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Who are they and do I need one?
By Sandra Fusion, Staff Writer
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
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.