If you’ve ever been completely overwhelmed just by looking at a pages-long application for benefits, you’ve probably wondered where you could get help applying for benefits. After all, the low income assistance programs we report on often have long applications that require you to gather a lot of paperwork. It can be completely overwhelming!
In his best-selling book Poverty by America, Matthew Desmond concluded that ““The bulk of the evidence indicates that low income Americans are not taking advantage of government programs… (because) we’ve made it hard and confusing.”
He’s not wrong about that. I’ve been running Low Income Relief for over 10 years and I’ve heard from countless people who have given up the fight because it was just too confusing. After all, by the time you’re disabled enough to qualify for benefits, you’re not going to feel well enough to battle the bureaucracies to get the benefits you deserve.
That’s why it’s so important to know where you can go to get help applying for benefits. There are many nonprofits, government organizations, churches and charities that can help you apply for SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, LIHEAP, VA Benefits, Social Security and other low income assistance programs.
Where to Get Help Applying for Benefits
The organizations on this list may be able to help you complete the paperwork for a wide variety of programs. Some organizations will only specialize in helping with certain applications, but they may be able to refer you to additional resources.
When you contact these organizations, it’s helpful to ask for a social worker, case manager, advocate, or volunteer who can assist you with paperwork.
Community Action Agencies
There are over 1,000 Community Action organizations around the United States, and all of them share the same goal: to help alleviate poverty across the country.
Your local Community Action organization is usually the place you’ll need to go if you want to apply for LIHEAP or Weatherization Assistance Programs. As the administering office, they can definitely help you with those applications.
However, many Community Action agencies will be able to assist you with other applications as well. As an organization dedicated to helping to solve poverty, they are knowledgeable with the low income programs in your area and should be able to help you.
Area Agency on Aging
If you are over 60 years old or living with a disability, you may be able to find a social worker, case manager, or advocate at your local senior center who can help you with the paperwork for some of these complex programs. This is especially true if you are visiting a senior center run by your local Area Agency on Aging.
You can always call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 to find the senior center near you or to see if there’s someone who can help you at another organization in your area.
There are free legal aid resources in all 50 states! These organizations provide free legal advice and services to low income people. In many cases, they can also assist you with benefit applications and other paperwork that may be confusing to you.
Additionally, legal aid can help you understand your rights and how to appeal if you are denied benefits for any reason.
Many doctor’s offices have social workers or patient advocates that can help you fill out benefit applications (especially for services like Medicaid). This is especially true if you visit a low income clinic, community health center, public health department or VA community center.
Many hospitals have social workers available, as well. However, they usually only serve clients who are already patients in the hospital.
Your state has a department dedicated to processing benefits applications. This is the same office that is in charge of administering programs like food stamps and Medicaid. Sometimes, you may be able to receive help with your application from these departments. However, they are often understaffed and it may be difficult to get the help you need.
Alternatively, some people have found that they can get help with applications for other benefit programs if they ask someone in a different benefit office. For example, you may be able to get help applying for benefits if you ask someone at the WIC office to help you with a SNAP application.
It doesn’t always work, but it’s a worth a shot if you are struggling.
According to our readers and other online sources, there is also a chance that you could get help applying for benefits from one of the nonprofits listed below:
- Food Banks
- Public Housing Authorities
- The Salvation Army
- St. Vincent de Paul
- The United Way
If none of these organizations have enough people available to help you apply for benefits, then you can always call 211 to see if they know of any other resources in your area that can help.
This hotline is staffed by volunteers who are trained to help people find local resources. I highly recommend calling 211 to find help near you.
Get Help Applying for Disability Benefits
There are additional resources that may be able to help you, if you are applying for disability benefits. The resources in this section are not likely to help you fill out applications for SNAP, Medicaid, or other assistance programs. You should only contact these agencies if you are applying for specific disability benefits.
If you think you may be eligible for disability benefits, worker’s comp, or a settlement due to an accident or injury, Atticus may be able to help you. They have a quick two-minute survey to see if you’re eligible.
They can help figure out what you might qualify for and help you connect with a lawyer, if you’d like to move forward. If you decide to work with a lawyer, you don’t have to pay anything up front; they only recover a certain amount from your settlement if you win your case. That means they only make money if you do.
Veteran Service Organizations
Veterans can get assistance with VA Benefits and other applications from their local Veteran Service Organizations. These organizations are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs and specifically help veterans, their dependents, and surviving spouses.
There are over 100 VSOs nationwide but these are the largest and most recognizable:
- American Legion
- American Veterans
- Department of Veterans Services (in your state)
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
- Vietnam Veterans of America
- Wounded Warrior Project (WWP)
A VSO can offer assistance free of charge to veterans. The VA has stated that no VSO can charge you to help you file your initial application for benefits.
FAQs about Applying for Benefits
Of course, we’ve received a lot of questions about how to get help applying for benefits over the last decade. Here are some of the most common questions we’ve received.
Can Low Income Relief help me apply for benefits?
Low Income Relief is an information service that will help you discover low income assistance programs that you may qualify for. We report on a wide variety of programs that help low income seniors, veterans, single moms, people with disabilities, and others.
Although we are happy to tell you how to apply for these programs, we cannot do the paperwork for you. We are minimally staffed and individually serving clients is beyond the scope of our mission. That is why we published this article to show you where you can go to get help applying for benefits.
Will these organizations do everything for me?
You will still have to help with your application, in most cases. This could include gathering essential paperwork, like birth certificates, Social Security Numbers, income documents, medical records and other things.
In some cases, the person who is helping you apply for benefits can order those documents for you. You may have to pay a fee to get those documents, depending on where you are getting assistance.