What is the Benefit Assist App/Tool?
William Lindahl, MBA, CLPF & Sara Toor, M.A
Benefit Assist is an open source program software that was created by Intuit in 2015 originally for TurboTax users. With this software, it analyzes the tax information to help determine if an individual is eligible for public benefit programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or also known as SNAP, Medicaid, and Medicare. Currently, the software supports determining eligibility for the following benefits:
- SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance/Food Stamps)
- Lifeline Program (discounted/low cost phone or internet)
- WIC (Women’s, Infants, and Children)
- GI Bill
- California Low Cost Auto Insurance
- Student Loan Repayment
- LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program-discounted/low cost energy)
- Veterans Pension
- Veterans Health Care
- Unclaimed Funds
Ben Kallos, New York City Council Member, who has been pushing for “automatic benefits” legislation in New York was the individual who reached out and contacted Intuit directly. Ben requested Intuit if the company would consider making Benefit Assist’s rules engine free and an open source. Fortunately, Intuit agreed to the request and gifted/donated the software to the Department of Health and Human Services.
By having Benefit Assist as an open source, adding rules to the software for specific state programs is more easily done, and it provides a foundation to enhance services and additional tools on state websites.
Ben Kallos introduced Benefit Assist to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in an effort to have them improve and add to the application and as well as to provide states and non-profits a no cost rules eligibility engine software.
There have been some concerns from some state agencies that administer SNAP. However, with this application it would make it easier for individuals to see their eligibility for certain benefits and make it much easier to enroll in certain public benefit programs. If states engage the software, test it, and build upon what is existing of the software, there is potential success and benefits in the long-run.
Interested to See How the Software Works?
There is a demo that is available to try if one visits http://benefitassist.info/. With just a few questions pertaining to name, age, marital status, income, etc. (questions similar to what are asked on public benefit program applications), a person is able to see the possible benefits that he/she may be eligible for.
The actual coding for the software can be found on https://github.com/CMSgov/BenefitAssist.
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