Technology Helps Older Arizonans Collect the Benefits They Deserve
BenefitsCheckUp Reveals Untapped Financial Support
Hundreds of thousands of federal, state and local benefits go unclaimed by Arizonans age 55 and older or those living with disabilities every year, leaving more than $32 million in support uncollected. Why? Most people don’t even know they’re eligible for these benefits, according to Karla Averill, special projects director for BenefitsCheckUp Arizona an innovative Internet tool that links older Arizona residents to more than 1,200 benefits.
“We’re working to get the word out about this great resource, which people can access through their home computers or through screening sites set up throughout the state,” Averill says.
While more than 18,000 people have been screened since the project’s launch in 2004, the National Council on Aging estimates that another 200,000 older adults in Arizona are not receiving the benefits for which they’re eligible.
That’s why the State of Arizona has launched an outreach campaign to build awareness of BenefitsCheckUp Arizona. Through distribution of brochures, magnets, posters, 30-second commercials, public service announcements and a video designed for community presentations, the state hopes to make more Arizonans aware of the vast array of benefits that go unclaimed every year.
Bringing BenefitsCheckUp to Arizona
Through a unique public-private partnership, three foundations together with the State of Arizona set out to increase the number of older Arizonans and disabled individuals receiving benefits that improve their quality of life. After hearing about the successful launch of BenefitsCheckUp at 10 sites across the country, the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust in collaboration with St. Luke’s Health Initiatives and the BHHS Legacy Foundation began to explore how to bring the national model to residents of Maricopa County.
Originally housed in the Office of the Governor and guided by an advisory committee of senior services providers, BenefitsCheckUp truly is a partnership among the many agencies that serve older adults and disabled people.
Individuals can access the BenefitsCheckUp Arizona screening tool, or visit sites around the state at many senior centers, hospitals, libraries and social service agencies where staff and volunteers are trained to online question-and-answer tool.
Beyond identifying eligibility for benefits, the program is training volunteers at the screening sites to help people apply for benefits, which can range from supplemental income to pay for groceries, utility bills and housing costs to prescription drugs and healthcare.
The Arizona project began in Maricopa County and expanded to Mohave County and has been taken to every county through additional foundation and government funding to expand the program.
“We’ve had a lot of great outcomes for people who are eligible for benefits. The whole program is a quality of life issue, especially with the new prescription drug benefits that have been added,” Averill explained. “The impact can be great, particularly for an older adult who is having trouble paying household and medical bills.”