You Gave, Now Save -- Find the Benefits You're Due

Last updated: February 17, 2012

Government benefits to older Americans might not be as ample as many would wish -- but a surprising portion of the benefits that currently exist are going unclaimed by those who are eligible. In fact, some $20 billion worth is lost by low-income adults not enrolled in programs designed to help them, says the National Council on Aging (NCOA).

Now an effort is underway to convince more families to access these financial breaks, which include programs for subsidized prescription drugs, food stamps, help with heating bills, subsidies to lower Medicare premiums, home care aides, respite care, tax relief, transportation programs, legal assistance, and more.

"You gave, now save," is the slogan for a new campaign by the NCOA and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging to encourage older Americans to claim the benefits they're due.

"Especially with the older old, they don't want to take what they consider "˜welfare.' They'd rather do some cases, these are programs people have invested in throughout their working lives, "Sandy Markwood, chief executive of National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, told Paula Span in the New York TImes blog, "The New Old Age."

More than 70 percent of callers to the National Council on Aging's Benefits CheckUp website were eligible for some form of aid that they weren't already claiming. To find out if you're eligible, you can access these government clearinghouses:

  • The Eldercare Locator, a public service of the National Administration on Aging, at or by calling 800-677-1116.

  • BenefitsCheckUp, a service created by NCOA (online only).

Some of the programs are available everywhere, but others are state-based. Most require annual income at or below the federal poverty level ($10,890). The two services ask about income, geography, and other factors.

(See examples of other government benefits you may be missing out on. Additional benefits to be aware of include Veteran's benefits and Medicare coverage of procedures and devices.)

As the NYT's Span quotes her Aunt Minnie: "If you don't ask, you don't get."

Image by Flickr user, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

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4 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

over 2 years ago

If you, as Home and lovin' It expressed, find the information too confusing, contact your state's Agency on Aging to find out if there is someone in your area who explains these things to elderly. Sometimes Senior Citizen Centers provide that through their Senior Advocate program. Or check with a child who lives near -- or ask your child to go to the web site, put in your information and print out the results for you. Perhaps you have a computer savvy friend who would help you. Ask for help whenever you need it and for whatever reason. Be your own best advocate!

over 2 years ago

I admit, I'm too confused to understand much of it.

over 2 years ago

Good article, but as yousafhaque and citizens of many other countries would remind us, we do NOT receive these benefits from "the Government," but rather, from the US taxpayers who have been among the most generous providers of any society in any time in human history. The government, at best, is a middle-person who takes a fairly generous cut of the proceeds and nearly all the credit.

over 2 years ago

But in my country one gives and gives all his life and if he is "unfortunate enough"to live till he is old he gets NOTHING in return, rather has to purchase medicines to be able to die in peace and less pain

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