What to do when your monthly Social Security check isn’t enough

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As the cost of everyday goods rises, retirees living on fixed incomes are likely feeling especially squeezed.

The recent cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security checks of about 6% this year isn’t enough to protect a lot of food and energy, including gasoline, with prices seeing their biggest increase since decades.

Many recipients derive most or all of their income from the monthly benefit, which averaged $1,555 in June 2021, according to the Social Security Administration.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources retirees worried about paying their bills in the face of inflation can turn to. Here are a few.

Health insurance and medication cost assistance

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High health insurance and prescription costs can take a toll on retirees’ incomes.

Some may be eligible for help with their monthly premiums through the Medicare Savings Program, said Caitlin Donovan, spokeswoman for the National Patient Advocate Foundation, a nonprofit that helps patients access care. of health and to pay for them.

“If you qualify, your premiums, deductibles and copayments will be covered, which would be a huge financial relief for anyone,” Donovan said.

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Additionally, those enrolled in Medicare Part D, which covers prescriptions, should check to see if they qualify for additional help. This program can reduce your drug costs. The benefit can be worth more than $5,000 a year, Donovan said.

There are also a number of charities that help seniors with their health care costs. For example, at Copays.org, you can request funds for copays, premiums, deductibles, and over-the-counter medications.

The National Patient Advocate Foundation has a directory of financial resources where you can search for local help with everything from dental care to end-of-life services.

Food benefits

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Many older people are not taking advantage of all the food aid available to them, experts say. A 2015 study, for example, found that less than half of eligible seniors participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the program and a lot of stigma, and unfortunately that’s stopping people from asking for help,” said Josh Protas, vice president of MAZON: A Jewish Answer to Hunger.

The extra money, however, can be very useful for retirees on fixed incomes. The maximum benefit per month for a one-person household is $250. Grocery stores, online retailers and farmers markets are accepting the funds.

SNAP has rules on how much you can own in assets and earn income to get the help, and Social Security checks count. Still, some expenses, including your rent and childcare costs, can be deducted, and experts say anyone who suspects they qualify should apply.

The US Department of Agriculture also has the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, under which certain low-income people over the age of 60 are entitled to a monthly food parcel containing fruits, vegetables, cheeses and more.

Meanwhile, retirees covered by a Medicaid health plan may qualify for free food through Mom’s Meals. Some Medicare Advantage health plans also offer meal benefits under the program for people recently discharged from hospital or with chronic illnesses.

Meals are usually delivered every two to three weeks and include dishes like Salisbury steak, pasta and meatballs, and sweet and sour chicken. People can tell the program about any allergies and they accommodate diets suitable for vegetarians as well as people with certain conditions like cancer or diabetes.

A spokesperson for Mom’s Meals recommended seniors who think they might qualify for free meals contact a Medicaid or Medicare representative.

Other options…

Although you must be on an extremely low income to qualify, some retirees will qualify for the Supplemental Security Income program, a means-tested program for people over 65 or with disabilities.

As of December 2021, more than 2.5 million people were receiving both Social Security and the supplemental payment, which can reach $841 per month for an individual. You can apply on the Social Security Administration website or by calling 1-800-325-0778.

For more help, the National Council on Aging has a “Benefits Check” website where you can learn about over 2,000 resources available for struggling seniors by zip code.

The council also has a guide called You Gave, Now Save, including information on the most generous benefits that help seniors with expenses such as their phone bill and property taxes.

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