Help for people unable to work: ABD and HEN

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If you have very low income and resources, you can't work due to disability or incapacity, you're not eligible for other help and you're homeless or at risk of homelessness, learn more about two programs that might help you. #7812EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Yes, you should read this if you live in Washington state, you have very low income, and you cannot work due to disability or incapacity. We define these below.

You will learn about the Washington state programs known as ABD and HEN, how you might qualify for them, how they might help you, and what you can do if you are turned down for these programs.

This program provides cash assistance for adults who have a disability. In 2023, a single person could get up to $417 a month.

Maybe, if you have income and resources below the allowed levels and you are 65 or older, or you are blind, or you have a disabling physical or mental condition keeping you from working full-time for at least 12 months. Your disability cannot primarily be due to substance use.

This program provides referrals for housing costs and other help for adults who cannot work due to physical or mental impairment lasting at least 90 days (called incapacity).

The HEN program will refer you to a local HEN provider. The local provider will decide after an assessment what help you will get. It could pay rent and/or utility assistance directly to a landlord or utility for you. HEN might also pay your back rent, utility bills, move-in deposits, application or screening fees, or storage or other costs.

How can HEN help with my personal essential needs?

You may receive:

  • Personal health and hygiene items, such as toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper

  • Household cleaning supplies, such as laundry and dish soap

  • Bus passes, other transportation costs (limited availability)

HEN does not give retailer gift cards, vouchers, or certificates to buy these things.

You may receive:

  • Personal health and hygiene items, such as toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper

  • Household cleaning supplies, such as laundry and dish soap

  • Bus passes, other transportation costs (limited availability)

HEN does not give retailer gift cards, vouchers, or certificates to buy these things.

Yes, you can get HEN if you get ABD or Pregnant Women Assistance (PWA), or you are incapacitated, and you qualify financially.  

To get housing assistance through HEN, you must also have proof that you are homeless or at risk of homelessness. If you are staying with family or friends, ask your relative or friend to fill out HEN's paperwork. The friend or relative should state in the paperwork that they are requiring you to pay rent and would evict you if you did not pay.

Starting July 23, 2023, if you already get or qualify for TANF (cash assistance for needy families), Refugee Cash Assistance, or SSI, you are not eligible for HEN.

You might also be ineligible if you suffer from substance use disorder and you are not in treatment for this. However, starting July 23, 2023, if your lack of care options for a minor child or incapacitated adult in your home is the reason you aren't in treatment, the state may excuse you from having to do treatment. The state may also excuse you from treatment and refer you to the HEN program after all if you have other good reasons for not being able to get treatment right now.

You cannot get ABD or HEN if you have a child in your home, but you do not get TANF because you refuse to or do not meet a TANF rule, such as work requirements.

DSHS can approve you for the HEN referral program for up to 12 months. You must renew your HEN eligibility with DSHS before your eligibility period is up to keep getting HEN.

HEN providers review your financial eligibility for rent assistance every 3 months. Depending on funding and which county you live in, your provider might keep paying for your housing for up to 3 months after you lose the HEN referral.

Because of the way the state funds HEN providers, your local provider might have to stop or change their HEN program temporarily.

If you start to get SSI, you will no longer be able to get HEN.

No. If you need Medicaid, you will apply for it separately. Most low-income adults can get Medicaid now. You do not need to get ABD and HEN to get it.

There is an exception to this. Medicaid requires citizenship or specific kinds of immigration status. If you do not have that, but you qualify for ABD and a HEN referral, DSHS can approve you for a state-funded medical program, Medical Care Services. Visit Washington State Health Care Authority to learn more.  

Here is how to apply for Medicaid:

  • Apply online at:
  • Call 1-855-923-4633 (1-855-WAFINDER)
  • Pick up a paper application at your local DSHS office

You apply with DSHS. You can call 877-501-2233 or apply online at Depending on staffing, you may also be able to apply in person at your local Community Services Office (CSO). You can look up your local CSO at

DSHS requires you to give recent medical evidence about your physical and/or mental health conditions. If you need help getting or paying for medical records or exams, DSHS must help you.

If DSHS approves you for the "HEN referral" program, they refer you to apply for HEN assistance with a HEN provider in your community.

After you get the DSHS HEN referral, you must go to the HEN provider in your county to apply for HEN assistance. The local HEN provider decides what assistance to give you based on state guidelines.

Depending on where you live, the average amount of housing costs help you can get is about $300 a month. Amounts can be much smaller or higher. The HEN provider decides the amount after an assessment.

The provider will directly pay your landlord, people you live with, and/or the utility company.

Yes, but your rights are more limited than for help you get from DSHS. (See below.) The provider has its own rules about when and why they can deny or end your assistance. Their rules also explain how to ask for an appeal (called a grievance) and how that will go. Ask the provider for a copy of their rules.

Rules vary by county. The provider decides how much you get, and how long. If state funding for HEN runs out, there is no right to continuing benefits or assistance.

If DSHS denies you both, you can appeal just the HEN referral program denial or both ABD and HEN. Read I applied for benefits. DSHS said no to learn more.

You have 90 days from the date on the notice to appeal. Starting July 1, 2023, if circumstances beyond your control, such as medical issues, housing instability, language barriers, or domestic violence, keep you from meeting that deadline, you should still ask for a hearing as soon as you can.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

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Last Review and Update: Jun 23, 2023
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