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Benefits Counselors:
Who are they and do I need one?
By Sandra Fusion, Staff Writer


(Page 2 of 2)

The types of information that benefits counselors can examine include (but may not be limited to):

Insurance benefits
Social Security benefits
Social Security Disability benefits
Medicare, including the new prescription benefit section (Part D)
Prescription Assistance programs (for individuals not eligible for Medicare)
Income tax benefits and credits
Retirement benefits
Veterans benefits
Community-based benefits
State program benefits, including home care alternatives
Advocacy with agencies, if needed
Referrals to community based organizations or government agencies.

Make sure you have your documentation available when you speak to a benefits counselor. Things to consider taking with you to an appointment include:

Recent statements from your insurance company
Recent bank account statements (although they may not need them)
Medications that you are currently taking (for Medicare Rx or other prescription benefit programs)
Retirement statements concerning benefits you are already receiving
Social Security statements and card (if available)
Disability benefits currently receiving

Any other state, federal, or community program where you are currently enrolled.
What if you’ve applied for services and have been denied, yet you still feel that you qualify? A benefits counselor can examine your case individually and try to advocate on your behalf. Advocacy does not guarantee services, however. Advocacy gives a voice where you may not have the words needed to explain your situation. Indeed, advocates for individuals may be able to sort through the requirements and find out if there has been miscommunication, missing documentation, or other communication barriers that prevent you from receiving specific benefits. If you are still denied benefits, at least you will feel like you have received the total attention of the “system.”

Where do they work?

Benefits counselors do not always work for the AAA. Because the AAAs were empowered by the Older Americans Act, you can search for a certified benefits counselor through these agencies. However, there are other organizations that employ benefits counselors. Some of these examples include your local human service offices, county welfare offices, and community-based organizations that serve the elderly and/or disabled.

Another method you can use to find a benefits counselor is by calling an information and referral helpline. In more than 46 percent of the United States, you can dial 2-1-1 and reach a trained professional who can identify organizations in your community where benefits counselors work. If your area does not have access to 2-1-1, usually there is one point of entry into the human service system. Some places call it a helpline while others call it information and referral. To find out if your community has access to 2-1-1, you can look online at www.211.org. The nationwide status map can also give insight into where to call if your area is not served by 2-1-1.

Learning about available benefits for yourself or someone else can be challenging. For this reason alone, it is important to have a trained professional review your situation and point out avenues you may not have considered investigating.

 

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