When we value the sacrifices made by brave men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces, there are plenty of ways to give back. Saying a sincere “thank you for your service” can go a long way towards reminding them that people care. There is a lot more you can do, however, to support the veterans you know and those in your community.
In our practice we work with senior veterans and their loved ones to obtain valuable veterans pension benefits. We know this is just the first step, however, when it comes to all that we can be doing to help the veterans around us. This Veterans Day, let us share five organizations that make giving back to veterans not just easy but effective.
1. Directory of Veteran Services Organizations
Unfortunately, there are a lot of groups that claim to help veterans while failing to actually deliver. Some might have high administrative costs where only a small amount of funding ever makes it to a vet, and others might be outright scams. The best thing to do is to choose from the approved list of organizations offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA offers many legitimate groups to choose from, and finding some that fit your interests could make a huge difference for a veteran who needs help.
2. Purple Heart Homes
Purple Heart Homes is a nonprofit that was founded in 2008, by two combat veterans who were injured in Iraq. They set out to help fellow injured vets and today they provide safe and accessible housing for disabled veterans all over the country.
3. Four Block
Four Block is an organization that provides educational support for student veterans who are studying to acquire good jobs. A great way to support Four Block is by earmarking any donations you make to your alma mater so that some portion goes toward funding Four Block’s student-veteran scholarships.
4. Veterans Success Resource Group
The Veterans Success Resource Group provides professional and personal resources for veterans, their families, and their caregivers. It does this by bringing together hundreds of veterans at events all over the country that are designed to help them interact with potential employers, universities and local government representatives. Consider volunteering your time to help, or attend an event in your area to help connect a veteran to your professional network.
5. The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program is ideal for attorneys looking to expand their law practice, and for those who just want to help former service members. The program provides free training and veterans law experience for attorneys who agree to counsel or represent at least one veteran who needs help with a Veterans Court appeal.
We know these organizations are just a start to all the great groups out there working to improve the lives of veterans and their families. If you have groups that you work with, we would encourage you to share them with us as well! Do you have questions? Do not wait to contact our office to ask them or to schedule a consultation with Attorney Anne’ Desormier-Cartwright.
October is Special Needs Law Month. Every year special needs attorneys and advocates organize to help raise awareness and educate those with special needs, their families, and caregivers about their legal rights and care options.
One of the most important services they provide, is planning guidance. Or, how best to provide long-term stability for a family member with a physical or mental disability, even after their parents or guardians have passed away. Often, the best way to do this is through a Special Needs Trust.
A Special Needs Trust is a type of irrevocable trust that specializes in allowing disabled people to use assets held in trust for their benefit, while at the same time allowing them to receive essential government benefits, like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income. An additional protection is that a Special Needs Trust can hold and manage property intended for a special needs person but without giving them control if he or she lacks the legal capacity to handle his or her own affairs.
Normally, government programs have very low income thresholds. One gift of $2,000 given directly to a special needs person from a loving relative, for example, could undermine entire eligibility status. Further, the gift doesn’t even have to be cash to disqualify the person.
Thankfully, money given to a Special Needs Trust shields disabled persons from these income limits because they won’t technically own the assets. Instead, under this estate planning technique, the trust will.
In these scenarios, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income would provide for basic healthcare and living needs, while the Special Needs Trust could provide for “special needs,” such as educational programs, specialized therapies, and even comfort and luxury items. Public funds are not meant for these purposes.
Here is a word of caution. If the Special Needs Trust is used to pay for basic items, like groceries and simple housing costs, or if payments are made directly to the beneficiary, then those payments could be construed as income and your special needs family member could lose public benefits. In addition, the Supplemental Security Income program does not allow for cash to be given directly to a Special Needs Trust beneficiary. This can include groceries, rent, mortgage payments or electric utilities. It is important to speak with your attorney to learn how to make proper distributions.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers for you. Do not wait to contact our office to schedule a meeting with attorney Anne’ Desormier-Cartwright.
Tens of millions of American seniors rely on Medicare to help pay for their health care needs.
As long as someone is age 65 or older, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident living in the country for at least five straight years, and either they or their spouse paid Medicare taxes during their working years, they’re eligible for Medicare. The program offers government-funded health care coverage in a variety of areas, such as hospital care and outpatient medical services.
Another area of coverage is for prescription drugs. This is what’s known as Medicare Part D.
For most of its history, the Medicare program did not offer a prescription drug benefit. But that changed in 2006, when a bipartisan Congress added the coverage.
By 2017, more than 42 million Medicare beneficiaries had prescription drug coverage through Medicare Part D, which is optional. About 60 percent had a stand-alone prescription drug plan in conjunction with Original Medicare, also known as Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (outpatient medical services). The other 40 percent had a Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan.
Medicare Advantage, or Medicare Part C, is an alternative to Original Medicare as it allows program beneficiaries to receive their Medicare benefits through a private health insurance plan. Most Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage, although you may need to purchase a stand-alone drug plan if your specific Medicare Advantage plan doesn’t include prescription drugs.
For those enrolled in Original Medicare, the only source of prescription drug plans is through private insurance companies because Medicare A and B do not cover outpatient, or outside of a hospital, prescriptions. Medicare Part D, however, does pay for outpatient drug expenses. Each approved Part D plan covers different drugs and copays for covered drugs, which include both brand-name and generic products. It does not cover over-the-counter medications like cough syrups or antacids, prescription drugs like Viagra, or cosmetic treatments like hair growth elixirs or weight loss pills.
Here are several ways to get the Medicare Part D enrollment process started:
Call 1-800-MEDICARE to locate prescription drug plans in your area.
Log on to Medicare’s Prescription Drug Plan Enrollment Center.
Fill out the paperwork sent by mail from Medicare.
Call the private insurer with the specific prescription drug plan you want to join.
Call MedicareResources.org at 1-855-593-5633 and talk with a licensed agent.
Does this article raise more questions than it answers. We know that dealing with any elder law issue can be difficult. Do not wait to contact our office for support.
Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul”, passed away on August 16, 2018. The amazing creator of hits such as “I Never Loved a Man” and “Think” left many of her fans saddened that they would never hear another hit from her again.
Perhaps the most perplexing question now is why would this multimillion dollar artist leave her work, her legacy, and her family unprotected? Recent reports have informed us that Aretha Franklin did die without any estate planning in place.
Passing away without an estate plan means that Aretha Franklin’s estate is “intestate”. This means she did not have a last will and testament or trust agreement in place. In some ways, this is not surprising. It has recently been reported that only one in four Americans today have an estate plan in place.
These same reports share that most Americans either do not want to think about a time when they will not be here or simply do not think estate planning is important. Unfortunately, these are dangerous assumptions to make. While there could be an argument that one does not care what happens to his or her money at death, estate planning covers much more. In fact, without estate planning documents in place, such as durable powers of attorney or health care surrogates, there may be no one with legal authority to act for you in a crisis during your life.
In other ways, her decision is surprising. Aretha Franklin is worth over eighty million dollars. We might expect that a person of that net worth would at least have a last will and testament in place. After all, the federal estate tax can be expected to assess forty percent against the amount of her estate over the tax limit. All of us, even if we are not multimillionaires need to plan for estate and gift taxes.
Further, Aretha Franklin left four children behind. One of these children is known to be disabled. The lack of her desire to create a special needs trust for this child is surprising. When you are planning for the future of your disabled child, a special needs trust can ensure that he or she will not be disqualified for any public benefits that he or she would otherwise be entitled to receive.
We know that Aretha Franklin’s choices may leave you with questions. We encourage you to ask us your questions and to plan forward. You do not want to leave your loved ones facing these challenges at a time they will already be facing the loss of you. Do not wait to contact us to get started creating the estate planning you need.
As aging parents begin to need assistance with daily tasks, adult children will face the difficult choice of either caring for their parents themselves, or outsourcing their needs to outside caregivers or nursing homes. When it comes to this decision, there are a lot of factors to consider, including cost.
It’s no secret that outside care is expensive. Providing care within the family, however, carries its own out-of-pocket concerns. As care needs escalate this can include the opportunity cost of time spent with the elder parent instead of at a job.
One way to deal with this dilemma is for the family caregiver to be financially compensated by the aging parent. Elders can choose their caregivers and this choice can include their adult children. In this circumstance, however, you should consider consulting with both an elder law attorney and a qualified accountant first. In both instances, these professionals can provide insight into the rules that apply. Depending on the circumstances, a paid family caregiving arrangement might not make sense.
In some instances, the Internal Revenue Service considers a paid family caregiver an employee of the elder parent because the elder parent tells them what to do and then pays them for their work, similar to any job. Accordingly, the elder parent, or the family member, can then be responsible for a variety of taxes depending on the amount of wages paid. They also can be responsible for preparing and filing tax forms or hiring an accountant to do so.
According to the Journal of Accountancy, the tax responsibilities of an aging parent “employer” can include:
- Collecting and remitting the family caregiver’s withholding tax obligation.
- Collecting and remitting the family caregiver’s Social Security and Medicare tax obligations (and pay the family’s match of these taxes).
- Paying federal and state unemployment taxes on taxable wages.
- Maintaining appropriate records to support these filings.
In cases where paid family caregivers are not considered employees, they may still need to report any compensation from their elder parent as income. Further, self-employment tax could apply if they are being paid as an independent contractor.
As with almost all things involving taxes, the question of whether adult children should provide paid care services for their elder loved ones is not as easy as it seems. Each situation has its own circumstances that determine if it’s worth it. In Florida specifically, when an aging parent has care being provided to him or her by an adult child, a personal services agreement may need to be entered into. With the help of an experienced elder law attorney, this contract can prevent any amount of money being paid to the child to later be seen as a gift should the parent need to apply for public benefits programs such as Medicaid. Do not wait to contact our office to ask your questions and discuss this matter further.
As aging parents grow older, they can face increasing challenges related to activities of daily living. For instance, driving may have been a second-nature activity for their entire adult lives, but with advanced age it may no longer be feasible. Other routine activities such as taking medication or preparing food may also need to be curtailed.
Understandably, the loss of independence can be devastating for an aging parent. One way adult children can boost a continued sense of autonomy despite elder challenges, is to help their aging parents live independently in their homes for as long as reasonably possible.
The most important consideration, however, is to make sure they can do so safely.
Identifying and eliminating potential safety hazards will be key. As physical challenges increase due to diminished balance and strength, elderly persons become more prone to falling. So those nice throw rugs may need to be thrown out, for example.
Here are additional points to consider:
- Clear hallways, stairways, and doorways of any clutter.
- Put additional lighting throughout the home. Plug-in nightlights are also helpful.
- Tidy-up or get rid of messy electric cords.
- Repair loose carpeting and raised flooring.
- Switch-out door knobs for lever-handles.
- Remove locks from bedroom and bathroom doors.
Taking extra care in securing bathrooms is also highly recommended. With narrow spaces and slippery surfaces, it’s a good idea to install shower and toilet grab bars. Adhesive friction pads on the shower floor, a medically approved bathing chair, and a lowered hot water thermostat temperature are also excellent ways to further protect against falls and scalding burns.
Other important safety measures can include installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, removing small and low furniture, eliminating throw rugs, and applying non-slip wax to floors. Making kitchen modifications may also be in order. For example, stoves and ovens with automatic turn-off features are ideal. Hanging an accessible, easy to use fire extinguisher is also a good idea, as is configuring refrigerator shelving to prominently display frequently used food and beverage items.
When contacting businesses for home repair services, make sure to seek referrals from credible individuals or elder care organizations. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous individuals who may try to take advantage of vulnerable seniors, so make sure to stay involved. Don’t let your aging parent sign any contracts without your help, and monitor all repair work.
Do you have questions on these issues or other issues your aging parent may be facing right now? Do not wait to contact us with your questions. We are here to help you with your elder law concerns.