State and Federal Assistance and Support Programs
A number of state and federal programs are available in Iowa that offer financial assistance, medical coverage, housing assistance, and more. Each program listed has its own rules and eligibility requirements.
Have you lost your job or reduced your hours because of your vision loss?
The Department can help you learn the alternative skills you need to find a new job or retain the job you have. Learn more about the Department's Employment Services.
You may also consider applying for Social Security benefits. Social Security's website has a wealth of information on its programs for individuals with disabilities. You can review the information you will need in order to apply for Social Security benefits, apply online, check the status of your application, download forms and read about work incentives. Whether you are applying online, in person or by phone, be sure to review the information in the Adult Disability Starter Kit. The kit details all the information you will be asked to provide in your application.
Social Security has a very specific definition of disabled. To be found disabled and thus eligible for benefits:
- You must be unable to do any substantial work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year, or be expected to result in your death.
When completing an application, be clear and detailed about how your vision loss has impacted you. Many people don't want to admit they can no longer do the things they used to do or do them as well. Remember, the person who reviews your application will make a decision based on the detailed information you provide.
Social Security's Redbook has information on how working impacts your benefits and details work expenses that you may be able to claim to lower your countable income. You can read the Redbook online. The Department has this publication in large print and Braille. Contact the Department if you would like a large print or Braille copy of the Redbook.
Social Security's Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 increases beneficiary choice in obtaining employment services, vocational rehabilitation services and other support services; removes barriers that require people with disabilities to choose between health care coverage and work and insures that more Americans with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in the workforce and lessen their dependence on public benefits. Read More about Ticket to Work.
You can find the current Substantial Gainful Activity amounts on Social Security's website.
If you have more questions about how returning to work or increasing your earnings will impact your Social Security benefits, contact Shan Sasser at the Department for the Blind. Shan can be reached at (515) 281-1256 or Shan.Sasser@blind.state.ia.us. You may also contact the Iowa Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program (IWIPA).
The Iowa Department of Human Services oversees several public medical insurance programs. You can find a list of their programs by visiting the DHS medical insurance website. Some programs of note are listed below.
Medicaid for Employed Persons with Disabilities
Medicaid for Employed People with Disabilities (MEPD) is a Medicaid coverage group implemented to allow persons with disabilities to work and continue to have access to medical assistance. For more information regarding the MEPD program, please visit the Iowa Medicaid for Employed Person's website.
Health Insurance Premium Payment (HIPP) Program.
The Health Insurance Premium Payment (HIPP) Program is one of the services available to people who get Medicaid (Title 19). The HIPP Program helps people get insurance or keep insurance they already have by paying for the premiums. Visit the Health Insurance Premium Payment (HIPP) program's website for more information.
Iowa Home & Community Based Services (HCBS) Waivers
Home & Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers are Medicaid Programs from the federal government, which have rules set aside or “waived." This gives you more choice about how and where you receive services. It is available to people with disabilities and older Iowans who need services and supports, which may allow them to stay in their homes. You must be eligible for Medicaid and also meet the requirements for each waiver. The waiver programs are administered by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). Visit the DHS Waiver program website for more information and forms.
Other Local Programs
A number of food assistance programs are available to low-income Iowans. Visit the Department of Human Service's Food Assistance website for information on these programs and how to apply.
The Iowa Finance Authority oversees affordable housing programs in Iowa , including the HCBS Rent Subsidy Program that aids people who receive services under a federal Medicaid waiver program called home- and community-based service (HCBS). Visit their website at: www.iowafinanceauthority.gov
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's website offers an online search to help you find a subsidized apartment in your area. Go to the Subsidized Apartment Search website.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
This federally funded program can help qualifying households pay a portion of their residential heating costs for the winter heating season. The LIHEAP program is run by Bureau of Energy Assistance agency in the Iowa Department of Human Rights. You can learn more about this program, including eligibility requirements, at their website: www.dcaa.iowa.gov/bureau_EA
Child Care Assistance
Child Care Assistance (CCA) is available to the children of income-eligible parents who are absent for a portion of the day due to employment or participation in academic or vocational training or PROMISE JOBS activities. Go to the Child Care Assistance website for eligibility and application information.
Savings, Loans and Tax Programs
Individual Development Accounts (IDA)
Individual Development Accounts (IDA) were created specifically for low-income Iowans. The difference between a regular savings account and an IDA is that the money you save from work will be matched dollar for dollar up to $2,000 for a qualifying individual or $4,000 for a qualifying family. Read more about IDAs.
Iowa Able Foundation
The Iowa Able Foundation helps Iowans with disabilities, their families and older Iowans access adaptive devices/equipment and home modifications through its loan programs. Visit the Iowa Able Foundation's website to learn more.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal income tax credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and families. Congress originally approved the tax credit legislation in 1975 in part to offset the burden of Social Security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. When the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit. Go to the IRS Earned Income Tax Credit website to learn more.
Blindness Tax Deduction
Need to know what's required to take the deduction for blindness? Read about the standard deduction for blindness on the IRS website.