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Recovering Unclaimed Benefits for Older Adults in the United States and Northern Ireland

Resource type: Grantee Story

Buddy Beckley of Baldwin County, Alabama. Photo: NCOA

At age 66, Buddy Beckley of Baldwin County, Alabama, was in a desperate financial situation. He faced being locked out of his home – a trailer – because he owed back rent. After paying for Medicare premiums from his Social Security and veterans’ benefits, Mr. Beckley was left with $320 in total monthly income, which failed to cover basic necessities.

His situation took a positive turn when caseworkers from two National Council on Aging (NCOA) partner organisations in Alabama put him on the path to economic security. They used the NCOA’s Atlantic-supported BenefitsCheckUp® web-screening tool to identify programmes for which Mr. Beckley was eligible and they helped him file sometimes daunting applications.

With the help of BenefitsCheckUp®, Mr. Beckley learned that he qualified monthly for:

  • $263 in Supplemental Security Income benefits
  • $110.50 for his Medicare premium
  • $17 for food.

His annual income more than doubled from $3,846 to $8,532, and one caseworker found $400 toward his back rent from a local charity.

Mr. Beckley is one of 1.4 million older adults to receive more than $7.5 billion in previously unclaimed U.S. government benefits, as a result of BenefitsCheckUp® since 2001. Currently, this tool identifies $3.3 billion annually for older adults, including the Low-Income Subsidy for the Medicare Part D prescription programme; the Medicare Savings Program, which supplements Medicare costs for low-income people; and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

Since Atlantic’s first grant in 2001 to expand BenefitsCheckUp® for disadvantaged older adults from diverse backgrounds, NCOA has executed a comprehensive programme to find and enrol seniors in health-related benefit programmes. One such initiative, related to Medicare’s prescription drug programme, generated a 138:1 rate of return on Atlantic’s $7.9 million investment. NCOA has also created coordinated, seamless community-wide systems, enabling local organisations to work together in helping older adults with limited means receive all eligible benefits.

To build on this tremendous success in the United States, Atlantic replicated this approach in Northern Ireland by providing support to five nongovernmental organisations to develop web-based tools and create a region-wide initiative to enrol vulnerable older adults. Since 2008, the Access to Benefits project has helped more than 26,000 people in Northern Ireland collect benefits, totalling £58.2 million ($92 million). Moreover, with Atlantic’s support, the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency has strengthened the infrastructure for innovative partnerships with community and voluntary organisations to increase the uptake of benefits for older people.

Atlantic’s total investment in the United States and Northern Ireland was $22.1 million, which so far has generated a 343:1 rate of return in recovered benefits for vulnerable older adults and much peace of mind.


Giving While Living: Marking 30 Years of Achievements: 1982–2012

> Read more stories of impact in our 30th anniversary publication

Access to Benefits for Older People and Social Security Agency are Atlantic grantees for recovering unclaimed benefits in Northern Ireland.

Related Resources

Global Impact:

Northern Ireland, United States