WEB site to show elderly how to find benefits

Monday, June 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The elderly will be able to find out how to sign up for federal and state assistance using a single Web site, beginning Tuesday.

National Council on the Aging president James Firman said the site will fill an important need.

``In most communities, if you want to find out benefits information, you have to go to 15 different offices,'' Firman said. ``Now you can in 10 minutes do what it would have taken you 10 weeks to do.''

Older Americans without Internet access can go to a library or community center with computers to access the site, or have their relatives or caregivers help.

Three million eligible elderly Americans don't receive Medicaid, Firman said, and another 3.7 million are eligible for food stamps but don't get them.

According to the 2000 Census, 12.4 percent of Americans are 65 or older.

Firman said a lack of awareness, lengthy and complex forms, and no centralized location for applying all contribute to the problem. It took Firman's group about two years to work with all 50 states to gather benefit information.

AOL Time Warner is hosting and advertising the site for free. Lucent Technologies and the New York Life Insurance Company have also contributed.

``We are pleased to be part of this partnership with the National Council on the Aging and others to help America's seniors find the benefits they need and deserve,'' AOL Time Warner Foundation president Kathy Bushkin said.

The site, called BenefitsCheckUp, includes a database of about a thousand federal and state programs for the elderly. Visitors fill out a confidential questionnaire, and find out what they're qualified for and how to apply.

To protect the user's privacy, the site does not collect a social security number, name, address, or any other personally identifiable information. It does require a ZIP code to determine local benefits.

The database lists all types of assistance, including supplemental income to free home energy credits for lower heating and cooling costs, legal services and prescription drug benefits.