9 (Mostly) Government Assistance Programs You Didn’t Know Existed

Sometimes life throws us curveballs and we find ourselves in difficult situations. If there’s a little money sitting in the savings account, then handling the problems becomes a little easier. On the other hand, if there are no extra dollars, things can get tough.

Luckily, the federal government is prepared to help keep us on our feet. There are hundreds of programs that provide assistance to millions of citizens, but many of us don’t take advantage of the government benefits that we’re entitled to!

Here are nine mostly government benefits that most of us overlook.



1. Social Security payments to your dependents

Who can benefit: widows/widowers, children, legal dependents of citizens receiving Social Security benefits.

What you receive: money! Dependents can receive monthly payments based on the recipient’s work history

How does it work?

The Social Security Administration allows for the allocation of what are called “survivor benefits.” If a recipient leaves behind a spouse over 62 years old (or disabled and over 50), a spouse caring for one or more children under the age of 16, or children (or stepchildren) under 18, those individuals may be able to collect payments. Additional exceptions may allow for grandchildren or severely crippled children to receive payments or additional benefits. Parents dependent upon a recipient may also be eligible.

Survivor benefits can be quite generous. Each eligible individual may receive a maximum of 50% of the original recipients payments, meaning that payments may be issued in excess of the original total.

If you are divorced from a recipient who passes away, you too may be eligible for survivor benefits. The marriage must have lasted at least a decade. Other restrictions may apply as well.



2. Shoes for diabetics

Who can benefit: diabetics eligible for Medicare Part B.

What you receive: shoes and inserts custom-made for your feet.

How does it work?

Medicare Part B covers most of the bill for shoes that are therapeutic for diabetics. In order to be eligible, you must have significant foot problems (such as calluses, ulcers, poor circulation, etc) and have a doctor advising you about diabetes management.

80% of the cost can be covered. If prescribed therapeutic shoes, a podiatrist (or otherwise licensed specialist) that participates in Medicare will fit the shoes for you.

Unfortunately, this benefit is only covered after the yearly Medicare deductible has been met.

3. Free transportation

Who can benefit: senior citizens and individuals with mobility issues

What you receive: cost-free, roundtrip rides to activities and scheduled appointments.

How does it work?

The federal government funds local agencies that offer transportation to individuals for whom driving or using public transportation is not a particularly good option. These services are referred to as paratransit.

Obtaining a ride may require scheduling an appointment, but the van (or other vehicle) will generally pick you up at your residence, take you where you need to go, and return you to your residence.

Establishing a regular schedule may enable you to more effectively guarantee that a ride will be available to you. If you have questions about paratransit in your community, call or write to your local Agency on Aging.

4. Small business disaster loans

Who can benefit: businesses or non-profit organizations impacted by a disaster.

What you receive: long-term, low-interest loans of up to $2,000,000.

How does it work?

The Small Business Administration (SBA), an agency of the federal government, wants to assist small businesses in getting back on their feet after they have been impacted by a natural disaster.

If your business has been affected by a disaster, an SBA loan can be a huge relief. The loans can be used to repair machinery/equipment, fix or rebuild property, restock your shelves and otherwise ensure that your business can begin operating profitably once again. Generally, improvements which can resist disaster damage in the future are awarded with additional funds.

5. Veteran modifications

Who can benefit: veterans suffering with a disability

What you receive: loans which can be used to modify a car or home, or to purchase a suitably modified car or home.

How does it work?

The Veteran’s Administration (VA) offers a number of services to assist veterans once they return to civilian life. Veterans suffering with a disability related to their service are in particular need of help.

Loans and loan guarantees are offered by the VA to allow veterans to purchase or modify homes and cars. Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants are also available. Those grants can pay for disability-accommodating home modifications. Assistance can be applied to homes or cars not owned by a veteran if they are used by a veteran with a disability.



6. No-cost credit check

Who can benefit: anybody!

What you receive: up to three credit reports, annually.

How does it work?

Helping citizens monitor their credit is beneficial to individuals, communities, states and even the federal government. When people are financially responsible, everyone wins.

For that reason, you are entitled to a free credit check each year from each of the three big credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). That means you can receive three credit reports every twelve months. Keep track of your credit by regularly monitoring your report and flagging any mistakes.

7. Alzheimer’s therapy

Who can benefit: citizens with Alzheimer’s Disease (or similar types of dementia) that are covered by Medicare Part B.

What you receive: a variety of helpful services to help you deal with Alzheimer’s or dementia

How does it work?

Therapy can be hugely beneficial to those suffering with memory loss. A variety of services including speech, occupational and outpatient physical therapy can be covered. In order to be eligible for Medicare coverage, a doctor must prescribe the necessary treatments and the selected therapist must accept Medicare. Alzheimer’s patients are exempt from standard psychological services restrictions.

Do you have Medicare Part C coverage? If so, you may be eligible for even more benefits!

8. Veteran burial benefits

Who can benefit: veterans (approved by the VA)

What you receive: a grave site and headstone to adorn it. Additional burial allowances are sometimes allocated.

How does it work?

Veterans are already eligible to be buried any one of the nation’s 131 national cemeteries. They are also eligible to be buried in the state cemetery of their residence. A veteran’s spouse and children are extended that same right.

National and state cemeteries do not charge for the gravesite. The government-issued headstone is free as well. Funerals and/or cremation costs will not be covered.

If a veteran prefers burial in a private cemetery, certain benefits still exist. The government-issued headstone and burial flag will still be available free of charge. Certain veterans may receive a funeral and/or burial allowance.

The VA will pay as much as $2,000 for veterans who die of service-related injuries. Even if a veteran does not die of service-related injuries, the VA may pay for transportation to a national cemetery, burial expenses and/or a burial plot. To learn more about the different types of death benefits available to veterans, contact the VA.

9. Household assistance

Who can benefit: citizens who are disabled or at least 60 years old.

What you receive: affordable (or free) home and yard maintenance.

How does it work?

The federal government provides funding to state and local Agencies on Aging. Those funds are used to provide a wide array of services to senior citizens.

In accordance with the Older Americans Act, a large number of Agencies on Aging offer household assistance. Seasonal cleaning, yard work and basic home repairs may all be available to you. If you need pest control services or assistance moving from one home to another, you may also find help at your local Agency on Aging.

Not every Agency on Aging will offer these services without charge, but the costs – if there are any – usually fall far below the competitive market price. Some agencies may require an upfront payment that is good for repeated service. To learn the ins and outs of the services available to you, contact your nearest Agency of Aging.