In the United States like elsewhere in the world, people experiencing any form of disability, including old age, have to face many challenges obstacle in their daily lives; those could be from higher rates of unemployment to lower incomes and costly medicinal costs. The disabled and elderly persons from lower-income groups of the society are considered to be the most vulnerable individuals, and their families, the poorest of the poor.
Challenges Faced By the Elderly and Disabled
Food insecurity also excessively adds distress to this group. Statistics reveal that a decade ago, the food insecurity rate among families with disabled members was around 33 percent which is almost 3 times higher than the households from the same income group with no elderly or persons experiencing any form of disability, which was estimated to 12 percent. The condition of food insecurity would have been worse had not Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) been supporting around 5 million households with having at least 1 disabled person. This constitutes 20 % of the total household offered this vital food assistance program by the federal government for decades.
The fact remains that this program could not offer food security to a sizeable portion of households with disabled and elderly people. This demonstrates that a lot has yet to be done and there is a need to increase efficiency in administering the program at State level and increasing the budget allocation at, the Federal level.
How SNAP Becomes Relevant
- SNAP serves vital support to those who otherwise likely to face abject food insecurity and more prone to chronic conditions resulting in worsening of the existing affliction of old age or disability.
- There can be millions for who access to access to nutritious food is nearly impossible without this food assistance program. A nutritious diet is a key factor of good health for all citizens but eating nutritiously for those with medical or physical limitations is critical for their survival. Extending food assistance to, the disabled and elderly Americans is a matter of equity and justness of the US government.
- There are inherent barriers in the system that also hinders the participation of such Americans when it comes to obtaining benefits from opportunities and resources in the range of Healthy and able-bodied Americans. SNAP alone cannot solve all of their problems but it can highlight the need to remove the barriers on their way of benefiting from available services.
- With growing poverty and resultant food insecurity, SNAP plays a crucial role in helping very senior and poorest disabled Americans meet their dietary needs. Working-age disabled adults are also a group in desperate need of some kind of food assistance who does not fall in any category of most of the other federal nutrition programs, that offer assistance to seniors or children. The elderly with disabilities had access to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the disabled children had been offered lunch and breakfast in school. For working-age adults from the lower-income segment of society, SNAP is the only source of food assistance.
- SNAP support sometimes facilitates access to other federally funded assistance programs offered to the household with disabled members. It works as the access point to other benefits does not guarantee those supportive services but introduces such families other services available to them and streamlines their applications. For example, SSI & SSDI are two federal programs to address the needs of disabled people and are managed by the Social Security Administration. Both these programs just partially address the specific needs of one a selected group and their benefits are so little.
- On the other hand, there are special rules and priority clauses for the households that have people with disabilities and they can get the maximum benefit of the program. SNAP does not count the benefits received under SSI.
- Such families are recommended for the entitlement of a higher resource limit without meeting the gross income test, which is exempted.
- Households with all members receiving SSI are automatically considered eligible for SNAP.
- Families with such persons are not limited in the amount to excess shelter costs it can deduct from family’s income calculated to ascertain eligibility.
- An unemployed SNAP beneficiary with a disability is exempted from time limits imposed on common recipients is not needed to register for work.
- There is a special provision in the SNAP rules that the elderly and people with a medical condition on SNAP benefits also have the opportunity to deduct out of pocket medical expenses above $35 a month.
- Senior and handicapped SNAP participants are also offered the facility to apply online as compared to general applicants in addition to the leniency of using authorized representatives to apply for benefits on their behalf.
The experts have highlighted the strategies that could greatly improve the provision of services to the target group:
- By providing information and application assistance to them in partnership with organizations already serving people with disabilities.
- SNAP administration should use the available special rules to help elderly and handicapped people receive benefits for longer periods or recommend legislation where required.
- Simplifying the process by considering out of pocket medical bills of this group.
- To enhance the coordination between different assistance programs for example between Social Security Assistance and SNAP agency to make such individuals automatically eligible for other programs.
- By allowing senior and disabled recipients to buy meals at sanctioned restaurants offering discounts.