Friday, January 4, 2019


The ongoing partnership between the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging (MA4) and the South Central Pension Rights project (SCPRP) has proved to be beneficial to many  Missourians who need help to understand and exercise their pension rights.  MA4, in conjunction with Missouri’s ten Area Agencies on Aging, conducts outreach activities for SCPRP to make residents of the state aware of this needed project and its pension counseling services.

Roger Cume, Managing Attorney of SCPRP said, “Missouri is a non right-to-work state with the types of industries that have resulted in many current retirees being covered by traditional defined benefit plans.  We have seen a recent spike in overpayment recoupment cases where the Pension Plan Administrator incorrectly calculated the monthly pension payment and now they are trying to recover the overpayment by reducing the monthly pension check going forward.  We have had some success in getting recovery of the overpayment and the reduction in the monthly pension waived.” 

Curme mentioned a case in which a Missouri woman recived a letter from her Pension Plan Administrator that she had been overpaid more than $80,000.   SCPRP helped this woman obtain a waiver of the overpayment so her monthly pension check wasn’t reduced by the Plan to recoup the overpayment.

Besides help with recoupment issues, SCPRP services often pertain to unjustly-denied pension benefits; locating the company that administers your benefits; deceased spouse’s pension; entitled-to pension benefit; how to apply for your pension benefits; and questions about your retirement plan.

SCPRP’s services are provided through phone and mail communications by attorneys and paralegals.  These services are free, regardless of the age of the person seeking assistance.  If you would like to know more, visit their website at or contact SCPRP at 1-800-443-2528.   Please note:  SCPRP does not accept public benefit cases. 
The U.S. Administration on Aging has established a grant program to provide pension counseling projects across the United States, because it can be difficult for individuals to understand complex pension plans and laws. 
One of those projects, The South Central Pension Rights Project (SCPRP), assists people in Missouri, as well as other states, with their retirement issues. 
Since it began in October 2008, SCPRP has recovered more than $2.5 million in benefits and has assisted more than 300 individuals with their retirement benefit questions.  There is never a charge to clients, and they are assisted regardless of age, income or the value of the pension involved. 
The current economic climate means that there are more people than ever in need of help with their retirement benefits.  SCPRP answers questions about complicated pension issues, locates and explains retirement plan documents that might be difficult to find, corrects pension miscalculations, tracks down benefits from past employers and provides referrals to retirement benefit professionals, such as attorneys and actuaries, as needed.
SCPRP can assist with retirement income plans offered by either private or government employers and can help clients make more informed decisions by making sure they understand and can exercise their legal rights to their retirement benefits.
Although it is headquartered in Texas, SCPRP provides service for Missouri.   Their staff will be available by phone or in person if needed to assist retirees with problems related to pensions to which they are entitled.  This is another example of how the AAA partners with entities who are experts in other areas to bring information and resources to clients. 
Contact SCPRP for assistance at 800-443-2528 or visit for more information.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Download Your Free CARE Act Wallet Card

The CARE Act helps family caregivers by providing contact details for a loved one in case of emergency. View more info by choosing your state in the list provided. If your state is not listed, the CARE Act has not been implemented but you can sign up for more info and help get support to your state. Link below.

Post by Marilyn Gunter

Friday, November 16, 2018

Arkansas 2-1-1 had the privilege of hosting and AmeriCorps Program from September 2017 through August 2018.  They were tasked with helping expand the 2-1-1 database from four counties to 75.  It was an exciting time of learning and growing as a total of 13 AmeriCorps Members were located at six United Way offices across the state.  As a result of their participation, we were able to increase our resource by 162% and make lasting connections with agencies across the state.  I was particularly impressed when the Members recited the AmeriCorps Pledge during the orientation because it dovetails so perfectly with our role as Information and Referral Specialists:

I will get things done for America
to make our people safer, smarter and healthier.
I will bring Americans together
to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me
this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member and I will
get things done.

If you have the opportunity to work with AmeriCorps, VISTA, SeniorCorps, FemaCorps, or any of the other wonderful National Service entities, you will also have your faith in the human spirit bolstered as your program reaps the benefits of willing hearts.

Post by Carlos Garbutt

Monday, October 1, 2018

MAK-AIRS has another exciting webinar coming up on October 16th. Mark your calendars! There is no need to register. Simply click the link below to join us on the 16th. Please help us spread the word. This webinar is open to all who would benefit.

Unconditional Positive Regard Begins With You! - Self Care

After 30-some years in the field of crisis intervention and I&R being both supervised and supervising the presenter realized he was probably the reason for self care existed.  It was this introspection that lead to this workshop.  While those of us in the I&R field may not know it, the listening skills and the concepts of being nonjudgmental, respectful and empowering central to the I&R Process have their foundation in the Person Centered Therapy of Carl Rogers and his premise of Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR).  While we are adept at providing UPR to our clients we seldom think of ourselves as deserving UPR.  This workshop looks at how we deserve UPR and how we can begin to "work" on ourselves as much as we work at helping others.  For those of you who have been through countless self care workshops not to worry - there will be no visualizations, deep breathing, meditation or yoga involved.

John Plonski has 30+ years of experience in the fields of Crisis/Suicide Intervention and Information and Referral.  He has presented at the local, state, national and international levels and is currently the Director of - a virtual crisis service with volunteers in 6 of the 7 continents.  He is the developer of the Helping Empathically As Responders Training (HEART) which is the online training for IMAlive's volunteers.  John has created comprehensive training curricula, seminars and workshops for developing and established organizations that address agency and staff development as well as emerging needs with the goal of helping caregivers to effectively empower those who reach out in need as well as themselves.

MAK-AIRS Webinar: Self-Care 
Tue, Oct 16, 2018 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM CDT

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone. 

You can also dial in using your phone. 
United States: +1 (872) 240-3311 

Access Code: 274-160-997 

Joining from a video-conferencing room or system? 
Cisco devices: 274160997@

First GoToMeeting? Let's do a quick system check: 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

New Kid on the Phone

by: Jamie Saunders

Does anyone remember their first?  The first time you road a bike. The first time you drove a car.  Your first high school dance or your first kiss.  Maybe you are a first time home owner, held your first grandchild or the first time you saw your son or daughter walk down the aisle.  Well this is my first time writing a blog & I’m going to share some highlights of my “firsts” as it relates to being an Information & Assistance Specialist.
So let’s get straight to the point, life is full of new experiences. Everyone handles their first day on the job differently. Maybe you started your job fresh out of college or straight off the unemployment line. We all have had to experience the first day on the job jitters. Once you’ve gone through orientation, smiled at everyone you were introduced to, and preformed the professional firm hand shake a gazillion times….then it’s game time! 
As I patiently waited to receive my first call as an Information & Assistance Specialist, my throat got dry!  I cannot speak for anyone else, but this was the most nerve wracking experience of my life! Coming from a background of direct social service, I am used to meeting clients face-to-face.  Learning to establish rapport and connect with a person over the phone without being able to look the person in the eye was a huge transition.  The thought of giving referrals over the phone without following up with a home visit was unheard of!  I was nervous and you could hear it in my voice.  After a few awkward calls, I realized that although I knew the resources, I didn’t know how to connect with these callers.  Having my Master’s in Social Work didn’t mean I was an expert on the phones!  I was a “greenhorn” in this field but I was a fast learner.
I started by talking to some of my co-workers.  We have Information & Assistance Specialists that have worked at our agency for decades.  They were happy to point me in the right direction & share their experiences (good and bad).  They would commiserate with me when I had difficult callers and cheer me on when we would follow-up and hear success stories!  I soon developed my own “Janet Jackson voice” to calm down angry callers.  But I still didn’t feel confidant. 
Then something miraculous happened!  My supervisor handed me this very thick, considerably heavy and intimidating training manual. On the cover  in bold print were these words, THE ABC’s of I & R. When she handed me the manual it felt like the scene from the 1980’s film, The Blues Brother’s. You know the church scene where James Brown is acting as a preacher; he asked Jake and Elwood, “Do you see the light?”  Jake replied, “I have seen the light.” The 11 characteristics of an I & R Specialist perfectly aligned with my core social work values and ethics!
My supervisor informed me the exam will be administered at the AIRS conference in Dallas, TX. Needless to say I was freaking out at the thought of going to an AIRS conference after less than a year on the job! I was still kind of wet behind the ears, even though I had over a thousand calls under my belt!  But off to the airport I went, with my AIRS manual in my carry-on bag. Studying each module helped me to overcome my feelings of inadequacy. Fear of failure is not uncommon when you’re about to take an exam. I studied each chapter, read that manual cover to cover three times. All my studying paid off because I passed the exam with flying colors!
Most important of all, I had a clearer understanding of my role as an Information & Referral Specialist and the AIRS Standards I am to uphold as a Certified Information & Referral Specialist for Aging/Disability (CIRS-A/D).
At the conference, every workshop I attended gave me more courage. The AIRS Networker is overflowing with best practice which was proof I wasn’t alone. For every question there were thousands of answers from all 50 states and Canada. If I needed help with a situation, I was pleased to learn that there are AIRS Affiliate members in my area.
I am often asked, “Where are you working now?” I proudly say I am an Information & Assistance Specialist for the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging. Once the dazed and confused look passes they ask, “Well what do you do?”  I offer resources to older adult and disabled persons with disabilities. Our agency specializes in serving this population, by providing referrals that can help them live comfortably in their homes.
Bottom line, I now have the tools I need to continue learning how to be the best Information & Assistance Specialist I can be.  As long as I have the AIRS I & R Training Manual on my desk and the AIRS networker starred on my computer under my favorites, I will be able to handle just about any situation that arises with callers and staff.
In October of this year I will celebrate my 4th year as an Information and Assistance Specialist. I am proud to be a newly elected member of the AIRS board. It’s been a pleasure serving on the MAK-AIRS board as well. I’m no longer the new kid, those first few months on the job are a distant memory. AIRS has provided ongoing trainings and webinars. Now I am capable of training others seeking certification.
Reflecting back on the Blues Brothers film, I am no longer standing in the back of the church uncertain of what to do. In my Joliet Jake voice, “I have seen the light!”

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Chronic Absences

The Problem
Across the country, more than 8 million students are missing so many days of school that they are academically at risk. Chronic absence — missing 10 percent or more of school days due to absence for any reason—excused, unexcused absences and suspensions, can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing subjects and ninth-graders dropping out of high school.
Children living in poverty are two to three times more likely to be chronically absent—and face the most harm because their community lacks the resources to make up for the lost learning in school. Students from communities of color as well as those with disabilities are disproportionately affected.
This isn’t simply a matter of truancy or skipping school. In fact, many of these absences, especially among our youngest students, are excused. Often absences are tied to health problems, such as asthma, diabetes, and oral and mental health issues. Other barriers including lack of a nearby school bus, a safe route to school or food insecurity make it difficult to go to school every day.  In many cases, chronic absence goes unnoticed because schools are counting how many students show up every day rather than examining how many and which students miss so much school that they are falling behind.
While chronic absence presents academic challenges for students not in class, when it reaches high levels in a classroom or school, all students may suffer because the resulting classroom churn hampers teachers’ ability to engage all students and meet their learning needs.
The good news is that our work throughout the country shows us that chronic absence is a solvable problem. What works is taking a data-driven, comprehensive approach that begins with engaging students and families as well as preventing absences from adding up before they fall behind academically. The key is using chronic absence data as a diagnostic tool to identify where prevention and early intervention are needed.
With this data in hand, schools, families and community partners can together determine the causes of chronic absence, and implement approaches that address barriers to getting to class. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires districts and states to collect chronic absence data and report it publicly.  The majority of states have adopted chronic absence as a measure for school accountability.
The challenge of improving attendance is to avoid making the incorrect assumption that chronically absent students or their parents simply do not care. By working together, all of us — schools, public officials, public agencies, civic organizations, businesses, philanthropic groups, families and students —  can ensure all children can get to school every day so they have an opportunity to learn, flourish and realize their dreams.