By Mary Morrell | Contributing Editor

According to the most recent New Jersey Elder Economic Security Index, 8 percent of New Jersey’s older adults live at or below the federal poverty level. Social Security is the only source of income for 30 percent of older adults in New Jersey.

That reality means a significant number of seniors and those with disabilities may be eligible for money-saving benefits through the New Jersey Division of Aging Services, Department of Human Services, said Louise Rush, Division acting director.

Those benefits include programs that pay for monthly Medicare Part B premiums, programs that help pay the cost of prescription medication including certain Medicare Part D premium payments and deductibles, an annual $225 benefit for electric and gas bills, and a $100 reimbursement to help offset hearing aid costs.

“These programs ensure access to affordable prescription medications and, for those living only on Social Security benefits, the chance to get their Medicare Part B monthly premiums paid for by the government, putting $134 back into their monthly Social Security checks,” Rush said.

She also noted, “The New Jersey Division of Aging Services (1-800-792-9745,) the County Offices on Aging (1-877-222-3737) and the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP, (1-800-792-8820) receive and welcome calls daily from seniors seeking help with health care and other costs of living. That’s why it is so important for seniors and caregivers to know about and apply for available services.”

For those who don’t have access to a computer, are not comfortable using a computer or need help with forms, “both the Division of Aging Services and the County Offices of Aging have staff available to assist these individuals,” Rush said. “Language assistance is available for people whose primary language is not English,” she added.

Applications are available online at www.aging.nj.gov, at the 21 County Offices on Aging and at most neighborhood pharmacies, or by calling the New Jersey Division of Aging Services toll-free at 1-800-792-9745.

SHIP counselors also routinely help seniors apply for these benefits.  A listing of SHIP lead agencies in each county can be found at www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/sashipsite.html.

“Seniors can take the savings they experience from enrollment in these programs to pay for other expenses such as rent, food and transportation. They should also contact their County Office on Aging at 1-877-222-3737 or their local senior center to learn about additional services and benefits,” advised Rush.

Those who need assistance may call the Division’s toll free hotline at  1-800-792-9745 or the Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) at 1-877-222-3727.