Sheldon (Shelly) Siskin: Volunteer in SHINE Program With Passion For Helping Others
SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) is one of the most vital services provided by Area Agency on Aging (AAA) of Palm Beach and Treasure Coast.
Through the program, volunteer counselors offer free and unbiased information to Medicare beneficiaries, disabled adults, their caregivers, community groups and more.
To reach a counselor, call the AAA’s Helpline at 1-866-684-5885 and ask for the SHINE program so you can make an appointment and speak with a counselor over the phone or in-person.
One of those counselors is Sheldon (Shelly) Siskin – a former insurance broker and military captain with a passion for helping people resolve complex insurance issues.
Here is Shelly’s story.
When Shelly got the phone call through the SHINE program, he heard a panicked elderly woman who had just been denied a vital medical service.
Medicare would no longer pay for her injections that were critical for her eye care. Without the coverage, she would need to pay thousands of dollars for the treatment – costs she could not afford on her fixed income. She was ready to sell her jewelry.
So Shelly went to work on her behalf.
He reviewed her benefits and discovered a technicality that she was not given proper notice when she was denied the coverage. That was good news: it meant Medicare would have to pay for the woman’s treatment, after all.
“She was really grateful. This saved her a lot of money,” Shelly said.
For Shelly, it was just another day on the job as a volunteer SHINE local coordinator for the AAA.
Retired from working four decades in the insurance industry, Shelly’s been a SHINE volunteer since 2005, helping hundreds of Medicare beneficiaries navigate the complex medical system, often going above and beyond in seeking a resolution to a client’s needs no matter how difficult and time-consuming the issue.
When it comes to insurance, the 81-year-old West Boca resident prides himself as a “lifelong learner” who truly seeks to help SHINE clients understand their options and the process in which to resolve their issues. He volunteers every week for the SHINE program answering calls and meeting with clients.
“I enjoy solving insurance problems. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in saving people’s lives,” Shelly said.
No wonder he’s been recognized in the community not only for his volunteerism but also his compassion. Among his honors: he’s received the Department of Elder Affairs Golden Choices Volunteer Award for volunteers who “Inspire by Example” in 2007; and he’s received the SHINE Volunteer Award at the Prime Time Awards Breakfast in 2010.
Kim Clawson, AAA’s Helpline director who has known Shelly for years, says he approaches his SHINE work with a single goal: doing anything he can to overcome insurance challenges for senior citizens, the disabled, and others receiving Medicare benefits.
She sees Shelly, a former US Air Force captain, as a true leader who is authentic, shares his wisdom, and gives time to improving the lives of others. On top of that, she says he’s got a great sense of humor and is driven to continue learning and expanding his skills (he often devotes four to five hours a week to reading about the latest insurance industry news and policies).
Kim said: “Shelly is knowledgeable on the various topics of Medicare and other health insurance as well as prescription assistance. Most noteworthy is his commitment in following through with a client whether he is assisting someone with an appeals process, reviewing options for a Medicare supplement insurance plan, or looking into prescription assistance programs to assist a client in paying for the high cost of prescription drugs.”
While working as an insurance broker and consultant, the native New Yorker also worked as volunteer fireman (a job he started when he was just 18 and did for the next 50 years). He also served as a volunteer counselor with Medicare Rights Center. In his remaining spare time, he served on various homeowners groups in the New York area and now in West Boca. He even worked as a docent volunteer for the USS Intrepid Museum in Manhattan.
Shelly was living part-time in Palm Beach County when his wife told him about an advertisement seeking volunteers for SHINE. “This is a job for you,” she told him.
She was right.
Since then, Shelly has enjoyed answering calls and meeting with clients, as well as doing talks at country clubs, libraries, and community centers to educate Medicare beneficiaries and professionals on timely Medicare and health insurance topics.
At this point in his life, he says he can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I get a lot of personal satisfaction in doing this work,” he said. “Why else would I do it? To save the world – I guess!”
Last year, SHINE volunteers in our area volunteered over 7,300 hours of service to provide one-on-one counseling to over 5,300 consumers. Join the SHINE team of volunteers, and make a real difference in the lives of seniors and disabled adults. Click here to learn about volunteer opportunities through SHINE.
AAA relies on donations to help support our programs, including SHINE. If you are inspired by Shelly’s story, consider a contribution so our agency can train more volunteers and provide additional resources in the community. Click here to support us.