New York State Senate Albany, NY 12247

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NEW YORK SENATE

New York State Senator

JOSEPH P. ADDABBO, JR.
15th Senate District
District Office: 159-53 102nd Street Howard Beach, NY 11414 • Phone: (718) 738-1111 Satellite Office: 66-85 73rd Place Middle Village, NY 11379 • Phone: (718) 497-1630

Email: Addabbo@nysenate.gov • Website: addabbo.nysenate.gov

SPOTLIGHT ON SENIORS
September, 2012 Dear Friend: As a member of the New York State Senate Committee on Aging, I am committed to fighting for legislation and services to improve the overall quality of life for seniors living here in Queens and throughout the state. Right now, New York is third in the nation in terms of its 65-andolder population, and the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of people in this age group will rise to almost four million by the year 2030. Come to think of it: I’ll be one of those people 65-and-older by 2030! It’s really not that far away, and the work we do today on behalf of our seniors creates the foundation for how we will all fare in the years to come. In this light, I hope you find this update on news and programs for senior citizens in New York State interesting and useful. As always, please accept my best wishes for good health and happiness and please do not hesitate to contact me if I may ever be of any assistance to you in the community. Sincerely,

EPIC RESTORATIONS: HELPING SENIORS AFFORD PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
One of the biggest victories we won for seniors this year was the restoration of tens of millions of dollars in cuts to New York’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program, which helps older people enrolled in Medicare Part D afford the high cost of prescription drugs. As part of the 2012-2013 State Budget, $34.1 million was restored to the EPIC program and action was taken to once again roll back co-payments to a maximum of $20 for participating seniors by January, 2013. These changes were needed to address the economic hardships imposed on EPIC participants when severe cuts were made to the program in the 2011-2012 state fiscal year to help close a yawning multi-billion dollar state budget gap. As a member of the Senate Aging Committee, I was pleased and relieved that we were able to restore necessary funding for EPIC this year and help seniors 65 and older in need of this prescription drug assistance. I also sponsor several bills to improve EPIC that I hope will be taken up by the Senate and Assembly in 2013: one (S254) to ensure that current enrollees don’t lose eligibility for EPIC if they receive cost of living increases in Social Security or their pensions, and another (S984) to increase income ceilings for participation so that more seniors can take advantage of lower medicine costs. Right now, single seniors enrolled in EPIC may have annual incomes of up to $35,000, and married couples may earn up to $50,000. Seniors who are already participating in EPIC will be receiving letters from the program later this year to explain changes that have been made, but I would also like to invite interested constituents to take advantage of a series of EPIC lectures I am sponsoring. Come prepared with questions and find out how EPIC might be able to save you money on necessary medications. Here is the schedule of free lectures, which are in addition to similar events I’ve already held in Howard Beach, Ozone Park & Woodhaven:
• 9/18/12 @ 11:00 AM, Peter Cardella Senior Center, 68-52 Fresh Pond Rd., Ridgewood 9/19/12 @ 1:00 PM, Elmhurst AARP, 69-60 Grand Ave., Maspeth 10/2/12 @ 11:00 AM, Ridgewood Older Adults, 59-14 70th Ave., Ridgewood 10/11/12 @ Noon, Sacred Heart Golden Age, 83-17 78th Ave., Glendale 10/16/12 @11:00 AM, Middle Village Senior Center, 69-10 75th St., Middle Village

Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. 15th Senatorial District

In the meantime, if you have any questions about EPIC, you may call my office or the State EPIC hotline at 1-800-332-3742 (TTY 1-800-290-9138).

Senator Addabbo joins representatives of the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program at a lecture he sponsored at the Woodhaven Richmond Hill Senior Center to help seniors learn more about changes to EPIC.

—In anticipation of the implementation of federal health care reform in New York, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order earlier this year to establish a New York State Health Benefit Exchange, which is required under federal law and goes into effect in January, 2014. Basically, the Exchange creates an organized health insurance marketplace where consumers and small businesses will be able to shop for coverage and easily compare different health plan options and receive certain tax credits. —A new law seeks to significantly expand taxi service in all five boroughs of New York City and increase the number of cabs that are equipped to be accessible for people with disabilities. (Signed into law, Chapter 9) —Legislation seeks to ensure that access aisles around handicapped parking spaces are at least eight feet wide in order to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices used by the disabled. (Signed into law, Chapter 274) —A new Protection of People with Special Needs Act is designed to overhaul and improve the state’s system of providing care for people with special needs and disabilities. The measure seeks to better protect and serve more than one million vulnerable children and adults in state operated, certified or licensed facilities and programs. (S.7749/A10721, will be sent to Governor for review)

FREE PRESCRIPTION DRUG DISCOUNT CARD AVAILABLE
If you aren’t eligible for EPIC, and are having trouble affording expensive prescription drugs, help may just be a mouse click or a phone call away! The New York RX Card program is free for everyone and provides pharmacy discounts for both brand and generic medications that average about 30 percent. There are no age or income restrictions, no waiting periods, no limits, no claim forms, and the card is accepted at more than 56,000 pharmacies around the country, including most major chains. To learn more about the program and to sign up, interested consumers may call 1-800-931-2297 or visit the website at www.newyorkrxcard.com. Those who visit the website are offered the opportunity to create and print their new discount card online. Please note: this is a discount card, not prescription drug insurance, although it can be used to supplement most health insurance plans.

2012 SESSION HIGHLIGHTS FOR SENIORS
In addition to the restorations made to the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program, the Legislature took some other actions to benefit seniors over the course of the 2012 session. Here are a few items of interest: —A total of $46.8 million, including an increase of more than $800,000, was provided in the State Budget for the Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program (EISEP), which helps older people who need non-medical assistance stay in their homes; —$325,150 was added in the State Budget for the Community Services for the Elderly (CSE) program, which helps communities throughout New York better respond to the needs of local senior citizens. The program will now receive a total of $15.6 million; —The Naturally Occurring Communities (NOCs) and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) programs had cuts restored, and will be funded at $2.02 million each. These programs are designed to help groups of seniors “age in place” with supportive services and avoid unnecessary institutional care. —A new law (Chapter 40) adds the Director of the State Office for the Aging to the New York State Emergency Services Council. In the event of an emergency, the Aging Director would advise the Governor on how best to address the needs of New York’s senior population.

Senator Addabbo joins with other Queens public officials and advocates for the elderly in protesting proposed budget cuts to senior centers in the borough.

SENIOR BILLS WAITING IN THE WINGS
As a member of the Senate Aging Committee, I have sponsored or co-sponsored a number of bills to help older New Yorkers afford their homes, receive good health care, find employment and otherwise meet their most pressing needs. Here are a few pieces of legislation I’ve been advocating and would like to see approved by the Senate and Assembly: S1251: This bill would exclude Social Security payments and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from being counted as income for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program, enabling more elderly tenants to save money on their housing expenses. S2407: This legislation seeks to improve health care for all patients in hospitals and other health care facilities in New York by implementing the “Safe Patient Handling Act.” The bill requires that a statewide plan be adopted to ensure that all patients are handled safely, using new technologies and best practices. Such a policy would help reduce injuries for patients and health care staff alike.

S4553: This bill would implement the “Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act” to improve the ratio of patients to nurses and direct care staff in hospitals and nursing homes. Increasing the number of staff available to serve patients could improve the overall quality of care and help prevent “burnout” among overworked health care professionals. S288: Given the enormous growth in the 65-plus population, and the extremely high cost of long-term care – whether at home or in an institution – this legislation creates a task force to devise a plan to provide long-term care insurance for all elderly New Yorkers in need. S4108: To encourage employers to provide jobs for older New York residents, this legislation would provide tax credits to small businesses who hire workers who are 55 years of age or older. Each hire, as long as the employee works at least 35 hours a week for a full year, would qualify the business for a $5000 tax credit, up to a maximum of $25,000. S7547: This legislation would provide needed assistance for families who need to take off time from work to care for newborn babies or sick family members. People shouldn’t have to choose between leaving their jobs and caring for their loved ones. To address this issue, the bill would establish family care insurance under our state’s workers’ compensation and insurance laws to enable New Yorkers to care for loved ones without wiping themselves out financially and emotionally.

treatment, discharged too soon, denied admission, transferred unsafely, kept in a nursing home against your will or have other serious concerns about your hospital, nursing home or home health care. Medicare: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) www.medicare.gov Official government Medicare helpline operates 24 hours a day and provides information and counseling about this health insurance program for seniors 65 and older. Medicare Rights Center Helpline: 1-800-333-4114 www.medicarerights.org Provides information, counseling and advocacy for people receiving Medicare and those who are having trouble understanding the complexities of the program. Social Security Administration: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778) www.ssa.gov Official government Social Security Administration helpline for Social Security beneficiaries; provides information and assistance with the program.

HELPFUL CONTACTS FOR AGING INFORMATION
New York State Senior Citizen Helpline: 1-800-342-9871 www.aging.ny.gov Operated by State Office for the Aging. Provides general information about programs and services for seniors, offers referrals to local resources. New York City Department for the Aging: 1-212-442-1100 www.nyc.gov/aging/ Offers information, referrals and assistance about services and benefits available to seniors in New York City, including food stamps, Medicaid, reduced fare programs, tax exemptions and public assistance. If you have Internet access, you can follow this link to read and print out a booklet called “Benefits for Older New Yorkers at a Glance”: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dfta/downloads/pdf/ publications/benefits_eng_22412.pdf Kinship Navigator: 1-877-454-6463 www.nysnavigator.org Offers information and referrals to services for grandparents and other older relatives who find themselves caring for their grandchildren and other related children because of death, substance abuse, mental illness, incarceration, military deployment and other reasons. Patients’ Rights Helpline: 1-800-333-4374 www.nysenior.org Operated by Statewide Senior Action Council and provides information about patients’ health care rights. Call if you have been denied emergency
Senator Addabbo joins with Ed Shusterich, an active Middle Village resident, to celebrate the placement of a plaque in Juniper Park commemorating 9/11 heroes and victims.

SAFE AND SOUND AT HOME
To help seniors live safely and independently in their own residences, the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens sponsors two programs to identify at-home safety hazards and assist qualified seniors with free home repairs. The Home Repair Program operates in all five boroughs of New York City, and assists senior owners of private homes, condos and co-ops – who have limited finances – with free home maintenance and repairs including minor plumbing, gutter cleaning, carpentry, and some emergency services. Under the Home Safety Audit Program, volunteer specialists aged 55 and older visit and inspect the homes of seniors to pinpoint and help address potential safety hazards. To learn more about these programs, and to see if you qualify for assistance, you may call the Foundation for Senior Citizens at 1-212-962-7559 or visit the Foundation’s website at www.nyfsc.org. In addition to its home safety programs, this group also offers assistance with home sharing, respite care and other services for seniors.

FREE LECTURES COMING UP ON MEDICARE, PROBATE & PREVENTING FALLS
For those of you who might be interested, I am sponsoring these free lectures: • “Preventing Falls” with the Visiting Nurses of the State of New York (VNSNY). Wednesday, October 3rd, 1 p.m. AARP Elmhurst/Rego Park Chapter at 69-60 Grand Avenue in Maspeth. “Avoiding Probate” with Brady & Marshak. Tuesday, October 16th, at 10:30 a.m. Howard Beach Senior Center, 156-45 84th Street, Howard Beach. “What Medicare Plan is Best for You?” Thursday, October 25th, 11:15 a.m. Middle Village Senior Center, 69-10 75th Street, Middle Village.

PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FRAUD AND SCAMMERS
Earlier this year, my staff and I had the pleasure of assisting a local senior citizen from Howard Beach who was targeted for an extensive and expensive mail fraud scam. The woman received an “official notice” with Irish postage that she had won an international sweepstakes, was in line to collect $245,000, and was mailed a check for $4,685 to help cover the “processing fee.” Knowing something wasn’t right, this woman turned to my office, and we were able to track down the scam, which involved a number of different company names and addresses operating in several different states. In the end, we reported the mail scheme to the Attorneys General in both New York State and Oregon for investigation. The happy ending to this story is that my constituent wasn’t taken in by this scheme. But there are many different scams that are specifically targeted at senior citizens, and it can be easy to be fooled. Billions of dollars are lost each year to fraud against older Americans and the heartache for victims is incalculable. To help you learn how to protect yourself against a number of scams – including identity theft, Internet fraud, and financial and health care schemes – I’ve included a link below to a very informative “Smart Seniors” booklet prepared by the Office of the New York State Attorney General. It provides a lot of useful tips, describes a number of common scams and offers advice on how not to be taken in by these criminals. If you do not have access to the Internet, please contact my office and we would be happy to send you a copy in the mail. http://www.ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/pdfs/ publications/Smart-Seniors.pdf For example, I am a champion of legislation that would: -- Establish a New York State Veterans Cemetery, crack down on those who wrongly sell commemorative property from the graves of veterans, and ensure that unclaimed cremated remains of deceased veterans are treated with dignity; -- Help to provide new job and business opportunities for service-disabled veterans, and provide a tax credit for businesses that hire unemployed veterans; -- Reduce civil service examination fees for veterans and otherwise aid veterans seeking public and private employment; -- Expand veteran tuition awards programs, provide new educational opportunities at state colleges and universities, and provide tax breaks for those with service-related disabilities.

STARS AND STRIPES: NEWS FOR NEW YORK’S VETERANS

Senator Addabbo speaks at a ceremony to mark the arrival of the mobile Vietnam War Memorial Wall to Juniper Park in Middle Village.

As the ranking Minority member on the State Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, I am committed to meeting the needs of our servicemen and servicewomen of all ages – whether their battles were in Iwo Jima, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere in between. We owe all of our veterans a debt of gratitude for their sacrifices and bravery and we have a responsibility to safeguard their well-being. I have sponsored, co-sponsored and otherwise supported many bills of importance to veterans.

HELP FOR VETERANS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
NYS Division of Veterans’ Affairs Information on job opportunities, education, counseling, benefits and other services 1-888-838-7697 (1-888-VETSNYS) www.veterans.ny.gov