caused by diabetes
  • Foot ulcers
  • Amputation of foot
  • Poor circulation

To use this benefit, they must have a prescription for the shoes from their doctor.

How do we apply?

  • Check the durable medical equipment (DME) section of their coverage to find out their benefits, or call the phone number on their insurance card for more information on their coverage.

6.  Subsidized Housing

Most people have heard of Section 8 vouchers for housing assistance, but few family caregivers know the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also has a Section 202 subsidy program for senior housing assistance. 

What is it? 

  • Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly is specifically designated for low-income senior citizens.
  • Eligible properties are usually apartment complexes with supportive community features like cleaning, cooking, and transportation.
  • These properties are designed with older adults in mind, so the buildings have accessibility elements like grab bars, ramps, and elevators.

Who’s eligible?

  • Households with at least one person age 62 or older.
  • No citizenship requirement.
  • Households must make less than 50% of the Area Median Income for the area to which our older family member is applying.

How do we apply?

This application process can be lengthy, but if taken one step at a time, it’s doable. And worth it. 

  1. Find a Section 202 home where our family member would like to live.
  2. Start working with the landlord or property owner to apply for a grant.
  3. Ask the landlord or property owner for an estimated waitlist time. Multi-year waitlists aren’t uncommon. 
  4. Receive approval for the grant. Approval for these grants takes into account individual circumstances. Priority goes to applicants who:
  • are being forced to move from their existing housing;
  • live in substandard conditions; or
  • are currently spending more than 50% of their income on rent.

Information and help finding Section 202 homes available in our area can be provided by our local HUD agency.

It’s Easier to Accept Help When We Know Where to Find It

There’s so much to think about when we’re shouldering responsibility for an aging family member’s care that there can be little time left to learn about the financial support available to us. But knowing how to find that support can make an enormous impact. By tapping into these overlooked benefits, we can maximize the level of care our loved one receives, and reduce our out-of-pocket caregiver expenses.

At RubyWell, we’re paving a path to financial stability for all family caregivers. Our prescription savings tool is already helping families save up to 80% on prescription costs. And soon, family caregivers will be able to maximize Medicare Advantage supplemental benefits with our MA Benefits Navigator. Ultimately, we're developing compensation solutions so that every family caregiver will be a paid caregiver.  

Was this story helpful for you? Share it with family or friends who are caring for an older family member who could benefit from some of these government assistance programs.

Reviewed By
Suzanne Boutilier

Suzanne Boutilier has been working and writing in the caregiving space since 2021. She also helps her sisters care for their aging father.

Reviewed By
Elyse Dasko

Elyse Dasko is a leading communications strategist in age tech, caregiving and the longevity market.