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Benefits.gov Compass Compass
Quarterly eNewsletter About the Benefits.gov Program | April 2012 Compass
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Inside This Issue

Benefits.gov Celebrates 10 Years of Citizen Service!

There's an app for that? Get Government Information On-the-Go with Mobile Apps from Federal Agencies

Improve Your Home this Spring with Help from Benefits.gov and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development!

Benefits.gov Highlight: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Benefits.gov Buzz

Stay Connected to Benefits.gov!

Help Yourself with Benefits.gov: Find Your State's Benefit Resources with Benefits.gov!

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About Us

About Benefits.gov

Benefits.gov Partners

About GovLoans.gov

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Benefits.gov Logo

Benefits.gov Celebrates 10 Years of Citizen Service!
This is an image of TENTH with a ribbon across it that says ANNIVERSARY.

This month, Benefits.gov celebrates its 10th year of serving YOU!

Over the last decade, the Benefits.gov Program has increased citizen access to government benefit information, while reducing the cost of interacting with the government. Over 50 million citizens have turned to Benefits.gov for life-altering government assistance information since its launch in 2002.  

Benefits.gov’s core function is the Benefit Finder, a dynamic eligibility prescreening tool which allows citizens to quickly find out what benefits they may be eligible to receive out of more than 1,000 Federally-funded benefit and assistance programs. Upon answering a few questions about your current circumstances, you will quickly receive a list of programs that you may be eligible for, as well as the program description and next steps to apply. Try the Benefit Finder now!

In recent years, Benefits.gov’s powerful prescreening technology has been reused for multiple government websites, saving taxpayer dollars by eliminating an agency’s need to replicate and maintain similar prescreening features. Thanks to this reusable technology, the Benefits.gov Program currently supports three other government websites - GovLoans.gov, BEST.SSA.gov, and DisasterAssistance.gov

"On behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor, I have been proud to oversee the Benefits.gov Program and watch it evolve year after year, continuing its mission to more effectively serve citizens searching for Federal assistance. The more recent reuse of Benefits.gov technology to support similar prescreening services across government has only increased the return on investment for this innovative, citizen-serving initiative,” said Edward Hugler, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management at the U.S. Department of Labor, “I am pleased to celebrate a decade of success with my colleagues from the Benefits.gov Program and the Benefits.gov Partnership, and look forward to the next ten years of innovative citizen service."

The Program’s success hinges upon the dedication of the Benefits.gov Partnership of 17 Federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor serving as the Managing Partner and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs; the Office of Personnel Management; the Small Business Administration and the Social Security Administration.

The Benefits.gov Program has received more than 20 industry awards in its history for innovations in citizen-serving technology and program management. For a complete list of the Program’s awards, visit our Partners page. "I'm honored to be leading Benefits.gov into its next decade of innovation and citizen service," said Al Sloane, Program Manager for Benefits.gov, "This program, which provides such significant value to citizens and government alike, is a prime example of E-Government success and underscores the importance of shared services to government efficiency."

We encourage you to visit and explore Benefits.gov. You can also keep up with the latest benefit-related information by subscribing to updates, or by following Benefits.gov on Twitter at www.twitter.com/benefitsGOV and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/benefitsGOV. Visit us again soon for more details on the upcoming Benefits.gov YouTube account, which will provide self-help Benefits.gov tutorials!

As true now as it was 10 years ago, it is a privilege to help you and your loved ones find the government benefits that are right for you.

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There's an app for that? Get Government Information On-the-Go with Mobile Apps from Federal Agencies
This is an image of a smart mobile phone with application icons streaming out of it.

The U.S. Federal government is changing the way citizens receive information. Mobile applications, or “apps,” have increasingly become an important way for the government to connect and engage with the public. Citizens can now instantly access a wide variety of official information - free of charge - straight from the apps they’ve downloaded on their mobile phones, or through their phone’s web browser.

With tax season upon us, you might be interested in downloading the IRS2GO app (available for iPhone and Android), offered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which will give you  the ability to check on the status of your tax refund, sign up for helpful tax tips and get the most recent IRS Twitter feeds.

Government Mobile App Spotlight:
Eat Shop Sleep by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

The New York Times recently highlighted DOL’s Eat Shop Sleep mobile app. DOL has been a pioneer in the government’s mobile application realm, making its employment and other statistical data available to the public and even using open challenges to ask software developers to produce user-friendly tools for the public through Challenge.gov. Developed for consumers, the Eat Shop Sleep app displays restaurants, hotels and shops that have wage or health and safety violations, allowing consumers to make informed decisions about where they choose to spend their time and money. Are you interested in additional mobile apps that the Department of Labor has to offer? Check out their easily-accessible online portal.

Mobile apps can also streamline government services in emergency conditions or immediately answer important citizen questions. FEMA Mobile, a mobile-enabled website developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides information about applying for assistance and disaster readiness.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a National Gravesite Locator, which allows users to search for burial locations of veterans and their family members. Previously, families may have had to wait several months for the same information they can now instantly receive via their mobile phones.

Have a vehicle that runs on alternative fuel? Check out the Alternative Fuel Locator app from the U.S. Department of Energy to find the closest place that offers the type of fuel your energy-conscious auto needs.  If you’re searching for a job, check out the USAJOBS app (available for iPhone), offered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), for Federal jobs and employment information.

Government mobile apps not only offer a great way to securely access information on-the-go, but also empower citizens to better understand government and make more informed decisions. To view an online library of all available free government mobile apps, visit the USA.gov Mobile Apps website.

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Improve Your Home this Spring with Help from Benefits.gov and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development!
This is an image of a man with a tool belt on a ladder working on a house.

Spring is just around the corner, and with the warmer weather, many people are interested in making home improvements. With Benefits.gov, you can find the help you need to get started!

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a variety of programs to help homeowners and possible buyers pay for home improvements. Through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an agency within HUD, people may apply for Federally-backed mortgage insurance programs which help fund the cost of home or property improvements. HUD also offers helpful tips to think about when preparing to fix up your home and planning out how to pay for it.

Interested in making improvements that will help reduce your utility bills? Check out HUD’s FHA PowerSaver Home Energy Retrofit Loan Pilot Program. The program offers borrowers low-cost loans to make energy-saving improvements to their homes through an approved, private lender. Backed by the FHA, PowerSaver loans help homeowners to make improvements, such as installing insulation, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels and geothermal systems. PowerSaver may be right for you if you have equity in your home and want to make cost-saving improvements that could also increase your home’s value, or if you’ve paid off your mortgage and just want to lower your energy bills. HUD also offers the Energy Efficient Mortgage Insurance program which helps new home buyers or people who want to refinance their mortgage pay for adding new energy saving features to their home, such as storm windows, insulation or solar panels. This FHA-managed program lets you add the cost of making these improvements as part of an FHA-insured home purchase or refinanced mortgage.

Are you looking to make general improvements to your home? HUD can help with the Property Improvement Loan Insurance program. Administered by FHA, this program makes it easier for you to get an affordable, FHA-insured home improvement loan through a Title I approved lender. You may be eligible for this loan program if you’re a home owner or a renter with at least six months left on your lease. For more information on this and other HUD loan insurance programs, contact a HUD approved housing counseling agency

To see a list of HUD benefits on Benefits.gov, go to Browse by Federal Agency and select “U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.” To find out if you are eligible for these and other benefits, click “Start Now” on the homepage to use our confidential Benefit Finder.

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Benefits.gov Highlight: U.S. Department of Agriculture
This is a close-up image of wheat in a field.

Did you know you don’t have to be a farmer to benefit from many of the programs offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)?

USDA benefit programs cover a wide variety of citizen needs, from rural housing assistance to supplemental nutrition assistance and even business loans. The following are just a few of the USDA programs that may be of interest to you and your loved ones.

Rural Rental Assistance: Rural Rental Assistance is used to reduce the rent paid by low-income families who live in eligible Rural Rental Housing (RRH), Rural Cooperative Housing (RCH) and Farm Labor Housing (LH) projects financed by the Rural Housing Service. To receive assistance, monthly rent payments must exceed 30 percent of a household's adjusted monthly income.

Summer Food Service: The Summer Food Service Program provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to children in low-income areas. The program helps children get the nutrition they need to learn, play, and grow, throughout the summer months and during other long periods when they are out of school.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): SNAP provides benefits to low-income people that they can use to buy food to improve their diets. SNAP recipients spend their benefits (provided on an electronic card that is used like an ATM card) to buy eligible food in authorized retail food stores. Through nutrition education partners, SNAP helps clients learn to make healthy eating and active lifestyle choices.

Business and Industrial Loans: The purpose of the Business & Industrial (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program is to improve, develop, or finance business, industry, and employment and improve the economic and environmental climate in rural communities. This purpose is achieved by bolstering the existing private credit structure through the guarantee of quality loans which will provide lasting community benefits.

To view a list of USDA programs on Benefits.gov, visit the Browse by Federal Agency page and select “U.S. Department of Agriculture.” To find out if you may be eligible for the programs listed above, and over 1,000 other forms of government assistance, click the “Start Now” button on our homepage to use our free and confidential Benefit Finder.

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Benefits.gov Buzz
Stack of newspaper on keyboard

The following publications recently featured Benefits.gov as a valuable resource for citizens. To read the full story, click on the article title below or "Read more…"

Shared Service Shared Problems
GovernmentCIO Magazine.com
Calls for budget reductions, government efficiency, and cost-effective IT solutions have been echoing in the halls of our nation’s capital for years. Fortunately, as we settle into a new decade, these calls are being answered with the successful implementation of shared service solutions…
Read more…

Ask Liz Weston
Los Angeles Times.com
If your son-in-law incorporated his business and paid into his state’s unemployment fund, he may qualify for benefits. If not, he can start his search for help at Benefits.gov, a federal website with links to a variety of assistance programs…
Read more…


Check out what our Facebook Fans are posting about us and what our Twitter Followers are retweeting!

Facebook.com/BenefitsGov:

Facebook Recommendations:

  • “A great site for information on government benefits and who is eligible.”
  • “Government help when you need it.”
  • “Great stuff; I've used this site multiple times.”
  • “Benefits.gov is an informational site to help you find benefits you need and deserve. This site can help with a wide variety of needs. Check it out, TODAY!”

Twitter.com/BenefitsGOV:

@BenefitsGOV: Have you been affected by a disaster and need help? Go to www.disasterassistance.gov to locate and apply for #disaster relief.
Retweeted by 16

@BenefitsGOV: Have a pre-existing condition & uninsured? Learn more about a health plan that you may be eligible for here: https://pcip.gov/

Retweeted by 5

@BenefitsGOV: Did you know that benefit programs vary by state? Select your state from the interactive map to learn more: http://bit.ly/9DH0Tb
Retweeted by 2

@BenefitsGOV: To keep up with the latest benefit info, visit www.Benefits.gov, enter your e-mail address and click “Subscribe” for e-mail updates!
Retweeted by 4

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Stay Connected to Benefits.gov!
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Benefits.gov is dedicated to keeping citizens updated on all government benefit and assistance programs. If you want the latest in benefit information or are interested in helping your community or website visitors find us, check out the many ways you can stay connected and share our site with others.

Subscribe to Benefits.gov Email Updates!
Visitors to Benefits.gov can ensure they receive the latest information on specific programs of interest. Enter your email address in the box provided under "Subscribe to Benefits.gov Email Updates" on our homepage and select the Benefits.gov pages of your interest. You can also click on "Subscribe to email updates" on any page on the site to receive emails about changes to that specific program or page.

Connect with Benefits.gov's eNewsletter!
Over 60,000 citizens are reading the Benefits.gov Compass along with you! Our increasing readership confirms that more and more Americans are finding valuable benefit information through the Benefits.gov website and want to stay informed. Share the Benefits.gov Compass with your friends and family so they can take advantage of all that Benefits.gov has to offer.

Follow Us on Twitter, "Like" Us on Facebook!
Do you Tweet? Do you "Like" your favorite pages on Facebook? So do we! Follow Benefits.gov on Twitter and "Like" us on Facebook to receive our benefit-related updates, news and information that may benefit you or someone you know.

Share Benefits.gov!
Want to tell others about the site, a program you came across, or an informative article you read? Use our "Share" button on the top right corner of our site to post any Benefits.gov page through any of your email or social media tools. Share the wealth of benefit information!

Link to Us!
Linking to Benefits.gov helps raise awareness of this important resource. If you'd like to inform your site's visitors about the official benefits website of the U.S. government and provide them with access to over 1,000 Federal and state benefit and assistance programs, please place a link to us in a readily visible area of your website, such as on your homepage or in your site footer. For complete linking instructions, visit our Link to Us page.

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Help Yourself with Benefits.gov: Find Your State's Benefit Resources with Benefits.gov!
Red circular Info button

Using the Benefit Finder should be your first step whenever you visit Benefits.gov, but did you know that you can also use the Browse by State page on Benefits.gov to view state-specific benefits for your location? This feature is especially useful if you’re looking for benefits on behalf of a friend, relative, or client in another state.

Once you select a state on the Browse by State page on Benefits.gov, you’ll see the list of benefits offered by that state as well as a section at the bottom called “More programs of interest.” This section will link you to state-level resources specific to your state, including state-level websites that allow you to apply for multiple programs from a single online application.

After using the Benefit Finder to see which benefits you may be eligible to receive, consider checking the Browse by State page to see if your state has a combined application for multiple benefits. Several state-level application sites featured on  Benefits.gov include: Colorado Program Eligibility and Application Kit (PEAK), Delaware Assist, Maryland Service Access and Information Link (SAIL), Nebraska ACCESS, New Jersey OneApp and Vermont MyBenefits. These sites provide easy access to the benefits administered by the respective states and often include access to online applications.

Our Benefit Finder will help determine your eligibility for over 1,000 Federal benefits, including those that are offered through your state government. Using Benefits.gov along with your state’s benefit websites will ensure that you and your family have access to all of the government benefit resources you may need to help improve your lives.

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Credits This publication is produced by: U.S. Department of Labor
T. Michael Kerr
Assistant
Secretary for
Administration
and Management
Edward Hugler
Deputy Assistant
Secretary for
Administration
and Management
Albert Sloane
Benefits.gov
Program
Manager
Contributors:
Amanda Hoffman
Caitlin Livingston
Paul Mayhew
Scot McGinn
Sam Schreck
Leila Scott
Bonnie Walters


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If your agency would like to feature a benefit program on Benefits.gov, please contact us.

Thank you for reading the Benefits.gov Compass, a quarterly eNewsletter produced by the Benefits.gov Program. If you have comments or suggestions for items to include in future eNewsletters, please contact us through our Media Inbox.