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WASHINGTON – The elderly can now make just one stop at BenefitsCheckUp.org to find out how to sign up for federal and state assistance. “In most communities, if you want to find out benefits information, you have to go to 15 different offices,” said National Council on the Aging president James Firman. “Now you can in 10 minutes do what it would have taken you 10 weeks to do.” The site was created by NCOA with help from AOL Time Warner, Lucent Technologies, New York Life Insurance Co., and the Merck Co. Foundation. It contains a free and confidential screening tool to determine eligibility for nearly 1,000 assistance programs nationwide and provides detailed instructions on how to apply for them. It took the companies nearly two years to work with all 50 states to gather the diverse benefit information. With 12.4% of Americans age 65 or older, Firman said this is a service long overdue. The database lists a variety of assistance including supplemental income to free home energy credits for lower heating and cooling costs, legal services and prescription drug benefits. Only a zip code is required to determine local benefits and those without Internet access can go to a library or community center with computers to visit the site. According to AOL, more than 70% of older Americans now go online to search for information for themselves and for their families.

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