80 Years Of Assistance For Seniors
If you’re a senior, you no doubt have already taken advantage of two of the three social programs enacted by our federal government to help the country’s elderly population to live out their silver years in relative security.
In fact, security is so important to the welfare of seniors that the law governing two of these three programs titled them the Social Security Act and the US Housing Act.
Collectively these programs aid seniors in the three essential life sustaining areas of income replacement during retirement, medical insurance and housing shelter. Let’s take a look at how they impact you.
The Social Security Act
The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935.
In addition to several provisions for general welfare, the new Act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement.
In today’s society, what senior would refuse to accept that monthly social security check? No one!
We have come to see this benefit as simply re-payment for all the years that we’ve paid into the program. It’s not considered welfare even though the amount we are expected to withdraw during our remaining years is far greater than the amount we’ve personally contributed during our working years.
It was a deal that the people made with the government in 1935 and we fully expect the government to uphold their end of the deal!
Medicare For Seniors
Nearly 30 years after the Social Security Act was signed by President Roosevelt, Medicare was established.
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill that strengthened the Social Security Act with a new social insurance program which extended health coverage to nearly all Americans age 65 or older. Former President Truman was in attendance and received the very first Medicare card at the ceremony.
The Medicare program meant that every senior in America could be assured of the best medical care available regardless of wealth or social status.
Considering the fact that Medicare is a result of the bargain we made under the Social Security Act, who in their right mind would refuse to take advantage of this program?
Sadly, many seniors are not fully aware that this assistance program is provided to them by the Federal Government. This was demonstrated in 2009 by a protester at a campaign rally beseeching the candidate to “keep the government’s hands off of his Medicare!”
How do you break the news to this uninformed voter that he’s the beneficiary of the very thing he’s fighting to restrict?
The simple answer is that you don’t….
Some people are just too closed-minded to learn the truth….
The Housing Choice Voucher Program
The 3rd program is one that you probably haven’t thought to take advantage of….
In 1975, the federal Section 8 program began as a way to provide assistance to low-income families, elderly people, and people with disabilities to rent decent, safe, and affordable housing in the community.
Through this program, individuals and families receive a “voucher” — also referred to as a “subsidy” — that can be used in housing of their choice that meets the Section 8 program requirements. These subsidies are long-term and considered permanent housing.
A federal housing law passed in 1998 gave the program a new name — the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP).
The HCVP Is Distributed By The Public Housing Authority
While the HCV program is funded by the federal government through HUD (Housing and Urban Development), it is administered, distributed and managed at the local level via an office known as the Public Housing Authority or PHA.
These local offices are given a specific number of vouchers to distribute regardless of the number of qualified potential recipients in its geographical area…. and that’s the catch 22.
The Welfare Stigma
Many seniors have refused to even consider this option because they see it as welfare, which in fact it is. However it’s no more so than the other two programs I’ve outlined.
The only real difference between the HCVP and the other programs (SSA and Medicare) is that the others are “entitlements” and therefore everyone is entitled to receive the social benefits.
The Housing Choice Voucher is Not An Entitlement.
In fact, you must be eligible to qualify and even that doesn’t guarantee receiving benefits.
If all three are social programs equally paid for by the collection of your taxes (meaning you’ve paid in to the program just like SSA and Medicare), why would you refuse the benefits?
Unlike the SSA programs which are not needs-based, the HCVP is reserved for those truly in need of housing assistance. The HCVP has a specific budget authorized by congress each year.
The budget is much smaller than the expenditure that would be needed to provide assistance to all that qualify.
There Are HCV Waiting Lists In Every Area
Due to the fact that the budget is unable to assist everyone that qualifies, a waiting list is created in each area.
Being placed on these waiting lists can potentially mean years of waiting before being accepted.
In fact, below is an actual clip from the Palm Beach County, Florida PHA:
“The Palm Beach County Housing Authority is not currently processing any new HCV applications. The Housing Choice Voucher program waiting list is currently closed. The Wait list for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program was opened for applications on September 8th 2011, and was closed on Thursday, September 22, 2011. The WPBHA received 18,804 applications and via a lottery, placed 5000 applicants on this Wait list. Currently the WPBHA administers a combined total of approximately 3,200 Housing Choice Vouchers which includes 300 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Vouchers.”
Of 3.9 million very low-income renter households aged 62 and over who were eligible for rental housing assistance in 2011, just 1.4 million (36 percent) were able to secure this aid.
How To Qualify For Housing Assistance
The formula for qualifying for the HCV program can sound confusing but it’s really pretty simple.
There are three categories of “adjusted gross income” which determine if you qualify to apply.
They are “Low Income”, “Very Low Income”, and “Extremely Low Income”:
- Low Income is equal to 80% of the median income for the area.
- Very Low Income is equal to 50% of the median income for the area.
- Extremely Low Income is equal to 30% of the median income for the area.
All of that sounds reasonable, but in reality the majority of the voucher (70%) must go to those in the very low income category.
So if you live in Palm Beach County FL, where the median house hold income is $76,000, you need to be earning about $24,000 per year or less to qualify.
Why You Haven’t Heard Much About The Housing Choice Voucher
Perhaps the reason that you don’t know more about how HCVP can benefit you is because no one is incentivized to tell you about it.
No one gets paid a commission for helping you investigate the program. In fact, it’s actually a felony to charge a fee to help someone fill out the application and this is why the program goes under subscribed.
Compare that to the case of programs such as SSA Medicare and HUD sponsored HECM reverse mortgage loans.
There are plenty of people available to answer your questions, help you apply and even follow up to make sure that you receive the benefits that you’ve applied for.
That’s because these programs are promoted via “for profit private companies” with agents who make a commission for helping you.
On the other hand, attempting to gain information through a PHA is very much like going to the DMV.
These are “nonprofit” public service institutions that have absolutely no financial incentive to help you.
The term, “it all pays the same per hour” is very much a part of the culture in these organizations.
As if that didn’t make it difficult enough, it’s actually a federal offense for anyone to actually charge a fee for helping you fill out the paper work or advise you on the process.
This lack of financial incentive for agents is the main reason no one is there to help you.
Having said this, there are two places to get some aid in understanding both options available to you and what you need to do if you’d like to pursue assistance.
Here are two that I would recommend looking into:
HUD Approved Counseling Agencies
HUD sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country that can provide advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues.
The website can be located at: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/information_for_senior_citizens.
The National Housing Law Project (NHLP)
The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) is a nonprofit national housing and legal advocacy center established in 1968. Their website is: https://www.nhlp.org/
Today it’s estimated that over 3.6 million seniors would qualify for assistance while only 1.4 million are actually receiving the benefits. That is a travesty in my eyes and something I feel passionately about changing.
For more facts on how you might qualify and benefit from housing choice voucher program call us at 800-407-5696 or click the picture below