East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging

Mission Statement

"We are dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for Older Americans and their families by providing information about and access to a variety of services in their community in the 16 counties of East Central Illinois"


East Central Illinois
Area Agency on Aging, Inc.


1003 Maple Hill Road
Bloomington, IL 61705-9327
Telephone Numbers:

309-829-2065
Seniors may call toll free:
1-800-888-4456
Fax: 309-829-6021

Email: JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING

 

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Benefit Access Program

 

What is the Benefit Access Program?

Illinois Cares Rx and the Circuit Breaker Property Tax Relief Grant were terminated in July 2012.  The remaining benefits include the Seniors Free Transit Ride, The Persons with Disabilities Free Transit Ride, and the Secretary of State License Plate Discount of $75.  The Senior and Disability Free Transit Ride benefit includes free rides on all fixed-route regularly scheduled buses and trains through local transit authorities in Illinois.  The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) services the Chicago Metro Area including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties. These benefits are now available by applying for the Benefit Access Program. 

 

Who is eligible for the Benefit Access Program?

The following requirements must be met to be eligible for the Benefit Access Program:

·         Applicant must be 65 years or older by December 31 of the current year or be 16 years of age or older and totally disabled at the time you file.

·         Applicant must be a resident of Illinois at the time the application is filed.

·         Income must be less than:

o    $27,610 for a 1 person household

o    $36,635 for a 2 person household

o    $45,657 for a 3 person household

 

How do I apply for the Benefit Access Program?

The Benefit Access Application is only available online.  It is a two year application, so once an applicant is approved for the benefits, they will not need to reapply again for another two years. The application is available on the Illinois Department on Aging (IDOA) website: www.state.il.us/aging  

Please note: Some people have had difficulty using the Firefox browser to file the application.  Instead, try using Internet Explorer, Safari, or Google Chromeand adjust your security settings to allow Pop Ups. 

 

What information is needed to apply?

To start the new Benefit Access Application, the applicant must enter their Social Security number, first and last name, and their birth date.The application will then lead the applicant through the 7 main steps outlined below.

 

Step 1. Claimant Information:

This section will request what benefits the claimant is applying for, the claimant’s name, Social Security number, birth date, address, phone number, marital status, and gender.

 

Step 2. Spouse Information:

Step 2 will ask if the applicant’s spouse would like to apply for the Ride Free Transit Card.  The application does not ask if the spouse is applying for the License Plate Discount, because only one license plate discount will be granted per couple. The application then requests the spouse’s Social Security number, birth date, name, and gender.

Please note: If a married couple qualifies for the benefits based on income, but only one spouse qualifies based on their age or disability status, they should file as a married couple using their total income.  However, when the application asks which benefit the ineligible spouse is applying for, they must indicate that they are not applying for any benefits for that spouse. 

 

Step 3. Qualified Additional Resident information:

Step 3 requests information about Qualified Additional Residents (QAR). A QAR is a person (other than the applicant’s spouse) who resides in applicant’s home, and receives at least 50% of their financial support from the applicant. The QAR must not have filed a separate Benefit Access Application. The application will request the QAR’s name, Social Security number, and birth date. Do not include the QAR’s income information in Step 4. A QAR is not eligible to receive any benefits.

 

Step 4. Income Information:

If the applicant’s only source of income is from Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Railroad Retirement, they will only have to enter the yearly benefit amount before Medicare deductions.  If the applicant has any other source of income, they will need to check the box, “Other Income”, and indicate the source of income and the yearly amount they received. Remember, the income information requested is from the prior year, 2013. 

If the applicant’s total yearly income is over the income eligibility limit, an Over Eligibility Limit error message will appear, and will not let you move any further through the application.

 

Step 5. Attachments:

The new Benefit Access Application requests that the applicant upload and attach documentation of income and/or proof of disability into the application instead of mailing or faxing documents. There are three situations where an attachment will be requested to be scanned into the application.  These situations are described below.

 

1. If the applicant only reports Social Security, SSI, or Railroad Retirement Income in Step 4, an attachment will notusually be requested.  IDOA, in most cases, is able to verify these benefits electronically. However, if the applicant selects “Other Income” in Step 4, the application may request a 1040 attachment. The application does not request an attachment if the applicant selects Unemployment Income, Civil Service Income, Human Service/Cash Public Assistance, or Wages Salaries & Tips under the “Other Income” section in Step 4, but all other sources of Income indicated in the “Other Income” section will trigger a request to attach the applicant’s 1040 form for the previous year. In cases where an applicant selects “Other Income” and a 1040 is not requested, it is still advised to upload any proof of that income as a “General Attachment.” Proof of income may include a W-2, 1099, etc.

Please note: If the application requests a 1040 form and the applicant does not make enough money to file income taxes, the applicant needs to upload a 1099 in the “Proof of Income” field where a 1040 attachment is requested. A PDF document with the applicant’s name, last 4 digits of their Social Security number, birth date, and a statement explaining why the applicant does not file income taxes must then be uploaded in the “Proof of Income” field as a “General Attachment”. For example, the statement may read, “I do not make enough money to be required to file income taxes.”  If the applicant is present they should sign and date this document.

 

2. If the applicant does not report that they have income in Step 4, the application will request a “Zero Income” attachment.  Attach a PDF document with a statement explaining how the applicant covers their food and shelter costs. For example, the statement may read, “I live at my sister’s house rent free.  I cover my food expenses with my $200 per month SNAP benefit.” Upload the PDF into the “Proof of Income” field.

                                                         

3. If IDOA is unable to verify an applicant’s disability status electronically with the Social Security Administration, the applicant may be requested to upload an attachment with proof of their disability. Proof of disability include proof ofSocial Security disability benefits, disability benefits from Railroad Retirement or Civil Service, disability benefits from the Veteran’s Administration, or a Class 2 disability card from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.

If an applicant does not receive the disability benefits listed above, or have a Class 2 disability card, the application will request that they print off a Schedule A form and have it completed by their physician. The applicant will need to Exit and Save the application.  They are then able to go back into their saved application and upload the completed Schedule A Physician’s Statement as a proof of disability in the “Claimant Disability” field. 

Please note: Although highly discouraged, documents may be faxed or mailed to IDOA if there is no scanner available. In this case, complete and submit the application with no attachments. The applicant’s name, last 4 numbers of their Social Security number and date of birth must be on each document being mailed or faxed to IDOA. IDOA’s fax number and mailing address is found below.

Fax #: (217) 524-9213

Address:  Benefit Access, 1 Natural Resources Way, # 100, Springfield, IL62702-1271

 

Step 6. Submit:

Carefully review the application before submitting. Once the application is completed and all necessary documents are attached, submit the application.If the applicant does not have the necessary attachments at the time of the application, it is best toSave and Exit the application without submitting it. The applicant can return to the application at a later time by entering their Social Security number, birth date, and name. 

Please note: If you have submitted the application without attaching required documents, you are still able to go back into the application and add documents after submitting the application. However, we do not recommend this.  IDOA is processing applications quickly, so applications submitted without appropriate documentation may be denied.

If the application was submitted by a Preparer who is not the claimant, the Preparer’s name, address, and phone number is requested in Step 6. (If your agency is a funded Senior Health Assistance Program (SHAP) site, please insert your SHAP code to give your site credit for the application.)

 

Step 7. Errors:

Step 7 provides a description of errors that may have occurred while filing the application. 

Please note: If an attachment was requested in Step 5, the Error Description will read, “Waiting on Attachment Verification”.  This error message indicates thatthe application is waiting for the attachments to be approved by IDOA staff. 

 

How long does it take to be approved and receive Benefit Access benefits?

If an attachment was requested in Step 5, the status of the application will read, “Submitted Waiting on Attachments.” In this case, the application may take up to a few weeks for approval, because staff at IDOA will need to review the attachment.  If the application was submitted without needing to upload an attachment, the application will be approved within 24-48 hours.   Once the application is approved, an eligibility certificate can be printed at any time.

The eligibility certificate can be taken to the local public transit system office to prove eligibility for the Senior and Disability Free Transit Ride benefit. The local public transit systems have different requirements to sign up for the Free Transit Ride benefit after being approved, so it is important to contact your local public transit authority for more information.  

Approved Benefit Access applicants are able to receive their $75 license plate discount from a Secretary of State’s office, or currency exchange. The Eligibility Certificate printed from the Benefit Access Application site will not be sufficient for an individual to receive the $75 license plate discount.  Approved applicants will need a control number to receive the discount.  Eligible first time filers will receive a letter from the Secretary of State which includes their control number within approximately 3 weeks of approval. Eligible repeat filers will receive their discount letter and control number in late December/early January of each year. 

However, the Secretary of State’s office will be able to verifythe applicant’s eligibility for the $75 license plate discount electronically within 10 days of the Benefit Access Application approval. After 10 days, an approved applicant is able to go to the Secretary of State’s office before they receive their approval letter in the mail.

Please note:Currency exchanges are not able to view an approved applicant’s license plate discount eligibility electronically.  The control number will be required. The approved applicant can call the Secretary of State’s office at (800)252-2904 after 10 days of approval to retrieve their control number if they do not have the Secretary of State’s approval letter on hand.  

Can I print a copy of the application?

The Benefit Access Application has a Print Application Summary button.  A summary of the application can be printed before or after the application has been submitted.    

 

What if I make a mistake after submitting the online application?

If you realize that you made a mistake after submitting the application, call the IDOA Senior Helpline at (800)252-8966 for assistance.  Please wait 2-3 days before calling the Senior Helpline, because the application needs time to be processed before they are able to assist with the issue.

Please note:There is no need to call the Senior Helpline to report an incorrect Social Security benefit amount.  The Department on Aging is able to verify Social Security benefits electronically. 

 

Who do I contact for more information about the Benefit Access Program?

For more information about the Benefit Access Program, please visit the Illinois Department on Aging website here: www.state.il.us/aging.  If you have further questions about the Benefit Access Program, contact the IDOA Senior Helpline at (800)252-8966.