Perks for Chronic Illness / Disability?

Perks for Chronic Illness / Disability?

By Joanna Mechlinski

Joanna Mechlinski

Joanna Mechlinski

Let’s face it…chronic illness or disability aren’t exactly the best things that can happen to a person. They leave you feeling exhausted, in pain, isolated from family and friends, as well as many of the activities you used to do. On top of all that, they aren’t cheap! Between frequent doctor’s or physical therapy appointments, prescription co-pays and often a reduced income due to having to work part-time or live on disability, most people with chronic illness or a disability struggle to make ends meet. So it’s pretty exciting to discover there are some perks out there, which might make things a tiny bit easier financially.

  • The U.S. National Park Service offers a free lifetime access pass to those with permanent This provides access to over 2,000 recreation facilities throughout the country (usually costs $80 per year!)  Go to for more info.
  • Many museums, theme parks and even movie theaters offer discounts to those with a  disability – and sometimes even a caregiver or companion! These are often not publicized, so you have to call or speak to an employee on site to verify.
  • A number of tourist attractions, including Disney parks, Six Flags and the Cedar Fair chain (e.g. Cedar Point in Ohio, Kings Dominion in Virginia and Knott’s Berry Farm in California) offer disability access passes. If you have trouble waiting in lines, you and your party will receive specific times to board various attractions. (If you are using a wheelchair or scooter, you will automatically be eligible to receive this service without needing to get the pass.)
  • Some attractions even have special events! For example, DreamNight is an international event held on the first Friday of each June since 2005. Children with disabilities and their immediate families are invited to spend an evening at the zoo without the general public, all free of charge. Contact your local zoo to see if they participate.
  • Broadway shows can be both discounted and more accessible (e.g. orchestra seats so there is no need to climb stairs) via the Theatre Development Fund’s (TDF) Accessibility Fund (
  • The YMCA/YWCA offer memberships on a sliding scale to those with financial hardships.
  • A number of nonprofit organizations, such as Disabled Sports USA, offer free or low-price sports to people facing chronic illness or disability. Some groups, such Connecticut’s Leaps of Faith which hosts adaptive skiing and waterskiing days free of charge to qualifying individuals, are only located in particular states, so you may have to do a little online research to find one near you.
  • Whether you want to take a plane, train or bus, there are a good number of travel discounts out there! Amtrak, for example, offers 15 percent off train tickets for both the person with a disability and a companion. Most local transit authorities, such as MBTA in Boston, MARTA in Atlanta, DART in Dallas and BART in the Bay Area also offer discounts to those who have a disability. Make sure to check the website or give the company a call when making your plans.
  • It may even be possible to get a free car, through organizations such as
  • Need a laptop? There are nationwide organizations, such as United Way or Computers With Causes, or many that focus solely on a certain state or area, which help provide disabled individuals with free or low-cost computers.
  • Individuals receiving SSI benefits are eligible for $9.25/month cell phone or landline service via Lifeline. Such individuals are also able to receive 10% off on Verizon or AT&T internet or phone service.
  • Both Vitamix and Blendec offer discounts on their products for individuals with feeding tubes. Contact customer service for more information.
  • There are some wonderful databases that will help you discover all the perks available to you, searchable by state or category. is a great place to start! Don’t forget to check the national and state organizations for your particular illness or disability.

Any tips you know about that aren’t listed here? Please share!

Joanna Mechlinski is a former newspaper reporter who now works in education. She is a chronic pain sufferer who lives in Connecticut and is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Authored by: Joanna Mechlinski

Joanna Mechlinski is a former newspaper reporter who now works in education. She is a chronic pain sufferer who lives in Connecticut and is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report. You can follow her on twitter @castlesburning.

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Heather Duecy, have you gotten copies of your medical records and read them ? Have you told your doctors the details of how your impairments affect your ability to do activities of daily living AND have they written that in your medical record ? Have they prescribed a shower chair or other assistance devices ?

If you are under 50, your medical and non medical evidence must prove you are not able to work any job in the national economy. If you are over 50, you must prove you have no transferable skills.

The medical criteria is the same for SSDI and SSI. Non medical for SSDI is you must have enough work credits. For SSI the non medical is you must have little to no income and not more than $2,000 in resources if you are single and $3,000 if you are married. If you are married your spouses income is factored in when determining eligibility for SSI.

SSA wants Details. Your doctor saying you can’t sit or stand for long or your doctor saying you can’t work means nothing.

Sandy H.

Thanks to all of you who have contributed to this and to those who composed it. Invisible disabilities do get the stink eye from folks a lot. But not quite as bad as it once did. Unfortunately I believe that’s because so many of us have them. I will definitely check out some of the perks posted. Being able to be outside of my home sounds great. Thanks again.

Sandy Auriene Sullivan

The perk of my disability in my home is being home every day for the kids after school. My kids grades went from Cs and Ds to As and Bs.

The only one still living at home is nearly straight A. We don’t look at the grade but her percent [High A/low A. high B etc] This is done without pressure except to tell them their grades are for them.

They have friends over, do homework together and one of my kids is going on to get a doctorate; research medicine-biology/microbiology w/PharmD [maybe] High achievers.

Taught all to cook, clean, do laundry; both to help and help themselves once they moved out [2 adult boys, one teen girl]
Being home seems to allow my kids the freedom to not worry about ‘when mom gets home from work’ — mom is just always home.

Heather Duecy

I for some reason haven’t been able to qualify for SSI even though My fibro and neck and lumbar pain keep me home most of the time.We recently moved and I got shoved into a joke of a pain clinic I have no friends here and had to quit driving because of my medicine and I get confused and don’t want to hurt someone in a wreck.Sorry just had to vent.


Laura P. Schulman, M.D. having a Service Dog reminded me if someone receives Food Stamps and they have a Service Dog or an Assistance Animal, they can use the costs for the animals health care, food and other expenses as a deduction. See “Service Animals” at the liink below for details.

Deductible Excess Medical Expenses November 23, 2015 Memo

Thank you for the useful info. I’m glad that I qualify for at least one of the internet programs, as many of the ones offered to me in my state (NJ) require you to have a kid. That’s unfortunately more descrimination against us childfree folks. But I’ve found some things which I may be able to actually use in the near future, as I’m facing bringing in the New Year w/o internet. I just can’t continue to pay these exorbitant rates for internet & phone.

Lynn Tuszl

Thanks so much!!

We apologize for the mistake. The missing link has been added – it is:

We apologize for the mistake. The missing link has been added - it is:


Thank you, Joanna. It seems like your resource link got deleted from the last bullet point. Could you post that link for searching again? Thanks!

That’s great!

….for those of you who unfortunately must have “Disabled” license plates or a placard.

For those who must, unfortunately, use a wheelchair, a walker, a cane….
A guide dog, or other visual clue to the outside world that you are disabled.

Those of us who suffer with “invisible disabilities” have a bit of a different set of challenges, both when navigating life in general and as a person with a disability.

For instance, I live with bipolar disorder and PTSD. As if that weren’t enough, I was born with Asperger’s Syndrome.

I do use a Service Dog, but since I don’t show up with a wheelchair or a white cane, I get the hairy eyeball as if I’m “just trying to take my pet in,” which is, unfortunately, all too common these days.

Simply telling the “powers that be” that I have a non-visible disability, for the purpose of getting the special admission rates, has backfired enough times that I stopped trying. I suppose the Park Service people are within their rights for wanting to know the nature of this disability.

“I have bipolar disorder” is something that people in charge of keeping the peace really do not want to hear. They don’t! I’ve tried to muster my “Mad Pride” and speak up.

But oh dear, it seems that I actually am not “normal.” I don’t look normal and I don’t act normal. So it doesn’t help to announce, “Hello! I have a life-shortening mental illness. May I please have my discount card?”

Fortunately I’ve managed to live long enough to get my Senior Citizen cards for anything I really want to do. I feel sad for my fellow sufferers with mental and other non-visible disabilities of the sort that are not as socially acceptable as those that are commonly associated with mobility aids.

Thank you for this excellent article! I hope that many people are empowered by it to get out and do things. Isolation kills.

Katie Olmstead

Great information. Now if only I were able to travel. No Disney or national parks or Broadway for me.
I can share that I call my local independent movie theater ahead of time and ask for specific seats to be reserved for me.
I do get handicapped seating at local theater performances and that is usually a deep discount.
I certainly appreciate having a handicapped placard for my car. Did you know that any parking meter is free if you display your placard?

Tx u so much for this information steve, I am presently on the phone wth att attempting to get the 15% discount was mentioned. Even if it doesn’t work out I really appreciate u trying. I also live in fear with these new cdc guidelines of them taking my meds off of me, I hav had 4 hip operations & if I don’t hav my meds I hav to crawl to the bathroom. I am sure u hav heard the horror stories. I presently go to a pain clinic & hav nvr had any issues wth them & hav never had my meds increased instead I try chiropractic, acupuncture none of them hav been successful but costly. I continue to try. My fear is that they will just stop filling them & leave u to suffer BC I hav read some of the horror stories that hav happened to ppl. Living in fear takes the joy out iof life. Believe me if I cld do without these meds I wld. Again tx 4 yur support, & the best to u & yurs.

Jean Price

Not sure if other areas do this, but if you are handicapped and have your car tag, you can get a free sticker to drive ON the beach for the year (from mid September until the end of April) at ONE of the east coast NC beaches near us. The permit costs residents of the town $40 and non-residents $100 so it’s a big savings, and allows access for those who can’t maneuver the steps and loose sand. You have to have a four-wheel drive vehicle, of course. And Easter week is off limits for all vehicles…but just to drive out there is good medicine!

I’ve also found if you establish a relationship with some pharmacies, they will deliver, and we often forget our area churches as a resource for help for lots of needs. Calling the minister and letting them know what you need in transportation or errands run might just make someone’s day to help you out…and you also enlarge your circle of friends! Receiving truly is another form of giving, yet when we need help…it’s often hard to ask! Changing that perspective can be a plus! For both people, you the receiver AND the giver who helps you out!


The fatigue coupled with the 24/7 horrific pain changes a person! I hate where I am with AD and no hope of something better!

Hayden Hamby Jr.

Perks are always good. Personally, I would rather be able to cope with unwanted chronic pain as to have all the perks one can think of. I know the message is a positive one and I appreciate it.. A chronic pain condition can be from a variety of different causes. Regardless of the cause, you have chronic pain. I can not agree with the way the CDC intends to lower the mortality rate of those who have opioids in their systemwhen the worst happens. I sincerely hope that we chronic pain sufferers are more than a statistic. If we are not though, let’s get the statistic…..right. The report is that 55.000 folks perished with opioids in their system in 2015. How many were illicit drug users? How many were being prescribed opioids in the treatment of their chronic pain and were adhereing to the clinicians plan of trreatment? If we are going to go by statistics, I would not like to be grouped with the “illicit” opioid users! I am being treated for chronic pain, it’s not a “treat” to use opioids for me and millions of others! “Across the board” reduction in the prescribing of opioids to lower the mortality rate may work….for a little while. Again I hope that I, you, and we are more than a “statistic”. Especially when we wish we did NOT have to be treated for chronic pain in the first place.If a pateint is going to see a specialist clinician every month or two months, evaluated in their personal health at the office, paying a co-payment, paying monthly for insurance, taking a urine test, being counted (if possible) for proper medication use, signing an agreement with the specialist, and after all these safety points for continued use of opioids in the treatment of pain are being followed, then how is it proper to lower the prescribing of opioid medication “across the board” going to really help those in compliance with the proper agencies responsible for the health welfare of those of us that would like to continue to be a functioning human being? Just saying.


Many of these programs are for low income and not just those that have been found disabled by SSA.

AT&T also has a program for low cost internet called Access. At the time I write this, the program is in 21 states. A person can receive both LifeLine and AT&T All Access. But a person can only receive LifeLine on one service, cell or landline. LifeLine requires new applications every year to ensure the person is still eligible for the service. Xfinity/Comcast also has a low cost internet program called Internet Essentials. I have put a link bellow with other service providers listed.

For things like discounts at movies, usually they will accept your Medicare Card for proof of eligibility.


Thanks Joanna


Thank you for sharing this information with us.This is very good to know especially for those of us whom struggle just to make it through the month financially. Any resources made available to us is one less worry.

Lynn Tuszl

I forgot to say Thank You! For the information you provided. It’s so nice to hear good news every now and then!! We certainly don’t get any very often! Thank you so very much!

Lynn Tuszl

It just says Com is a great place to start searching what is available…I’m guessing it was supposed to be https://www.SOMETHING?.com…LOL
Would you mind letting us know what the website address actually is? I would really appreciate it. Thank you


This is very kind. You never hear about things like this. Thank you Steve for sharing. I know my husband does without so many things always helping me. Sometimes I feel people forget about you. So this information is good.


Thank you for the information.