Medical financial aid: what it is and how to get it

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Looking for college funding, Jason White remembers reading a footnote in some textbook on the federal government’s vocational rehabilitation (VR) program. He said White could receive medical financial assistance if he documented his health issues – in his case, allergies and asthma.

At first, the VR program seemed like a long shot. But the program gave White $ 96,000 to spend on not one, but two degrees. To see how he did it – and how you too can get medical financial assistance if you qualify – let’s take a look at these questions:

What is medical financial assistance?

Medical Financial Aid is monetary aid for higher education, given to students and families with health problems that affect their ability to learn or work in their field. Awarded through government funding and private sources, medical financial aid can provide hundreds or thousands of dollars in aid for college, graduate study, and vocational training. Eligibility requirements vary by program, but applicants are often required to document their status.

Three common requirements for medical financial aid
1. Medical evidence: An email or letter from your doctor detailing your condition and how it was diagnosed and how it was treated. White, for example, mentioned that he was tested to determine his allergies and injections to relieve them. It was a long paragraph.
2. Tax information: If you are a dependent, you will need to collect the necessary documents from your parents.
3. Transcriptions: Your most recent report cards, whether you’re a high school student or an adult back on campus. Your grades will be judged based on the degree you are looking for. As White says, you might not be successful in applying as a chemistry major aspirant if you never did well in your high school science classes.

With a self-proclaimed “unpleasant” medical condition, White initially didn’t think he would qualify for help. But as he confidently states in his book “The Medical Loophole,” you can have a number of illnesses – from ADHD and anxiety to back pain and depression – and still be eligible for it. Help with tuition fees. More officially, the federal government asserts that qualified applicants for medical financial assistance, such as the vocational rehabilitation program, “have a physical or mental impairment which is a significant barrier to employment.”

This form of financial assistance could have as much of an impact for you as it has for White. At the time of his university studies, his parents’ income was too high to qualify for need-based financial assistance – they withdrew their support after he stopped pursuing computer studies – and his grades were not good enough for merit scholarships. Until he learned about medical financial aid, he thought he would have to borrow to go back to school.

“This was the loophole that helped me avoid a mountain of student loan debt,” says White, who estimates that some of his law school peers have racked up $ 200,000 in debt. “Too many students simply fill out a FAFSA and assume the results will inform [them] of all the financial assistance options to which they are entitled.

How to get medical financial assistance?

No, there is no mention of medical financial assistance when families complete the Free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As a rule, you have to hunt it.

Here are four ways to find medical financial help:

  1. Contact your state higher education authority.
  2. Contact your state Vocational rehabilitation (RV) agencies.
  3. Talk to schools on your college list and find out about related financial aid.
  4. Check out our list of grant and scholarship programs below.

Of course, finding the right person in the right agency and preparing all the necessary documents is easier said than done.

“I’m sure some people’s eyes are going to roll, and they’re just going to say, ‘God, why don’t I just get a student loan? “” White said.

Of course, applying for the VR program and other medical financial aid may be more difficult than completing the FAFSA, but remember, this is a freebie. Unlike loans, you never have to pay it back.

Avoid the Most Common Mistake of Applying for Medical Financial Aid

White says many vocational rehabilitation applicants are denied help because of a checkbox on application forms. You are asked if your illness will interfere with your ability to find a job. Not wanting to admit a limitation, you could check “No” without realizing that this could disqualify you from the program.

In White’s case, he checked “Yes”. His asthma and allergies would prevent him from working with animals, dust and pollen, for example.

What are the possibilities for medical financial aid?

The vocational rehabilitation (VR) program White applied for has been around for a long time. Born out of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, virtual reality is funded by both the Department of Education and state governments. White, now a lawyer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, believes the wrong name has something to do with the anonymity of the program.

According to White’s research, approximately 100,000 students apply for this help each year. That’s a small amount given that 2.4 million qualifying students choose to take out student loans each year, he said.

Unfortunately, other medical finance programs also suffer from a lack of spotlight. Here are some national awards (but be on the lookout for other opportunities specific to your state or region) to know about.

Organization Medical eligibility Assistance Resource
AbbVie Inc. Cystic fibrosis $ 3,000 abbviecfscholarship.com
American Association on Health and Disability Disability Up to $ 999 aahd.us
Cancer for College Cancer survivors $ 5,000 cancerforcollege.org
The Reintegration Center Schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder Varied reintegration.com
Diabetes Fellows Foundation Type 1 diabetes Up to $ 5,000 diabetescholars.org
HIV League HIV Up to $ 7,000 hivleague.org
Karman health care Physical disability $ 500 karmanhealthcare.com
National Hemophilia Foundation Hemophilia A or B $ 1,000 hemophilia.org
Patient Advocates Foundation Chronic or fatal illnesses $ 3,000 (per school year, for four years) patientadvocate.org
Sleep Project Narcolepsy $ 1,000 sleep-project.com
Students with the Heart Foundation Heart disease or malformation Up to $ 6,000 studentswithheart.org
This Is Me Foundation Alopecia $ 500 thisismefoundation.com

What are the benefits of medical financial aid?

Although he came out student loans to pay for living expenses while in law school, medical financial aid provided White with enough funds to cover both his undergraduate and law degrees.

The data says he’s not alone. In 2019-2020, the most recent year of statistics available from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, in California, approximately 24,000 students paid a combined $ 53 million. It was $ 2,166 per student, whether they were looking for a certificate, taking a vocational program, or something in between.

There are other benefits to receiving medical financial assistance. If you are a beneficiary of vocational rehabilitation, for example:

  • At school: You may receive “reasonable accommodation,” ranging from a free laptop for school to a private exam room if, for example, you have ADHD.
  • After school: You could apply for positions with a registered disability and receive support during your job search.

Having received nearly six figures of aid, White considers medical financial aid a “bargain.”

“If not for [the Vocational Rehabilitation program], I don’t know if I would have been willing to take the risk of going to law school because [was] such an expensive endeavor, ”White says. “It helped me take that risk to get more education, which is a big factor for a lot of people. If you take money out of the equation, they might be more willing to do bigger and more amazing things. “

If you have a documented medical condition and want money for your education, consider your options for medical financial assistance and hopefully reap the rewards.


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