Welfare Benefits for Older People

Welfare Benefits for Older People
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Some older people retire from the workforce with good pensions or other retirement benefits and plenty of savings to get them through their golden years. Others qualify for limited benefits or no retirement benefits and struggle just to make ends meet. Together, state and federal governments offer welfare benefits to help older people in need. You must apply for welfare benefits; older people do not automatically qualify. When you apply, you will need to provide proof of all household income and any resources you have, such as bank accounts.

Supplemental Security Income

A federal program administered by the Social Security Administration, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides monthly payments to some people ages 65 and over with low incomes and limited resources. The amount of SSI you receive is based on income; the maximum benefit amount in 2010 was $674 per month from the Social Security Administration. Some states add additional money to SSI benefits. Call 800-772-1213 or visit the nearest Social Security Administration office (see Resources) to apply.


Administered by each state, Medicaid provides health insurance coverage to elderly people with low incomes and limited resources. Covered medical services vary somewhat from state to state but usually include hospitalization, emergency room treatment, outpatient treatment at doctors’ offices or clinics, medical tests, physical therapy, home health care and prescription medications. Older people who receive Medicare can also receive Medicaid provided they meet the eligibility criteria in their states. Apply for Medicaid at the welfare office in the county in which you live, unless you receive Supplemental Security Income; in some states, SSI recipients must apply for Medicaid at the local Social Security Administration office (see Resources).

Food Stamps

The food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a locally administered program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Older people with low incomes may qualify for benefits to help them purchase groceries. Those eligible for food stamps can use them at many different grocery stores to purchase many different food products. Apply for food stamps in the county in which you live; the name of the agency that administers the program varies from state to state.

Public Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides federal funds to local public housing agencies that offer affordable housing for older people with low incomes. Rent is based on family size and family income. Income limits vary from location to location. Apply at your local public housing agency (see Resources).