People that receive benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) may be paid through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI qualification additionally comes with Medicare coverage, and many who receive SSI also meet Medicaid eligibility rules. Monthly disability payments and medical coverage help ensure you and your family have what you need.
Medicaid, Medicare, and Service Animals
State and federal medical coverage through Medicare and/or Medicaid meets many of your ongoing healthcare needs, but neither of these programs cover the cost of a service animal.
In fact, no health insurance, even from private companies, covers service animal expenses. There are however other ways of getting a service dog or other assistance animal, even when you’re on a restricted income.
Social Security Disability Service Animal Assistance Programs
There are many nonprofit organizations that raise, train, and offer service animals to the disabled, and often do so free of charge or at reduced costs to those who qualify. It’s important to understand however that many of these programs have long waiting lists, so obtaining a service dog or other medical assistance animal will take some time.
Here are just a few organizations to consider when searching nonprofit options for service animals:
- Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind
- Canine Companions for Independence
- International Association of Assistance Dog Partners
Other smaller organizations also provide service animals at no cost or reduced cost for qualified applicants. These nonprofits often have long waiting lists as well, but can be a source of affordable assistance animals for disabled persons on a limited income.
Service Animal Accreditation Programs and Additional Resources
Just keep in mind that service animals must go through structured training. This is how they provide the type of assistance a disabled person truly needs. Assistance Dogs International (ADI) is a nonprofit accreditation program that sets the standards for training service canines. On the ADI website, you’ll additionally find a searchable database for locating accredited training programs in your area.
Social Security Disability Payments and Affording a Service Animal
Although Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover the costs of obtaining, feeding, or providing veterinary care for service animals, disability benefits can help cover these expenses. Monthly benefits provide consistent income and may allow you to afford ongoing service animal expenses.
Many disability applicants also receive a significant sum at the commencement of benefits. This sum is the payment of “back benefits.” Back benefits may accumulate due to delays while your disability claim is reviewed. They can also build up because your disability onset was long prior to the date when your benefits payments actually start.
Either way, some applicants see a large lump sum payment when they’re first approved for disability. This lump sum can help cover the initial cost of a service animal.
A disability attorney or advocate can help you apply for benefits and can assist you in understanding the amount of monthly benefit payments and any back pay to which you may be entitled. He or she can also potentially help with locating a nonprofit and in applying for additional assistance that can make getting and caring for a service animal more affordable.