The National Council on the Aging has developed the first and only nationwide, online service to enable older people, as well as their family caregivers and community organizations that serve them, quickly and easily to determine their eligibility for federal and state benefits programs. The system, BenefitsCheckUp, which includes a 50-state database with over 1,000 programs and 40,000 local entry points, allows users to check eligibility and learn how and where to apply for various programs. In an effort to demonstrate how the system can be deployed through diverse networks of community service organizations, this project will conduct a six-community, multi-site demonstration project. The demonstration project will include an array of organizations in rural and urban communities. Consumers will have free 24-hour-a-day, everyday access to the service directly through the Internet, or through participating organizations in their communities. These organizations will include local aging services programs, religious social service agencies, neighborhood health centers, and Community Action Agencies.
Despite efforts to establish a safety-net of benefit programs for low-income and disadvantaged people, there is significant under-participation among older people eligible for and in need of these programs. Many people are not aware of the benefits available; eligibility requirements are complex; and the application process is often intimidating. In addition, the benefit information is usually written at literacy levels well beyond that of the 50 percent of older Americans who did not complete high school. The BenefitsCheckUp system is based on thirteen years of experience with earlier technologies. The widespread adoption of the system will be a major breakthrough for community service organizations and families responsible for helping low-income older Americans. The project will demonstrate how access to public programs can be greatly improved through the use of enhanced database technologies.
The National Council on the Aging will partner with several national organizations that have local affiliates serving low-income seniors. These include the National Interfaith Coalition on Aging (representing more than 13 national faith-based organizations); Catholic Charities USA; the National Institute of Senior Centers; and the National Institute of Senior Housing.