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One in three Americans aged 65+ is economically insecure—lacking the resources needed to meet basic food, housing, and medical needs. Millions of financially vulnerable seniors and adults with disabilities qualify for—but are not yet enrolled in—programs that could help them pay for prescription drugs, medical care, food, or heat for their homes.

How Benefits Help

  • The Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS, or Extra Help) helps people with limited incomes and resources pay for their Medicare prescription drug costs.
  • Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) help beneficiaries afford Medicare premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments for their inpatient and outpatient health care.
  • Medicaid pays for a broad range of medical services for poor seniors, younger adults living with disabilities, and children and their family caregivers.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the primary income support program for the poorest aged, blind, or disabled Americans who have either no other income or very low income and resources.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) provides credits on electronic cards that enable recipients to buy nutritious food at participating stores.
  • The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides grants to states to assist qualified individuals with their home heating and cooling costs. As long as the state funds last, the program ensures that low-income people do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and buying food or other basic necessities.

Low Enrollment in Core Benefits

  • Nationally, more than 1.7 million individuals who are eligible for LIS are not enrolled in the program. (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 2011)
  • Older adults historically have had the lowest participation rates in SNAP. Just over 1 in 3 people aged 60+ who were eligible to receive food assistance actually participated in the program in 2010, the last year for which data is available. (USDA Economic Research Service, December 2013)

The Value of Benefits

  • The national average SNAP benefit for an elderly recipient living alone is $119 per month. (USDA Food & Nutrition Service, 2013)
  • The average monthly SSI payment in Nov. 2014 for those aged 65+ was $425.23. (Social Security Administration)
  • The value of the Medicare Extra Help prescription drug subsidy is estimated at $4,000 per year. (SSA)

NCOA’s Role

NCOA offers several programs designed to make it easier for eligible individuals to find and apply for benefits to improve their lives.

Center for Benefits Access

NCOA’s Center for Benefits Access helps community-based organizations find and enroll seniors and younger adults with disabilities with limited means into benefits programs for which they are eligible, so they can remain healthy, secure, and independent. Funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Administration for Community Living, the center accomplishes its mission by:

  • Providing tools, resources, and technology that help local, state, and regional organizations find, counsel, and assist seniors and younger adults with disabilities in applying for and enrolling in the benefits for which they may be eligible.
  • Generating and disseminating new knowledge about best practices and cost-effective strategies for benefits outreach and enrollment.
  • Establishing Benefits Enrollment Centers and supporting Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) grantees to provide person-centered assistance to get the right benefits to vulnerable seniors and adults living with disabilities who qualify.


NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® is the nation’s most comprehensive free, online service to screen seniors with limited income for benefits. It includes more than 2,000 public and private benefits programs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 4 million people have used BenefitsCheckUp® to identify benefits valued at nearly $15 billion to help them pay for medicine, food, health care, rent, utilities, and other daily needs.