AARP – Helping When It’s Profitable?

By Stephen J. Silverberg
New York Elder Law Attorney

We read a lot about AARP – the programs they run for seniors, the local events, the TV ads that say “You don’t know AARP,” which, when you think about it, is a corporate slogan alluding to a mild profanity.

But here’s something you don’t know about AARP – this massive organization is a lobbying powerhouse and a sales machine. You have all seen the ads on TV for health insurance, mobile phone services, auto insurance and more. Read the small print: it says something to the effect that AARP receives a royalty payment for each service.

And it has specific practices I find particularly troubling, when you consider who they purport to protect: seniors!

I am an experienced attorney and business owner. I deal with complex documents, processing document and payments with courthouses, investment companies, banks, insurance companies, and more, regularly. These institutions’ online systems work. Some are better than others, but mostly they perform as needed.

But the great and powerful AARP only accepts insurance claims by snail mail. You can’t even send them a claim form by fax. Here’s what’s making me aggravated: everything AARP does to bring in money is online: payment for memberships, insurance payments, etc.

But if you want AARP to pay you, you must work with an antiquated system that does not work well. When I first filed a claim, they mixed up my home address with my office address and sent a check to a location that does not exist, even though they had my correct address in their system. Three months went by before the problem was solved. Even an insurance company reluctantly paying a claim does better than that.

Most of my clients are computer literate, but some face mobility problems, and no longer pay any of their bills using snail mail. How would they be able to submit a claim?

Have you had a run in with AARP or been let down by a senior-focused organization that says one thing and does another? I’d like to hear about it – @elderlawya on Twitter or

About the Author
Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning, and elder law. He is a past president of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and a founding member and past president of the New York State chapter of NAELA.