One of those huge changes in life is moving from one home to another.
When you’re living with a disability, the need for accommodations may require you to move for your own safety, or changes in your financial situation may require you to move to different(often less expensive) housing.
Sometimes, some of us may even lose our housing altogether and end up homeless(or sleeping on other people’s couches). In those situations, you can still be eligible for most of these supports, so don’t assume losing your housing leaves you completely high and dry.
On top of the stresses all people face when moving, many of us are also surviving with the help of benefit programs, and so how each program works, and what effects moving may have on it is hugely important.
Today we’re going to look over different programs for people with disabilities and people living on a low income(there’s a big overlap), and talk about what happens to your support if you move to a different state or county.
Social Security Disability Insurance
If you are currently receiving SSDI, your income and insurance coverage are highly unlikely to change.
SSDI is a federal program, so you’re covered no matter where in the US you live(as well as getting your income in many other countries should you choose to do so).
You will need to update the program once you have a new address so they can continue to contact you, but otherwise, there is nothing to worry about in regards to your income if you move.
If you have applied for SSDI, but do not yet have a decision from them, you will want to notify them of your change of address.
Not doing so isn’t the end of the world, but they will assume that you live at the address on record, and so will be directing you to the offices local to your address.
If it comes to a hearing, that hearing will also be scheduled in a location relatively close to the address they have on file.
Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income(SSI) is a bit more challenging, since this program is run on the state level, and the amount of money you receive is partially determined by your state of residence.
This does mean that moving from one state to another will likely affect your monthly income and that you will need to have your benefits transferred from one location to another.
Your SSI payments are also based on your living situation, so if there is a major change in that, your payments will be adjusted.
If, for example, you are moving into a more institutional space, you may no longer be eligible for benefits, or may only be eligible for a $30/month stipend.
The assumption is that if you are doing something along those lines, your Medicaid or other insurance is covering your food and shelter once you move there.
Also, if you shift from living independently to living rent-free with another person, your SSI benefits will also likely go down.
This is on top of whatever changes will likely take place due to you moving from one state to another.
Because of this, you may want to have a deeper conversation on costs before you move, as paying for a portion of the rent and being responsible for your own food may really help you maintain your independence.
This is especially important if both of you are on SSI, as SSI can be revoked from people ‘living as a couple’. The most important part of this is to not have a joint bank account, but be aware that SSI, as a needs-based program, has very different rules for single individuals and couples. For the most part, being roommates with another person on SSI is a non-issue, but be aware that there is a risk of reduction of benefits should you marry(or apparently on occasion, appear to be married).
Most states have a supplemental amount that they provide their residents on top of the federally required amount, generally a small adjustment based on the cost of living.
When you do decide to move, you need to call your local social security office and talk with them about when and where you are moving, including the address you are moving to, and your phone number if it will change.
You cannot update the information online, this has to be done by calling the office and talking to them(sorry, I know that can take hours).
Once social security has been notified and has the information they need, they can calculate what your new SSI benefit will be once you move.
You do want to notify them as much in advance as possible, so you decrease the risk of your benefits being delayed or discontinued.
On the plus side, you will not need to reapply for SSI, so the process shouldn’t take too long to get straightened out(if you can, plan around the idea of your check being delayed a few weeks to a month, just in case).
Medicare is a federal program, and as long as you are on original Medicare, you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Medicare part A covers you at pretty much any hospital in the US, and Medicare part B is good for any doctor who accepts Medicare.
If you opted for Medicare part C(Medicare Advantage), that may be more geographically limited, as many of those programs function like HMO’s and have more limited networks of available doctors.
Medicare part D(prescription drugs) is also pretty universal, though if you aren’t participating in a nationwide pharmacy, you will need to find one in your new community that your plan will work with.
That information is usually available on their website. If you are part of a national pharmacy chain, you will just need to update your address in their system.
You will likely want to adjust your prescription drug plan and/or aspects of your coverage to take advantage of any opportunities in your new home, though that will likely only be an option during open enrollment.
Each state also may have their own qualification rules, so if you get on Medicaid through something other than SSI, each location you move to may refuse to grant you coverage.
A friend of ours was Medicaid eligible in New Jersey, but when she moved down to Florida so she could live with family, Florida Medicaid refused to accept and cover her.
She was able to have friends in New Jersey pick up her prescriptions and mail them down to her, but she had to pay out of pocket to see the doctors in Florida who prescribed her medication.
My suggestion is to do your best to stay within the county you applied for Medicaid in, and to do the best research you can on what services are offered in any place you consider moving to.
If you are Medicaid eligible through SSI though, you will continue to have Medicaid access wherever you live in the US.
However, each state’s Medicaid program does have slightly different coverage and rules, so you will want to make sure that your specific medical needs are covered.
If they aren’t, but you have to move anyway, at least you know, and could possibly adjust when you move or when you see the appropriate doctor to get the most help you can while you transition.
By the same token, you may want to have another look at equipment or medication that your current plan doesn’t cover and see if your new Medicaid program does.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP)
SNAP is another federal program that is administered and managed differently on the state, and sometimes county, level.
As an example, we shared our apartment with somebody on Medicaid and SNAP for a while.
She had been getting SNAP benefits in the county south of ours, and so moving in with us meant that she had to update her information.
Her EBT card needed to be replaced(each county in New Jersey had its own card apparently), so she had to wait for the new card to arrive by mail.
When the card did arrive, it was empty, because they hadn’t received her information early enough in the month, so she’d missed the window to have it deposited into her card.
The next month she did get some additional money to make up for the missed month, but that didn’t help her during those weeks of waiting for her EBT card, or the additional week or so she needed to wait for her first deposit after she got her card.
If you need to change locations in the short term, you may be able to continue to use your previous address, but you will not be able to get support except in that county or state(useful if you go just over a border, but not so useful if you move further).
Low-Income Heat and Energy Assistance Program(LIHEAP)
LIHEAP exists in some form in every state, but again is managed on the county level(at least it is in New Jersey).
If you are moving to a different county or state, you’re going to want to know what that state or county’s rules are.
If those costs aren’t part of your monthly expenses(some landlords bundle those costs up), you may be able to get a slight reduction in your effective rent, if your landlord is willing to work with you and sign some paperwork.
Also, the LIHEAP program will often help with cooling costs if it’s considered medically necessary. If you can get a doctor to fill out their form, they will also give you an additional credit towards your electricity bill in the summer. Their payments are made directly to your heat and power providers, so they will need all of your billing information.
You do need to renew your application for LIHEAP every fall(for the new heating season).
If you aren’t part of the LIHEAP program, you will want to check your current eligibility and what you would be eligible for wherever you are thinking about moving to.
Conclusion: How will moving affect my benefits?
If you move, it will be a stressful process. Knowing what will and won’t be affected, and in what ways, will help you with your plan to move.
If your only benefit is SSDI, moving should be relatively easy. While you will need to notify the social security administration of your move, your coverage won’t change.
Of course, you will also need to find new doctors, pharmacies, and therapists as part of your move, which is stressful, but that would come with any move.
If you use SSI, the amount of income you will receive is likely to change, especially if you are dramatically changing who you are living with, or what sort of housing you have.
On SSI, you will continue to be eligible for Medicaid and SNAP, but those programs can be managed or run differently in different states and counties, so you may get a substantially different monthly payment for SNAP and your new Medicaid coverage may not cover everything your old coverage did(but may cover other things your old coverage didn’t).
You also run the risk of hiccups in the transition, so it’s possible that your replacement cards may arrive late, or your payments may be delayed slightly.
If your Medicaid coverage isn’t through SSI, it’s possible you may no longer be eligible for Medicaid, as each state has its own rules on qualifying for Medicaid. If this is the case, be sure to investigate if you are eligible wherever you plan to move, as well as what is or isn’t covered.
LIHEAP is another national program that is administered differently in different locations. You will need to reapply for LIHEAP in your new county once you move, and it’s possible your eligibility may change, and likely the amount you recieve will be different – depending on where you are moving to and from, this change may be in your favor, or may work against you.
No matter what, moving is in itself a stressful process, so you want to do everything you can to minimize your stress when you are moving. Knowing what the rules are in each situation should help you plan ahead and minimize your stresses and unknowns!