Texas Benefits Counseling Program

The Texas Benefits Counseling Program is an opportunity for committed men and women to join our advocacy team. We want all Texans age 60 and older as well as Medicare-eligible people with disabilities of any age to have ready access to trained and certified benefits counselors. With the help of volunteer counselors, more eligible Texans can be helped to acquire benefits and/or maintain their rights.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer benefits counselor, please contact your local area agency on aging (AAA) at 1-800-252-9240 to discuss how you can serve others in your community.

How regional benefits counselors and volunteer benefits counselors work together

Both regional and volunteer benefits counselors provide information, counseling, assistance and advocacy to people who are older and others who are Medicare-eligible regarding their benefits, entitlements and legal rights. The difference between the types of counselors rests in the fact that regional benefits counselors are AAA employees.

Regional benefits counselors train volunteers. Some volunteer counselors choose to become a certified counselor by receiving additional ongoing training in public and private benefits, advocacy skills, and other relevant areas. Volunteers who want to become even more involved can provide ongoing support and education on benefits to other volunteers.

Job characteristics for benefits counselors are listed below. The descriptions do not necessarily correspond with certification levels. Each local AAA will customize their job descriptions to suit the skill and knowledge level needed for individual positions. By contacting your local AAA you can review the specifics of their positions.

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Qualities of benefits counselors

  • Ability to view the individual as the primary client.
  • Dedication to the Benefits Counseling Program.
  • Ability to work independently and as a team member.
  • Know when to ask for assistance.
  • Intelligence, patience, persistence and good will.
  • Knowledge about sources of assistance in other agencies and organizations.

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Confidentiality

Confidentiality is critical to successful benefits counseling. All client information will be treated as confidential and will not be shared with anyone outside the Benefits Counseling Program without the client's consent. Violation of confidentiality procedures can not be allowed in any Benefits Counseling Program.

All clients have the right to remain anonymous throughout the counseling process. Conversely, a client may sign a "consent to release" form for appeal and representation cases when the counselor acts, at the client's request, on his or her behalf.

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General duties and responsibilities of the noncertified volunteer benefits counselor

  • Attend initial and ongoing training.
  • Become knowledgeable in the areas of: Medicare, Medicaid and other private insurance.
  • Provide information and counseling regarding insurance and public entitlements to older persons and individuals with disabilities.
  • Provide assistance to older persons in applying for and maintaining insurance and entitlements benefits.
  • Refer more complex cases and cases requiring legal intervention to the appropriate sources.
  • Maintain confidential case reports.
  • Complete required quarterly reports.

Certified Benefits Counselor I

  • Attend initial and ongoing training.
  • Become knowledgeable in the areas of: Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance; Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability; appeals processes for Medicare, Medicaid and SSI; food stamps; pensions; money management; and debtor's rights.
  • Provide information and counseling regarding the above issues to people who are older or who have disabilities.
  • Provide assistance to people who are older in the applying for and maintaining insurance and entitlement benefits.
  • Refer cases requiring administrative appeal or legal intervention to appropriate sources.
  • Refer persons needing other community services to the appropriate sources.
  • Maintain confidential case reports.
  • Complete required quarterly reports.

Certified Benefits Counselor II

  • Attend initial and ongoing training programs.
  • Become knowledgeable in the areas of: Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance; Social Security and SSI disability; appeals processes for Medicare, Medicaid and SSI; food stamps; pensions; money management; landlord/tenant issues; fraud/unfair sales practices; and available community-based services.
  • Provide information and counseling regarding the above issues to people who are older or who have disabilities.
  • Provide information and referral on matters relating to probate, guardianship, protective services, powers of attorney and other matters requiring legal intervention to the appropriate sources.
  • Provide assistance to older persons in the direct application for obtaining and maintaining insurance and entitlement benefits.
  • Provide assistance to people who are older or who have disabilities in obtaining advocacy and representation in matters that require review, waiver reconsideration and/or hearings before administrative agencies.
  • Refer persons needing other community services to the appropriate sources.
  • Conduct presentations on benefits issues.
  • Develop and implement outreach methods relating to benefits counseling.
  • Maintain confidential case reports.
  • Complete required quarterly reports.

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Updated: July 1, 2014