man talking on cellphoneFree Phones for People Receiving Disability Benefits

In 1985 Congress decided that everyone should have access to a phone and created the Lifeline Assistance program. Currently the program is paid for by telephone companies paying a fee on their interstate and international end-user revenues. Most companies pass this charge on to their account holders who may see a charge labeled “Universal Service Fund” on their bill. The amount of the charge is determined by the Federal Communications Commission and is changed from time to time. Currently the charge is about 18% of the telephone company’s long distance end-user revenues. The Phone company is allowed to decide how to spread the charge out among its customers if it desires.


But, in actuality, the idea of everyone having access to phone service was in play more than 50 years earlier. After 1934 phone companies began charging a surcharge on long distance rates in order to insure affordably priced services in economically challenged areas as well as areas where providing service was expensive.    

Along with the cell-phone revolution in the late 1900s and early 2000s many people electively no longer received home phone service. Mobility became a key term and the phrase, “waiting by the phone” seemed so archaic. Also as homelessness increased, fewer people had homes to have home phone service. To address this growing situation cell phones were included in universal accessibility and free phones began to be distributed to people meeting various economic and hardship criteria.

Free For You

So that brings us to today and free phones for people receiving disability benefits. Although programs vary by state, most people who receive some sort of government benefit like Medicaid, SNAP, SSI or SSDI can qualify to receive a free cell phone with at least 200 free minutes and 200 text messages. It is estimated that more than 34% of the U.S. population could qualify to receive a free phone.

Some companies offer even more than the 200/200 limit mentioned. Typically the free phones are stripped down models compared to what may be available for paying customers and some companies still do not offer data service for free, but that will probably change soon since last year the U.S. government passed legislation paying for the spread of broadband internet across the nation.  

A quick internet search is the easiest way to start the process of receiving a free phone. Be sure to compare companies as the initial offer as well as the costs associated with overages differs widely. In general, there are four companies that are essentially nationwide: Access Wireless, Assurance Wireless, Safelink Wireless and Budget Mobile. A whole host of phone companies service smaller areas around the country and can be found on the internet or even on some street corners, public fairs and events.

Safelink and Assurance are currently offering 350 free minutes, unlimited text messages and 500mb of data per month while Budget’s offer is 500 free minutes and text messages. Access, which is operated by Sprint, varies their offer by location.

Get Your Phone

You can proceed to the company’s websites and complete online applications. You will probably need your Social Security benefits notice in order to prove receipt of benefits in order to receive your phone and service.


The Cochran Firm Disability is NOT associated with any of these companies nor endorses the companies or their services.




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About the Cochran Firm Disability Lawyers
Recognized as one of the nation’s premier law firms, The Cochran Firm handles cases on behalf of clients seeking a Personal Injury Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Medical Malpractice, Bankruptcy Attorney in Atlanta or Social Security Disability Lawyer.The Firm can be reached at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or fill out the form on this page. “Working for You.” Article by Benjamin A. Irwin, Esq.

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