Site unites search for benefits
- By Brian Robinson
- May 23, 2001
The National Council on the Aging Inc. is expected to announce a Web-based
service today BenefitsCheckUp that older Americans can use to find federal
and state assistance programs to which they are entitled.
Millions of people have not been receiving benefits to which they may
be entitled simply because they don't know about them. Information has been
difficult and time-consuming to track down. BenefitsCheckUp is designed
to collect the information into a single, searchable database.
A beta test of the online site has been available at test.benefitscheckup.org.
To use BenefitsCheckUp, individuals enter information about their own
financial situations or that of a client, parent or other relative into
a multi-page online questionnaire.
The program uses that information to automatically conduct a search
of the database and generate a response that explains benefits programs
for which the individual may be eligible. It also provides information about
ways to apply for the benefits.
NCOA has been working for more than a year to pull BenefitsCheckUp together.
The main challenge was constructing the database, which collates information
from a huge range of federal and state databases. Once NCOA had built the
database to show to organizations, it was able to get funding from those
organizations that will enable the council to provide the service at no
charge to users.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging and Lucent Technologies provided
the financial support to help develop the technology behind BenefitsCheckUp.
Other contributions came from New York Life Insurance Co., the Merck Company
Foundation and the Archstone Foundation. The AOL Time Warner Foundation
is expected to announce BenefitsCheckUp alongside NCOA.
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.