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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  
Wednesday, October 9, 2002 Contact: AoA Press Office
(202) 401-4541

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AoA) today announced grants totaling $1.1 million for pension information and counseling projects. The funding is for new demonstrations and continuing projects that will develop ways to educate and promote pension awareness and protection among older adults.

"By assisting older adults to obtain information about their retirement benefits and negotiate for due compensation when needed, we are helping them maintain financial security and independence," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said.

In 1992, AoA first funded seven demonstration projects and one technical assistance grant through Title IV of the Older Americans Act. The success of the original program resulted in congressional recommendation for expansion in 1998, and in 2002, Congress incorporated the program permanently into the Older Americans Act. The program now includes three new projects, six on-going pension-counseling programs, and a training and technical assistance project.

"We are extremely pleased that our pension counseling projects continue to do what we hoped they would: find ways to help older people become better educated about their pension rights and remain independent within their own homes and communities," said Assistant Secretary Carbonell, who heads the Administration on Aging. She added, "These projects help older citizens file claims, work through legal loopholes created by divorce and widowhood, and understand the advantages and disadvantages between lump sum payments and annuities."

AoA’s three new pension projects include:

Minnesota Senior Federation, St. Paul, MN $150,000. The Upper Midwest Pension Project will serve both Minnesota and Wisconsin by combining comprehensive pension counseling services for workers and retirees with both private and government plans, including innovative initiatives to meet the needs of participants in 401(k) plans, multi-employer (union) plans, and state public employee plans.

University of Massachusetts-Boston, Institute of Gerontology, Boston, MA $150,000. This project, which has been operational since 1993, expanded to a regional project serving the six New England states, in 1998. The goal of the project is to increase workers’ and retirees’ knowledge of and access to retirement benefits. The project provides individual counseling, case investigation, legal research, referrals to other agencies or a lawyer when appropriate, and community education and outreach.

Elder Law of Michigan, Lansing, MI $150,000. Elder Law of Michigan proposes to expand and enhance its current pension counseling project that serves the states of Michigan and Ohio by adding limited service to the state of Illinois The project provides intake, advice, and information to pensioners on benefits, and offers suggestions and strategies for pension problem resolution. The grantee is using the model of a statewide legal hotline as the first point of entry for pension counseling.

Pension counseling projects receiving their third year funding include:

The University of Alabama School of Law, Tuscaloosa, AL $74,928. Recruits law students to provide pension counseling, assistance and pension outreach to older adults in rural and urban communities in Alabama.

The Pima Council on Aging, Tucson, AZ $75,000. Counsels seniors throughout the state on pension and retirement issues, and focuses attention on special issues facing Native Americans.

The Chicago Department on Aging, Chicago, IL $74,353. Provides outreach and assists older citizens in the city of Chicago in understanding and obtaining their pension benefits and accessing retirement income that is due to them.

The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, San Francisco, CA $75,000. Provides pension counseling to seniors and trains other agencies and lawyers about pension benefits issues. The project provides fact sheets for consumers on various pension and related retirement issues in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

Pension Claims Law Center, New York, NY $75,000. Operates a pension hotline that provides guidance and counseling to current and former New York employees.

The Older Women's League, Washington DC $74,919. Provides innovative, low-cost, user-friendly counseling on pension and retirement issues to low-income seniors, especially minorities and women, in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Pension Rights Center in Washington, D.C. $208,600 is AoA's Pension Counseling Program technical assistance and training grantee.

The Technical Assistance Project provides technical and legal assistance and on-site training for staff and volunteers of the pension demonstration projects, state and area agencies on aging, and legal service providers. The Center also assists the projects in developing local support systems, such as pro bono legal assistance and actuaries. The Pension Rights Center is also developing an interactive website, PensionHelp America, which combined with a national hotline, will give anyone with a telephone or a computer access to pension information on almost any of the 750,000 private pension plans, federal, state and local government plans, and railroad retirement benefits.