You may have made it through your entire working years without ever needing to qualify for government assistance of any kind. In fact, you likely took pride in the fact that you never needed to rely on government benefits to support you or your family while you were able to work. As you near your retirement years, however, that may change. Almost all seniors count on receiving Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare and over half of them eventually realize the need to qualify for Medicaid as well. Moreover, if you and/or your spouse are a veteran you may also be entitled to a wide variety of veteran’s benefits geared toward seniors. While some of these programs are entitlement programs, others are “need based,” meaning you must meet eligibility criteria to qualify for benefits. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to consider whether you will qualify for government benefits in St. Louis as a senior because in order to ensure your eligibility you may need to make some adjustments to your overall estate plan.
What Government Benefits Are Available?
There are a wide variety of government assistance and benefit programs that you may qualify for as a senior; however, some of the more common benefit programs include:
- Social Security Retirement – a federal benefit for people who have worked and paid into the retirement system, or who are eligible based on the work record of a spouse. Provides a monthly monetary benefit.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income. SSI provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
- Medicare – a federal health insurance program that offers basic and extended coverage. Most people over age 65 are eligible as long as they worked at least ten years in Medicare-covered employment.
- Medicaid – a federally funded (primarily), but state administered, health insurance program for low income individuals and families as well as the disabled and aged.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formally referred to as “Food Stamps”, the SNAP program is a federally funded, but state administered, program that provides a monthly benefit amount with which a recipient can purchase food.
- VA benefits – veteran’s benefits may include things such as pension, health care coverage, and home loans among a variety of other benefits. You may be eligible if you are a veteran yourself or you are a surviving spouse or dependent of a veteran.
How Do You Qualify for Government Benefits in St. Louis?
Eligibility for government benefits in St. Louis depends on the program. In general, government benefits can be divided into two broad categories – “entitlement” programs and “need based” programs. Entitlement programs provide benefits to you without regard to your income and/or assets simply because you are “entitled” to the benefits. Examples of entitlement programs include Social Security retirement benefits, Medicare, and some VA benefits. “Need based” programs include SSI, Medicaid, and SNAP benefits.
Qualifying for an entitlement program is typically much simpler than qualifying for a needs based program. For example, you will automatically qualify for Social Security retirement and Medicare when you reach retirement age as long as you paid into the programs during your working years. The amount of your monthly Social Security benefit will be determined by how much you paid into the program; however, your income and/or assets at the time you apply are not relevant.
Qualifying for benefits from a needs based programs is more complicated because eligibility typically depends on your income and/or assets. In order to qualify for SSI, for instance, you must meet the definition of “disabled” and have income and assets that fall below the program limits. Likewise, to qualify for Medicaid and/or SNAP you must be considered “low income” and the value of your “countable resources” cannot exceed the program limit.
Anticipating the Need to Qualify for Government Benefits in St. Louis
Even if you have never needed government benefits in your life, you may need them during your “Golden Years.” Over half of all seniors, for example, eventually need to rely on Medicaid to help cover the high cost of long-term care. You could also find yourself in a position where you need to qualify for additional veteran’s benefits, such as Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefits, as your physical health deteriorates. Because many of these programs take the value of your estate assets into consideration, it is wise to start planning ahead to ensure that those assets do not prevent your eligibility for benefits when the time comes that you need them. Be sure to consult with your St. Louis estate planning attorney about reviewing and revising your estate plan to anticipate the need to qualify for government benefits during your retirement years.
For more information, please join us for one of our upcoming FREE seminars. If you have additional questions or concerns about government benefits in St. Louis, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.