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Social Security Advisory Services

AMAC Foundation Expands Social Security Advisory Services

Several AMAC Foundation representatives have earned certification as National Social Security Advisors, qualifying them to counsel retirees and pre-retirees on questions and issues pertaining to Social Security. The training preceding the qualification exam equips these Advisors to provide guidance to clients on the many Social Security options available, and enables them to provide a trusted service to the public. Certification is accredited through the Ohio-based National Social Security Association (NSSA).

These five individuals - Arlene Sharp, Eileen Cook, Sharon Kleczka, Russell Gloor, and Gerry Hafer - are available to handle questions submitted to the Foundation.

To Submit a Question or to Request Information:

“The certification of our staff members is critical to our mission of supporting and educating America’s seniors,” reports AMAC President Dan Weber, “and we believe that by providing credible, unbiased information to people in, or aging into, Social Security is an important part of what the Foundation does. And, since the Foundation is a tax-exempt organization relying solely on contributions from the public to operate, there is no charge for this valuable service.”

Our Certified Social Security Advisors

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Gerry Hafer

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Sharon Kleczka

Social Security Advisor

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Russell Gloor

Social Security Advisor

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Eileen Cook

Social Security Advisor

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Arlene Sharp

Social Security Advisor

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Investor Fraud and Identity Theft

Why Consider This?

Over $50 billion is lost each year to fraud. Recognizing the severity of this issue and its impact on American seniors, the AMAC Foundation has placed a priority on informing the public about the practices scam artists use, the common ways potential victims are targeted, and what individual investors can do to combat the problem.

Project Scope

The AMAC Foundation has designed a free seminar covering the basics of investor fraud and discussing steps everyday investors can take to protect themselves in today’s complex financial world. This information-packed session has been conducted three times so far, with an average attendance of about 50 participants so far. Future sessions will be scheduled on an as-requested basis, and will probably take place on a quarterly basis in 2015.

The content of these seminars begins with a discussion of the types of financial fraud commonly happening today, focusing on real-life fraud situations and steps that could have been taken to prevent them. A variety of information sources residents can use to guard against unscrupulous brokers and financial agents are covered, as well as the warning signs potential investors should heed when considering the commitment of their money.

During the presentation, online information and broker validation software available free of charge to the public is illustrated. No special equipment is required to participate, although attendees are invited to bring a laptop or internet-enabled device to experience this software firsthand.

For this session, and in recognition of the growing concerns of America’s seniors, we have expanded the scope to include a discussion on identity theft, focusing on understanding the growing threat that this crime presents. We’ll also provide tips on what can be done to minimize the risk of falling victim to the deceit imposed by the criminal element.

The sessions are for informational purposes only. No investments are solicited, and no follow-up contacts are made.

This seminar was conducted three times in 2014, with an average audience of 60 attendees per session. Since this is a topic of enduring interest, additional sessions are planned for 2015 and beyond. Watch the Foundation’s calendar for announcements of future sessions.

Disability Information

The Foundation periodically receives information that is vital to a specific demographic or population segment, and in keeping with our mission of providing education relevant to our constituency, we take steps to make it available to visitors to our site.

We recently received a communication from Educator Labs, an organization comprised of school librarians and media/market research specialists who work as curators and conservators of the scholastic web. Among other things, Educator Labs’ mission is to strengthen connections among the educational web by acting as courier of emerging topics and collections of reference materials for use by educators nationwide.

In carrying out their mission, Educator Labs often compiles collections of material that has a high degree of relevance and importance to population segments outside of the education community. One such example involves a “Toolkit” they have developed to provide information of critical importance to Americans with disabilities. At the AMAC Foundation, we believe that a substantial segment of our constituency includes seniors with disabilities, and have agreed to provide this information to that portion of our readers via this post.

Why is this an important topic?

Consider this excerpt from a United States Census Bureau news release issued in conjunction with the ADA’s 22 anniversary…

About 56.7 million people — 19 percent of the population — had a disability in 2010, according to a broad definition of disability, with more than half of them reporting the disability was severe, according to a comprehensive report on this population released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report shows that 41 percent of those age 21 to 64 with any disability were employed, compared with 79 percent of those with no disability. Along with the lower likelihood of having a job came the higher likelihood of experiencing persistent poverty; that is, continuous poverty over a 24-month period. Among people age 15 to 64 with severe disabilities, 10.8 percent experienced persistent poverty; the same was true for 4.9 percent of those with a non severe disability and 3.8 percent of those with no disability.

Other highlights:

  • People in the oldest age group — 80 and older — were about eight times more likely to have a disability as those in the youngest group — younger than 15 (71 percent compared with 8 percent). The probability of having a severe disability is only one in 20 for those 15 to 24 while it is one in four for those 65 to 69.
  • About 8.1 million people had difficulty seeing, including 2.0 million who were blind or unable to see.
  • About 7.6 million people experienced difficulty hearing, including 1.1 million whose difficulty was severe. About 5.6 million used a hearing aid.
  • Roughly 30.6 million had difficulty walking or climbing stairs, or used a wheelchair, cane, crutches or walker.
  • About 19.9 million people had difficulty lifting and grasping. This includes, for instance, trouble lifting an object like a bag of groceries, or grasping a glass or a pencil.
  • Difficulty with at least one activity of daily living was cited by 9.4 million non institutionalized adults. These activities included getting around inside the home, bathing, dressing and eating. Of these people, 5 million needed the assistance of others to perform such an activity.
  • About 15.5 million adults had difficulties with one or more instrumental activities of daily living. These activities included doing housework, using the phone and preparing meals. Of these, nearly 12 million required assistance.
  • Approximately 2.4 million had Alzheimer’s disease, senility or dementia.
  • Being frequently depressed or anxious such that it interfered with ordinary activities was reported by 7.0 million adults.
  • Adults age 21 to 64 with disabilities had median monthly earnings of $1,961 compared with $2,724 for those with no disability.
  • Overall, the uninsured rates for adults 15 to 64 were not statistically different by disability status: 21.0 percent for people with severe disabilities, 21.3 percent for those with non severe disabilities and 21.9 percent for those with no disability.

According to a CDC report, people with disabilities are more likely than those without disabilities to report having poorer overall health, less access to adequate health care and more engagement in risky behaviors such as smoking and physical inactivity.

In the words of Educator Labs, “(t)his means that we need to work together to build supportive communities. Indeed, these facts drove our team to put together a toolkit to help empower our disabled population with their options and their rights!”

The Toolkit Contents

The AMAC Foundation is pleased to partner with Educator Labs by providing site visitors access to the components of their toolkit via the these links:

Adult Literacy

Why consider this?

In the United States, studies conducted by ProLiteracy Education Network have indicated that 43% of the adult population has a reading comprehension level of grade 8 or lower. Close to half of the individuals with the lowest literacy rates live in poverty. Similarly, a Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) study produced the following alarming statistics:

  • The U.S. mean literacy score was below the international average—ranking 16th out of 24 countries.
  • The average literacy score for adults in the U.S. was 270 out of 500.
  • 12 percent of adults in the U.S. performed at the highest proficiency level on the literacy scale.
  • The average numeracy score for adults in the U.S. was 253 out of 500.
  • 9 percent of adults in the U.S. performed at the highest proficiency level on the numeracy scale.
  • The average score for adults in the U.S. on the problem solving in technology-rich environments was 277 out of 500.
  • 6 percent of adults in the U.S. and 8 percent of adults under 35 in the U.S. performed at the highest proficiency level on the problem-solving/technology scale.

This same study found that people with low skills are four times more likely to have poor health (two times the national average) and that socioeconomic status in the U.S. is highly related to literacy skills. The U.S. has the highest levels of income inequality and literacy skills inequality.

With conclusions like this as a backdrop, the Foundation recognizes that any step in the direction of improving adult literacy levels is a step in the right direction. We recognize that while it is critical that we provide the appropriate counseling to seniors on the decisions they need to make, it is equally critical that we help them comprehend the context of these decision requirements.

Project Scope

The Foundation’s prime directive calls for assisting older Americans to understand the available options to make appropriate decisions that affect their social, health, and economic lives. A natural part of assisting in the understanding of options is to ensure that these very same Americans are able to comprehend the written material provided to them, and that they have the ability to articulate the questions they may have regarding programs and developments that have a direct effect on their lives. Compounding the literacy problem is the growing number of Americans who need counseling to improve their comprehension of the English language, especially in the inner cities and remote rural areas.

Working through AMAC’s Ambassador program, a network of volunteers might be built who could, working from materials compiled by the Foundation, organize adult literacy centers in regions across the country to provide structured programs on reading fundamentals, vocabulary building, basic math, etc. Literacy Councils and other related support organizations have an abundance of material that can be used to build programs.

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy administers an “Adult Education Basic Grant Program” that could potentially provide a source of funds to organize and conduct a program of this type

A program of this type would help promote the AMAC Foundation’s reputation as an organization dedicated to its constituency and, in conjunction with the resources available via the Ambassador program, could effectively make a difference in the lives of Americans.

What We've Done So Far

In 2015, we formed an initial team of adult literacy counselors and, in conjunction with the Lake County (FL) Library System, underwent detailed training and certification to serve the public. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, this project only went forward on a limited basis, although we’ve been able to recognize a measure of success locally.

During the first quarter of 2016, we plan to re-attack this area, recruiting and training additional volunteers and establishing new relationships with individuals in the immediate area needing literacy assistance.

Technology for Seniors

Why Consider This?

A Pew Research Center Internet Project study concluded that “A significant majority of older adults say they need assistance when it comes to using new digital devices. Just 18% would feel comfortable learning to use a new technology device such as a smartphone or tablet on their own, while 77% indicate they would need someone to help walk them through the process. And among seniors who go online but do not currently use social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, 56% would need assistance if they wanted to use these sites to connect with friends or family members.”

Pew researchers also reported that, of those seniors who to not currently use the Internet, only 16% in the survey population indicated disinterest in using this technology, while roughly two-thirds said they’d need help to go online.

With these and other anecdotal reports as an impetus, the Foundation has determined that this is indeed an area that warrants attention. Accordingly, we have included this as a target area for us to proceed with the development of a project effort as described in the next few paragraphs.

Project Scope

One of the long-range objectives of the Foundation involves assisting older Americans in a variety of areas that can enrich their lives and enhance their well-being. One of the more specific topics to be addressed in this objective involves computer literacy, and the need that older Americans have to acquaint themselves with the rapidly advancing world of technology and its place in their daily lives. Most services offered to seniors involve technology at some level, from receipt of Social Security payments, to applying for Medicare, to obtaining forms and documentation on government services, and so on. The common denominator in virtually all commerce affecting seniors is the ability to operate a computer, whether it’s a laptop, a tablet, or a smart phone.

To address this issue, the Foundation plans to create a “technology fundamentals” program whereby AMAC members and the public in general can be acquainted with the evolving world of computer-based technology, with emphasis on the mainstream items they come face-to-face with daily. The specific topics would include, for example, desktops and laptops and the differences between the two platforms, operating systems and what they do, tablets and what they can do and what their limitations are, smartphones and their growing capabilities, and some of the more primary software products encountered everyday (word processors, email systems, spreadsheets, internet browsers and search engines, and the like).

In conjunction with this effort, the Foundation seeks to enlist younger Americans, on a volunteer basis, to serve as instructional aides via a “Junior Ambassador Program.” It’s no secret that youth across the nation are highly proficient in fundamental uses of technology, and that computers, automation, and telecommunications concepts are a routine part of their lives. The role of these Junior Ambassador volunteers would be to provide, under the auspices of an organized and Foundation-sanctioned structure, one-on-one or group counseling to older Americans on the basics of using technologies, as well as the essentials of navigating the internet to accomplish activities that can enrich their lives.

The Junior Ambassador Program component of this project could look to organizations like Junior Achievement, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and similar groups for volunteer resources who could work with materials readily available from a variety of sources to teach and demonstrate computer fundamentals. In fact, the AMAC Ambassador Program itself could be the focal point for conducting the recruitment and organizational tasks necessary to launch a program of this type, with centralized acquisition of materials coordinated by Foundation staff. With the availability of materials supplied by technology vendors, usually at no cost, and with local organizations providing facilities at little or no cost, it is expected that this would be an economically feasible way to promote the Foundation and produce tremendous benefit for the Foundation’s constituency.

Grand Families Support (Kingship Care)

Grandfamilies are families headed by grandparents and other relatives who share their homes with their grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and/or other related children. Roughly 7 million children across the country live in households maintained by grandparents or other relatives. In more than a third of these homes no parents are present. The concept is also known as “kinship care,” “kincare,” or “relative care” and serves a purpose of minimizing the placement of children through foster care systems.

In the U.S., an estimated 7 million grandparents are living with a grandchild, and the trend has been substantially upward since the beginning of this century. According to a 2003 U.S. Census Bureau report, 2.4 million grandparents had primary responsibility for their coresident grandchildren younger than 18. Among grandparent caregivers, 39 percent had cared for their grandchildren for 5 or more years. 594,000 grandparents nationally are raising children below the federal poverty level. Relatives care for a quarter of all children in foster care in the United States.

The AMAC Foundation is planning to become involved with this concept, initially by establishing a source of helpful information for families needing support. Since resources vary from state-to-state, one of the initial ventures will be to establish a place for families to go to determine what help is available in their state and where they need to go to access it. In addition to reference sites and helpful videos and online data, we plan to establish links from the Foundation website to other credible sites.

Longer range, we plan on working through the AMAC Ambassador network to pursue the possibility of establishing local community-based support groups to provide direct assistance to families in need.