‘Red tape cutter’ connects seniors to benefitsSenior Connections, located at 1805 N. 16th Street in Superior, is the Douglas County Aging Unit. Senior Connections provides key services such as the Senior Nutrition Program, Specialized Transportation, Information and Assistance, Family Caregiver Support, and the Memory Loss and Support Network.
Senior Connections, located at 1805 N. 16th Street in Superior, is the Douglas County Aging Unit. Senior Connections provides key services such as the Senior Nutrition Program, Specialized Transportation, Information and Assistance, Family Caregiver Support, and the Memory Loss and Support Network. Senior Connections also maintains the Loan Closet where people can borrow durable medical equipment such as crutches, wheelchairs, walkers and more.
Another service of Senior Connections is the Elderly Benefit Specialist Program. As people age, they often need help from government benefit programs to make ends meet. Understanding and accessing these benefits can sometimes be difficult and confusing. The Elderly Benefit Specialist Program is a federal and state mandated advocacy program designed to provide older adults — age 60 and over — with assistance on some legal issues. Assistance can range from information about eligibility and help in applying for benefits to troubleshooting problems that may arise.
Every county and tribal aging unit in the state of Wisconsin is served by at least one elderly benefit specialist. Benefit specialists receive in-depth, on-going training in the areas of benefit and entitlement programs, as well as other legal issues affecting older adults. An attorney provides supervision and support to the benefit specialist and works closely with them to ensure high quality advocacy and representation for all Wisconsin residents.
Pat Nelson took the elderly benefit specialist position at Senior Connections in December of 2009. A 2007 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Superior, Nelson loves being in a helping profession.
“It is truly a privilege to work with Douglas County Senior Citizens,” Nelson said. “I have always had a great respect for elders and it is gratifying to be able to give back a little to the generation that has given us so much.”
Elderly benefit specialists are known as red tape cutters because they can often get through to the heart of a matter quickly. Elderly benefit specialists in Wisconsin are also State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) counselors. They work quite extensively with Medicare benefits and assist many individuals review their Medicare prescription drug plan or Advantage Plan during the annual enrollment period near the end of each calendar year.
On May 10, Nelson plans to present two informational sessions to people who are new to Medicare.
Benefit specialists also work with programs that can help with Medicare costs. It is estimated that there are a few hundred Medicare beneficiaries in Douglas County who qualify for one of more of these savings programs and don’t even know it. This is an important issue for Nelson.
“These programs can help with prescription drug costs and possibly the Medicare Part B premium — it all depends on the applicant’s household income and assets,” Nelson said. “I love it when I can save beneficiaries some money whether it be with a Medicare Savings Program, Senior Care or educating someone about the preventive benefits that Medicare now offers.”
Other program areas include social security, Medicaid, food share, energy assistance, housing and consumer issues.
The elderly benefit specialist is physically located in the Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Douglas County, on the third floor of the Government Center. ADRCs, which are located in most Wisconsin counties, were created to provide a single entry point into the services that are available to elderly and disabled adults. The ADRC serves individuals age 60 and older as well as individuals age 18 and older with disabilities. The ADRC can provide options counseling, benefits counseling and referral assistance. In addition to providing the screening process to assist with future planning and eligibility for programs, the ADRC is also the place to contact if you are aware of an adult who is being abused, exploited, or in need of protective services.
Benefit specialist services are provided free of charge. For more information about the Elderly Benefit Specialist Program call Senior Connections at 715-394-3611 or 800-870-2181. You can also visit www.seniorconnectionswi.org. To schedule an appointment with the Elderly Benefit Specialist call 715-395-7533.