Senior Citizens Handbook - Financial Assistance: Aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled

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Author: Prairie State Legal Services
Last updated: February 2009

(Chapter 1 Section 5 of the Senior Citizens Handbook)

What It Is: The Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled Grant Program is an Illinois program that provides a cash grant to certain low income people with disabilities or who are blind and to people age 65 and over. Its purpose is to provide for the basic income needs of people with disabilities and senior citizens.

Where To Apply: The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS).

Who May Be Eligible: Low income Illinois residents with disabilities or who are blind and senior citizens.

Cash Assistance for Low-Income People who are Elderly, Blind or Disabled

In General

The Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled (AABD) program provides a cash grant to low income people with disabilities and to low income senior citizens. It is intended to assist them in meeting their basic needs. This grant is also sometimes known as State Supplemental Payments (SSP). The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) administers the program.

Who is Eligible for AABD Cash Assistance?

In order to be eligible for AABD, you must be either:

  • Age 65 or over;
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or
  • "Disabled," according to criteria of the Social Security Administration or blind, but ineligible for SSI on the basis of your other income.

To be eligible for AABD, you must be an Illinois resident. You also must be a U.S. citizen or be within one of several specified categories of non-citizens.

Non-citizens may be eligible for an AABD cash grant if they do not have enough income to meet their basic needs, and:

  • are age 65 or older;
  • meet the citizenship requirements for medical assistance;
  • were legally residing in the U.S. on August 22, 1996; and
  • have been denied SSI due to a finding of “not disabled.”

How to Apply

You must make a written application at your local DHS office. They will ask you to provide verification of your income, assets and your expenses. DHS is required to process your application within 45 days. 

Your Eligibility for AABD and Your Grant Amount

Eligibility Based on Your Income

DHS compares your needs to your income.

Needs

To determine your needs, it has set allowances for certain types of needs, like shelter, food, clothing, heat, and others. You may qualify for one or more of these allowances, based on your circumstances.

Income

To determine your countable income, DHS adds up most of your sources of income. There are a few exceptions that do not count as income, such as earned income tax credit payments and energy assistance payments. After adding up income from countable sources, DHS subtracts $25 from your income, and if you work, DHS will deduct work related travel and other work-related expenses from your income. The net figure will be your “countable income.”

You may be eligible for AABD if your needs exceed your income.

DHS totals all of the needs allowances applicable to you and compares that total to your countable income. If the total needs allowances you qualify for exceed your countable income, you may be eligible for an AABD cash grant.

Eligibility Based on Your Assets

DHS will also determine if your assets are below the allowable limits. You are not eligible if you own assets of $2,000 or more. The asset limit amount is increased to $3,000 if you are living with a spouse or other dependent person, and is further increased by $50 for each additional dependent. This is called the asset disregard.

DHS will not count certain assets at all. These are called exempt assets, and include the following:

  • The family home;
  • Clothing, personal effects and household furnishings (up to $2,000 total equity value);
  • One automobile;
  • Life insurance policies with a total face value of $1,500 or less and all term life insurance policies;
  • Burial spaces which are intended for the use of the adult, his or her spouse, and other immediate family, and
  • Funds set aside for the burial expenses of the adult and his or her spouse (up to a limit of $1,500 each).

The Amount of Assistance You Will Receive

There are regulations establishing the minimum amounts, called allowances, which a person needs to meet the costs of housing, utilities, clothing, laundry, household supplies, personal essentials, food, and transportation. If your income is not enough to meet these minimum living expenses, then DHS will give you an AABD grant to make up the difference.

How to Appeal a Denial, Termination, or Reduction

Your Right to Notice and to Appeal

You may file an appeal of any decision to deny, terminate or reduce AABD benefits. You can file an appeal in writing at your local DHS office or by calling (800) 435-0774. You must make this request within 60 days of the date of the written notice.

ADVOCACY TIP - IMPORTANT!

To continue your benefits during an appeal, you must appeal within 10 days of the date of the notice of change or before the date of change becomes effective (the date the change becomes effective is included on the notice of change), whichever is later. Be sure to get some kind of a record that you filed your appeal showing the date it was filed.

Your Right to a Hearing

After you file the appeal, DHS will hold a pre-appeal conference. You will meet with the caseworker and his/her supervisor. If the denial was due to a mistake or a misunderstanding about the facts, DHS may agree to approve the case or restore your full grant at this stage. If not, DHS will schedule a fair hearing.

An impartial hearing officer will preside over the hearing. At the hearing, you may be represented by any person of your choice, including an attorney. You may also represent yourself. You will have the following rights at the hearing:

  • To present your testimony and other witnesses in support of your claim;
  • To present documents that support your case;
  • To examine the records relied on by DHS; and
  • To cross-examine other witnesses.

Following the hearing, the hearing officer will issue a written decision containing his findings of fact and conclusions.

Lawsuit for Judicial Review

If the hearing officer rules against you, you may file a lawsuit in the Illinois Circuit Court. You must file this lawsuit no later than 35 days from the date that the decision was sent to you.

You or your lawyer will have the opportunity to make written and oral arguments in support of your case. The judge will then decide whether DHS and the hearing officer fairly considered the facts and properly applied the law. The judge can approve your claim, deny your claim or remand your case to DHS to be reevaluated as the judge instructs.

Where to go for More Information

Statutes and Regulations

  • The Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled Statute can be found at 305 ILCS 5/3
  • The regulations of the Illinois Department of Human Services governing the AABD program can be found at 89 Ill. Admin. Code 113
  • The regulations concerning the appeal process can be found at 89 Ill. Admin. Code 104.

Agencies and Organizations

Illinois Department of Human Services

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