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Program helps seniors and disabled save money

September 07, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- With funding from a competitive national grant, the Washington County Commission on Aging has introduced a new service to help seniors and people with disabilities find and sign up for benefit programs that can save them money on prescription drugs, medical care, food, utilities and more.

At the new Benefits Enrollment Center, staff guide participants through a set of questions to find out if they are eligible for any of dozens of federal, state and private benefits programs, program manager Belinda Corbett said. Then, staff can help participants fill out applications for the programs and will even follow through to ensure there are no problems with the application, she said.

The National Council on Aging awarded the Washington County COA a $100,000 grant to establish the center, said COA executive director Susan J. MacDonald. It was among 10 organizations nationwide to receive the grant, she said.

The Benefits Enrollment Center will expand on the services the COA already offered as a Maryland Access Point, MacDonald said.

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The new program uses an online Benefits CheckUp questionnaire from the National Council on Aging that takes information such as a person's zip code, date of birth, income, expenses and veteran status and compares it against the eligibility requirements for federal, state and private benefits programs to produce a personalized report.

The questionnaire is available online at www.benefitscheckup.org, but the Benefits Enrollment Center was created to help those who do not have access to computers or would feel more comfortable completing the questionnaire with the assistance of a trained staff person, Corbett said.

The center also offers one-on-one assistance with filling out application forms for the appropriate programs, she said.

Because the center screens applicants' eligibility for multiple benefits at once, it is faster and easier than pursuing individual benefit programs one-by-one, Corbett said.

It also can help applicants find out about programs they might never have heard of otherwise, she said.

The appointments are held at the COA office at 140 W. Franklin St. and generally take about 30 minutes, she said.

The center also will have staff visiting various pharmacies, community centers and senior housing sites throughout the county this month, Corbett said.

Appointments are available by calling 301-790-0275.

For more information



Seniors and people with disabilities may contact the Washington County Commission on Aging at 301-790-0275 to schedule a free Benefits CheckUp.

Or, take the Benefits CheckUp yourself online at www.benefitscheckup.org.

Benefits Enrollment Center staff will take the Benefits CheckUps on the road to the following sites:

Sept. 8: Potomac Towers Nutrition Site, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Southeastern Nutrition Site, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Elizabeth Court, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sept. 9: Alexander House 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Walnut Towers 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sept. 10: Williamsport Nutrition Site, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Magnolia Square Pharmacy, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sept. 15: Elizabeth Court, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sept. 16: Smithsburg Nutrition Site, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Alexander House, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sept. 17: Frances Murphy, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Senior Center at Girls Inc., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sept. 22: Magnolia Square Pharmacy, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sept. 23: Hanock Nutrition Site, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Russo's Pharmacy, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sept. 30: Russo's Pharmacy, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Oct. 1: Magnolia Square Pharmacy, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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