NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, March 2004
Online Information for the Elderly & the Disabled
by Steve Rosenthal,
Secretary, Space Coast PC Users Group, Cocoa, Florida
(click to email author)

On Tuesday, July 22,2003, Kim Komando (http://www.komando.com) had a link to a site that is of major interest to EVERYONE approaching retirement, Social Security, and/or who is permanently disabled for any reason. The site is sponsored by the National Council on the Aging, and hosted by AOL’s GovernmentGuide.com. It is called http://benefltscheckup.org (do not add ‘www’), and is a comprehensive guide and list of any and all programs that are available to the “older generation,” i.e. adults who are ready for Social Security or on permanent disability. This is a “must see” site for anyone with questions of importance about their benefits at or near 65.

    The opening page has several choices:
    1) How to Use the Site,
    2) Tips,
    3) Sponsors,
    4) Support for N.C.O.A. (National Council On Aging). The first place to go on the site would be the “Benefits CheckUp” button, which will take the reader to several pages that ask important and pertinent questions about the individual, spouse and any dependents living in the household. There is a second button that takes the reader to a page for prescription drug information and savings.

I would suggest starting with the Check Up button, and going through the questionnaire, filling out ALL the questions as accurately as possible. The reader will need information on:

    A) State & Zip Code,
    B) Dates of birth for individual and spouse,
    C) Type of residence,
    D) Length of time living there,
    E) Veteran status,
    F) Employment History as it refers to governmental employment,
    G) Prescription Medication List (very important),
    H) Current income and their sources,
    I) Current Expenses.

Get this information together BEFORE entering the site, as it will speed the process of “filling in the blanks.” The reader has only 20 minutes to answer all the questions, before the site ‘times out,’ meaning the reader will have to start all over from the beginning.

Once the reader has started the questionnaire (Click the ‘Click Here’ button), there are about 35 or so questions, on approximately 10 different pages, some of which will require detailed information on medications, household income, work status, marital status, and the like.

A detailed questionnaire on current medications will probably take the longest, so it is advisable that a current list of medications be written out and by the computer when answering this part of the questionnaire. Not all drugs are listed; some are listed as generic meds.

After filling in all the information, the site will then take a minute or so to assess the input, and select a list of sites and contact addresses/phone numbers for applications for various programs that would be valuable to the individual, assist limited income individuals who need help with their bills and even suggest further research for available programs for the retired and limited income families.

The federal government offers tax breaks and some private companies offer reduced price medicines for individuals and families on fixed incomes, which help retirees and the disabled cope with month-to-month living expenses and ‘survival.’ As far as I can tell, none of the information is stored -- it is erased after the 20-minute time period has elapsed. It doesn’t appear to be ‘collected,’ and if it is, it would only be for statistical purposes, since the site does not ask for a name, address, phone number, Social Security Number, or any other personal identifying information directly traceable back to the individual. Answering the questions honestly simply retrieves information for the reader. In total, there are about 40 questions, and the most comprehensive is the one about prescription meds.

With ALL of your personal information at hand, it should take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete the survey, and another minute or two for the site to retrieve the pertinent information for your specific situation. The results will vary according to each individual’s input and can list a few or several sources for further printing out the final results, as names, addresses, phone numbers and web sites can be extensive and comprehensive, depending on the individual’s answers to the questionnaire. Examples of the results may include:

    1) Golden Access Passport,
    2) Food Stamp Program,
    3) Medicare Counseling through the SHINE organization,
    4) Real Property Tax & Other Exemptions,
    5) Homestead Property Tax Deferral (for FLA residences in particular),
    6) Earned Income Tax Credit, and other qualifying programs, depending on income status.

These are by no means the total list; you will get a list that applies directly to YOUR specific needs and income level. Anyone with a computer can access this information, and if you don’t have a computer at home, your local library (or even a neighbor, friend or family relative) can access the site, fill in the required information, retrieve the results, and print out the information for you to follow up via letter or phone call.

The Internet is chock full of, and a FANTASTIC source of information if you know where and how to look for it. This particular information might take an individual months to collect separately, but on the Internet, it took only 20- 30 minutes to gather, print, and store in a file that can be referred to over and over again.

I was able to download the PDF file with ALL the information in text form, which I can then read at my leisure or constantly go back to as a reference source. Anyone who is interested in available benefits should access this site, and do the questionnaire for themselves. Again, the name of the site is http://benefitscheckup.org and is available 24/7.

Take advantage of what the Internet has to offer; you’d be surprised at the wealth of information available. If you need further information, my Email address is stever43@bellsouth.net. Feel free to contact me, and I will do my best to help you find the information you are seeking. Good luck with your search, and use the Internet to its fullest capacity, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what it has to offer.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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