Senior bulletin board: Protecting sensitive information

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     For years now, we have been told not to carry our Social Security card on our person; not in a wallet, not in a handbag, not in a brief case. Why would you do that anyway? I can't imagine why you would ever be asked to produce it. If so, it could be helpful to have memorized it.

In times past, we might have been asked for all 9 numbers. I clearly remember being asked for my social security number on a form at a health care facility. When I declined to give it, it became a major challenge, they insisted this was the only way they could set up a file for me and that this would be the only way they could retrieve records. We finally agreed on an alternate I.D.

Bottom line: put your Social Security card in a safe place, do not carry it around with you.

Now, we are being advised not to carry our Medicare card out of our home, unless we anticipate that we are going to be asked to produce it at a doctor's office, a clinic, or a hospital. Personnel, apparently, need to use it to verify your health care benefits, and I find that they like to make a copy of the card. I recall hearing recently that we will be getting new Medicare cards in 2018 that will not show our Social Security number. All of this to lessen the chance of our Medicare number falling into the wrong hands and then being used fraudulently to obtain services.

Furthermore, we are advised to shred all sensitive documents, i.e., any paperwork that shows your Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security number. According to Vermont SMP (Senior Medical Patrol), it is estimated that $1 of every $7 spent on Medicare and $1 of every $10 spent on Medicaid is lost to fraud. That equals billions of our tax dollars down the drain.If you suspect Medicare fraud, error or abuse, you are encouraged to call Vermont SMP at 888-865-2683. This agency, by the way, is part of the national program funded by the Administration on Aging.

Okay, to carry on! I recently came across the following facts distributed by the Council on Aging regarding 3SquaresVT (otherwise known as food stamps). This was material that was distributed in August, so it may have been updated by now and, apparently, may be seeing some adjustments in 2018. About 1 in 8 Vermonters, including 13,000 Vermonters over the age of 60, are using 3SquaresVT. Nine out of ten senior households receive $50 or more a month in benefits.

There is no limit as to how many people can receive 3SquaresVT benefits. If you apply and receive benefits, you are not taking them away from someone else. According to the Council on Aging, "By law, anyone who qualifies for benefits and applies, gets them. There are enough benefits for everyone who is eligible." PS: Seniors can ask to have their "benefits" sent directly to their checking account, no need to use an EBT card, although some may choose to.

If you are struggling with the challenge of purchasing sufficient groceries, perhaps you would want to consider applying for this program. You can get help from the Senior Helpline (800-642-5119). And don't forget the Community Food Cupboard - no big paperwork to complete, you will be asked for basic information about your income. If you are struggling to make ends meet on a Social Security budget, it may be worthwhile for you to check with the person-in-charge at the Food Cupboard. She's very nice, and I assure you she will not intimidate you. Hours there are Wednesday, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., with additional hours about one Saturday a month. There is also a Food Shelf in Arlington.

Quite by accident,a week or so ago, I came across a notice that Senator Sanders is inviting seniors in the Rutland area to a holiday lunch - he is picking up the tab. Then, I heard that he is similarly offering a holiday buffet in Bennington. By the time I heard about it, there were only 2 vacancies on the list of 100, and I suppose those slots have already been claimed. I am told that "Bernie" himself will probably not be there; someone from his office will, and perhaps Senator Sanders will be available by phone. If you want to ask about a waiting list for either one of these events, you could call the Bennington Senior Center (802-442-1052) or the Rutland Senior Center (802-773-1853).

What about the Seniors in Manchester? Was either of these invitations distributed anywhere in the Manchester, Arlington, or Dorset area? Perhaps you would agree that the time has come for a Senior Center in Manchester where any Senior living in the Northshire could receive and review this kind of information.

Marian Haines has lived in Manchester for decades, and is an advocate for Seniors Living in the Northshire.

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