Aid for Senior Shield debated

COLUMBIA --- A former director of a state agency that helps the elderly says the South Carolina lieutenant governor's office is spending too much money on a program to prevent fraud against senior citizens.


Former Office on Aging Director Curtis Loftis Jr. said the Senior Shield program was created by Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer for political reasons. Mr. Loftis told Mr. Bauer's chief of staff, Jim Miles, the anti-fraud effort wouldn't work, The Greenville News reported Saturday.

"I repeatedly warned Jim Miles about deep flaws in his Senior Shield business model and that his plan was sure to be expensive and of little importance to seniors," Mr. Loftis said. "I argued Senior Shield would be a private organization that would always be dependent on state employees and taxpayer subsidies."

Mr. Miles said Mr. Loftis, whose agency was under the lieutenant governor's office, is a "disgruntled former employee."

Mr. Loftis said he left the agency in July, in part because of problems with the program.

Just 20 businesses in South Carolina have signed up for Senior Shield since it was created last November. The program is a free online directory of businesses checked by the program to verify they are legitimate, licensed and insured, without any criminal history or pattern of consumer complaints.

Businesses or professionals pay a fee, starting at $125 annually, to apply and pay for the verification. Employees also can be checked, at an annual fee of $40 a worker.

The program has spent $85,000 given to it by the state Office on Aging to cover startup costs. Mr. Bauer has said that money will be paid back.

Mr. Miles said it is too early to call the program a failure.