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When Is a Census Not a Census?

When it targets seniors and asks for money

By Florence Klein
Table of Contents

Census (cont.)

3. The 2009 Census on Survivor Benefits also comes with “census series ID,” “tracking code,” and “primary responder phase” numbers, and also notes you’ve been selected as a representative of your voting district. It addresses you, “Dear Friend of Senior Citizens,” and is signed by Sharon Flint, Founder.

But founder of what? There’s no letterhead indicating an organization. It isn’t until you open the separate survey that you find the organization name: National Council for Survivors. The survey also offers no box to check if you just want to return it without a donation. It asks for a minimum of $3 to cover expenses.

Back to the name. The group is an arm of the American Service Council, a conservative grassroots citizens’ group that lobbies to “protect rights of all citizens including the often overlooked senior citizens. We also strive to preserve the cultural traditions upon which American [sic] was founded.”

What’s funny is that they don’t seem to know the name of their own group. The Web site calls it the National Council of Survivors; the letter we received and accompanying return envelope call it the National Council for Survivors.

I received a second census from this organization (with the same misspelling) that looked quite different from the first, again likely a ploy to trick this older adult into donating twice.

4. This next one is a survey and petition, not a census, but it targets seniors and asks for money. The “National Survey on Social Security” is tucked behind a large-type petition to “stop privatization and to protect the trust fund,” which is personalized to include my name and is addressed to my state senators. The survey itself has five questions, and of course it asks for money. The letter is addressed “Dear Patriotic Senior” and is signed by Peter Forbes, president of the Senior Citizen Association of America (TSCAA).

According to the letter, TSCAA is a “special project” of the Veterans of the Vietnam War Inc. and the Veterans Coalition. While the group is chartered and recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a search of the Web site offers no clue as to its link with the seniors organization. TSCAA can’t be found at either the business/charity listing at the Better Business Bureau’s site or at Charity Navigators, two reliable sources of information for donating.

5. These last four are petitions only, urging action to protect Social Security and again targeted to seniors and wanting money.

  • One comes from the Council of Seniors (remember them?) regarding supporting legislation introduced by Sen. Ron Paul. (I got two of those as well.)
  • The second and third ones are from the Senior Citizens League, an informational lobbying arm of the Retired Enlisted Association (TREA). One wants a signature and money as proof of my upset over Social Security cost-of-living adjustments. The other implores an end to the U.S. – Mexico Social Security Totalization Treaty.
  • So you know who you’re dealing with, the Senior Citizens League is the same group that’s trying to get seniors to register as “notch victims” in relation to purported inequities in Social Security payments, an issue that has already been resolved but some groups won’t let go of. I got a mailing about that, too. That’s reason enough to avoid responding to these other petitions.
  • The last unwanted letter calls for signing a petition to pass H.R. 219, the Social Security Preservation Act of 2009. It purportedly comes from the Seniors Center, a program of Checks & Balances for Economic Growth, but neither organization came up in Internet searches. While I found a number of references to the executive director who signed his name to the letter, none mentioned his affiliation with the center. No transparency here.

Bottom line: Shred 'em all and forget 'em.

Published September 3, 2009

Florence Klein

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When Is a Census Not a Census?
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