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Benefits Access for Vulnerable Seniors and Adults With Disabilities

Author: National Council on Aging

Published: 2011-03-09

Synopsis and Key Points:

Connecting seniors and adults with disabilities to benefits programs is key to helping them live with economic security in their own communities.

Main Digest

Aging Secretary Greenlee Stresses Value of Benefits Access for Vulnerable Seniors and Adults With Disabilities - Benefits help individuals stay financially secure and independent longer.

Connecting seniors and adults with disabilities to benefits programs is key to helping them live with economic security in their own communities, said Kathy Greenlee, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging, during a special conference yesterday hosted by NCOA's National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment (NCBOE).

"If a person has to choose between paying for utility bills or for food, they should know that there are services and benefits to help," Greenlee said. "Connecting people to information and services are both critical and key to everything we do to keep people independent."

Greenlee was keynote speaker at the three-day conference, which for the first time brought together more than 175 state and local leaders, benefits advocates, and state and federal agency representatives who are working to find and enroll eligible seniors and adults with disabilities into benefits programs to improve their lives.

Nearly 3.4 million older Americans live in poverty and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, three in 10 seniors are considered economically insecure living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. These individuals struggle each day to pay for basics such as medicine, food, and housing.

Under a grant from the U.S. Administration on Aging, NCBOE serves as a national resource center to help local organizations use a person-centered approach and the latest technology to find and enroll eligible individuals in the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy, Medicare Savings Programs, Medicare's preventive services, SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, among others.

NCBOE supports 20 local Benefits Enrollment Centers and 51 state and territorial grantees under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA) by providing training, data collection, and best practices. The MIPPA grantees work with vulnerable seniors and Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities to help make Medicare affordable.

"With more and more seniors struggling in this economy, connecting them to available benefits is more important than ever," said Jim Firman, NCOA president and CEO. "We praise Secretary Greenlee's passion for ensuring that individuals get the information, services, and benefits they need to live securely in the community as long as possible."

Access to benefits is an important piece of the puzzle for older adults who are living on the edge of poverty. NCOA is committed to helping seniors build greater economic security and offers a variety of other resources, including: is a free online screening tool that searches over 2,000 federal, state, local, and private programs to help seniors pay for prescription drugs, utility bills, meals, health care, and other needs.

NCOA's Economic Security Service Centers provide low-income older adults with one-on-one economic casework at 12 locations nationwide. More than 700 older adults have developed personalized "economic action plans," featuring health insurance counseling, financial and legal counseling, bankruptcy and eviction assistance, foreclosure mitigation and reverse mortgage counseling, job training, and access to benefits.

The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) trains low-income workers aged 55+ and places them in community service jobs. NCOA currently operates 27 SCSEP programs in 11 states, with funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Home Equity and Reverse Mortgage Counseling helps millions of seniors make prudent use of their equity so they can "use their home to stay at home."

For more information on NCOA's programs, please visit

About NCOA - The National Council on Aging is a non-profit service and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. NCOA is a national voice for older Americans - especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged - and the community organizations that serve them. It brings together non-profit organizations, businesses and government to develop creative solutions that improve the lives of all older adults. NCOA works with thousands of organizations across the country to help seniors find jobs and benefits, improve their health, live independently and remain active in their communities. For more information, please visit

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