Low-income people with few assets and financial resources may be eligible for the U.S. government's food stamp program. Medicare is not dependent upon income, but rather age and, in some cases, disability. Food stamps and Medicare are limited to U.S. citizens and immigrants who have legal permission to live in the United States.
Basic Food Stamp Eligibility
The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers the food stamp program, which is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program is phasing out paper stamps, and is moving toward supplying clients with a card that looks and acts like a debit card. The card is pre-loaded with the monthly allocation for food assistance.
Eligibility for food stamps depends on several factors, starting with income and family size. A family's income must be within the Federal Poverty Guidelines for family size, which usually change annually. Applicants must also have limited assets and other financial resources. If an applicant owns a home and/or has a small bank account, these items generally are not considered countable assets, though under certain conditions vehicles may be counted as assets.
Other Eligibility Factors
In most cases, adults ages 18 through 50 without dependent children can only get food stamps for three months. To receive food stamps longer, they must work or be enrolled in a work training program. Legal immigrants are eligible to receive food stamps if they have lived in the United States for at least five years. The residency requirement is waived for people receiving disability assistance or children of any age.
Interested people can apply for SNAP benefits through state or county social services offices, which will make a determination on applications and then issue benefits.
Medicare eligibility is not based on income, but is generally based on age, says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For most people it starts at age 65, which is considered retirement age for most people. However, people of any age are eligible for Medicare after they have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 months. In addition to the age and residency requirements, a person must have worked in Medicare-covered employment for at least 10 years.
The disability program is for people who are unable to work. Disabled applicants must have been certified by a physician that they cannot work. The applicant fills out an application with the Social Security Administration for disability benefits, giving their complete medical history. Social Security then verifies this information and decides whether to grant disability benefits. If the application is denied, the applicant has the right to appeal. The disability benefit is generally based on past Social Security earnings.