If your disability makes it difficult, or impossible, to work: there’s help. Many government programs, nonprofits and clinics are designed to be a financial and social safety net when you need it most.
Finding that help, however, can be a challenge. When you aren’t sure where to turn, sifting through websites and sitting on hold is overwhelming.
Here’s a list of some of the best resources — housing, medical care, food security, and legal aid — available to adults with disabilities in the US. If you’re applying for disability benefits, and are wondering what to do while you wait, these national and local programs are a great place to start.
Findhelp is a social care network that connects people in need to a myriad of local services. Just plug in your area code, and you'll be able to browse thousands of nearby programs. These programs range from food assistance, housing assistance, transit help, healthcare, direct financial assistance, care, legal and more.You can also create an account to save programs to your "favorites," contact programs directly, and take notes about different organizations you’ve contacted.
Website: Find Help By Your Zip Code
211 is a helpline run by United Way. They primarily help with food, housing, and financial insecurity — but also have resources for disaster recovery, mental healthcare, and addiction treatment. The best way to reach them is to call 211, but you can also browse resources from your local 211 chapter online.
Website: Find Local 211 Resources Phone Number: 211
Benefits.gov has a questionnaire that assesses your eligibility for all the available federal benefit programs. It takes awhile to fill out (the website estimates 10-30 minutes), and you'll be asked basic questions about your income, household structure, education, health, military background, and employment history. If you can spare the time, it's well worth it to gather your paperwork and complete the intake from start to finish. People are often surprised by the sources of aid they're entitled to.
Website: Benefits Finder
Atticus helps people in a crisis get the aid they’re entitled to. We give free legal advice, and have helped thousands with their disability, workers’ compensation, and personal injury cases. We can also match you with a lawyer for your disability case, vetted and selected from the top 5% of firms. To get started, use our 2-minute intake quiz to learn what benefits you qualify for. Our services are always free.
Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems are federally funded and serve every state. If you're experiencing abuse, neglect, or discrimination, due to your disability — or have a complaint about ADA compliance, assistive technology, or voting access — they can help. Generally their services include referrals to other organizations and occasionally legal action.
Website: Find your local P&A
Health centers are federally funded providers of primary and preventative care. They offer support regardless of your ability to pay. Health centers also integrate access to pharmacies, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and oral health services. Some centers are specifically resourced to support special populations — like those experiencing homelessness, migratory and seasonal workers, or residents of public housing.
You can find the HRSA health center nearest to you using their search tool.
Website: Find a Health Center
Similar to HRSAs, the National Association of Free and Charitable clinics helps provide essential medical, dental, pharmaceutical, vision and behavioral health services to those in need. They are not federally funded, and instead function on a nonprofit model. They also have a database where you can find free or low-cost clinics near you.
Website: Find a Clinic
While Medicaid is funded federally, it’s administered locally. This makes it difficult to give general advice about Medicaid qualifications (although, if you’re approved for SSI benefits, you should be qualified automatically). Medicaid.gov does have a full list of resources each state — including their eligibility requirements, contact information, and enrollment process.
Website: Medicaid Resources by State
SAMSA helps those who need affordable access to mental healthcare or addiction treatment. While they mostly fund programs at the local level, and work on broader public health initiatives, they offer a wealth of resources for finding care. Their database at Findtreatment.gov helps you locate clinics in your area. You can filter to specifically search sliding scale or no-cost centers.
Website (Behavioral Health Services Finder): Findtreatment.gov Website: Mental Health and Addiction Services Resources Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Phone Number: 988
NAMI is another nationwide organization helping Americans find mental health treatment. They have a helpline peer-support service that provides information, resource referral, and support to people living with a mental health condition. Website: Nami.org NAMI Helpline (Text): 62640 NAMI Helpline (Call): 800-950-NAMI (6264).
People with disabilities qualify for all the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs. This includes:
People with disabilities may also qualify for Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) vouchers. This may allow you to get housing in a development set aside from seniors — which could improve your access to care.
The HUD housing tool allows you to find subsidized housing in your area. You can filter units by those specializing in help for elderly and special need tenants. You can also find your local HUD office and Homelessness resources.
Navigating the myriad of HUD resources can be difficult. It’s generally best to contact your state HUD office, where they can walk you through your options.
Website: Find your local HUD office Website: Find a HUD-approved housing counselor Call: 1-800-569-4287
If you need more assistance to live on your own, federally funded Centers for Independent Living can provide support. These programs work to provide attendant services, counseling, skills training, and community integration. Many can also help secure housing, transit, counseling, or physical therapy. Each region has its own CIL offices and programs.
Website: Independent Living Centers in Your State
If you already have housing, but are at risk of losing it — an emergency rental assistance program could help provide some release. To qualify you need to prove financial hardship, have a household minimum below a certain amount (depending on where you live), and be at risk for lacking a stable place to live. Rental assistance programs often operate on the county level, and you should contact your local county office.
Website: Find your rental assistance program
LIHEAP helps residents bring down their heating and cooling energy costs, pay their bills, weatherize their home, and get help with home repairs. You qualify for this program based on financial need, and may automatically qualify if you receive SNAP, SSI, TANF or other benefits.
Website: Find your local LIHEAP office
SNAP, colloquially called “food stamps,” supplements your food budget and the benefit amount is based on your household size. The maximum for a family of four is $835, and the maximum for single person households is $250. If you're already receiving SSI benefits, you could be automatically eligible for SNAP because you’ve been determined eligible for another means-tested program. Non-disabled households have work requirements to receive SNAP benefits, but those who are elderly or disabled are exempt from this requirement. To get started with SNAP benefits, you should contact your state office.
Website: Find your local SNAP office
Meals on Wheels is specifically for elderly people with limited mobility. The exact qualifications vary by state, but generally you qualify if you’re 60 or older. Meals are offered on a sliding scale — and no one is turned away because of their inability to pay. To get started with most programs you submit an application.
Website: Find your local Meals on Wheels program
Feeding America supports a national network of food banks and food pantries. They can also help with SNAP applications, have drive-thru pantry options, and provide seniors with free meals. You can find your local partner pantry with their food bank search tool.
Website: Find your local food bank
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