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2018 VA Mission Act

It has been no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has faced criticism in the past for its treatment of wounded veterans and their caregivers. On June 6, 2018, President Donald Trump sought to remedy this by signing the VA Maintaining Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act, or VA Mission Act. The Act was primarily designed to provide options and aid to expand private health care options through the VA. The Act also will eliminate, in stages, the previous limitation for caregivers of veterans who were wounded before 9/11 to receive government training and stipends.

Before the Act was passed by an overwhelming majority in both the House and the Senate, Representative Phil Roe, (R-TN) chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, warned Congress to ensure that the VA has the resources to implement such an expansion. In a statement published by the American Legion, Roe said, “There has been miscommunication, confusion, and frustration from veterans, caregivers, and VA employees alike concerning practically every aspect of this program — from eligibility determinations to clinical appeals to revocations and more,” he continued, saying, “no veteran and no caregiver from any generation is well-served by having access in name only to a program that has the deficits this one does and is as ill-prepared as this one is to accept a sudden influx of new beneficiaries with complex, widely different caregiving needs from those veterans the program is currently serving.”

Roe’s foresight proved to be true as the VA and Congress have both struggled to provide direction and funding to move the program forward. The Senate estimates the cost of the Act will be around $55 billion over the next five years. However, Congress and the White House are locked in disputes over how to fund the program. As for the caregiver support portion of the Act, the cost is expected to be about $3 billion per year and increase from 21,000 veterans served to over 150,000 veterans and their families.

When the Act was signed, $5.2 billion in funding was provided to keep the current Veterans Choice program running through May 2019. Where funding will come from beyond that point continues to be unclear. Part of the reason for the funding crisis is that when Congress passed the VA Mission Act, it moved funding from mandatory appropriations to a discretionary program which must fit into overall domestic discretionary caps. However, the discretionary budget cap for 2019 and the projected caps for 2020 and 2021 do not include the increased costs necessary for implementing the Act, thus possibly leaving Congress with the inability to fund the program.

Eligibility for caregivers to receive training and financial assistance continues to plague veterans and their families. Congress still struggles to define exactly which veterans and caregivers are able to receive assistance. Currently, only post-9/11 veterans and those who suffered “severe, service-connected wounds or injuries” before May 1975 are eligible for benefits.

We will continue to post updates as Congress and the White House work out ways to pay for the VA Mission Act to take care of our veterans who have already done so much to take care of the citizens of this country. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our office if you have any questions. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

Who Does a Probate Lawyer Represent?

Knowing the lawyer’s role, whether you are the Executor or an heir of the probate estate, is one of the first steps you should take at the beginning of the probate process. One of the biggest sources of conflict in probating the estate is understanding the role of the lawyer hired by the Executor of a probate estate. Many Executors do not understand the probate process and leave the tasks up to the lawyer. The heirs of the estate may hear only from the lawyer or may hear the Executor say, “This is what the lawyer says we have to do.” This often raises the question, does the lawyer owe a fiduciary duty to the heirs of the estate since the Executor owes a fiduciary duty to the heirs?

The answer to that question depends on the state in which the estate is being probated. To be clear, this question is specifically about whether a lawyer owes the heirs of a probate estate a fiduciary duty, and not whether a lawyer owes a fiduciary duty in other contexts, such as to the beneficiaries of a trust when hired by a trustee, or a ward when hired by a guardian or conservator. The answer varies depending on each different circumstance.

Also, before answering the question, it is helpful to have an idea of some common activities created by fiduciary duties in the context of probating an estate:

  • Duty to communicate: a duty to notify the beneficiaries the estate exists, identify the Executor, provide a copy of the inventory, provide copies of court filings, generally explain documents that require a beneficiary’s signature, etc. This duty to communicate is not the same thing as an attorney-client relationship, which means there is no attorney-client privilege and the attorney cannot give legal advice.
  • Duty to account: provide regular estate accountings, which includes explaining funds paid out of estate accounts for expenses.
  • Duty to treat all beneficiaries equal: distribute estate funds at the same time, if a question arises as to how something in the Will is to be interpreted the attorney cannot interpret it, the court must interpret it.

Turning back to the question, whether the lawyer owes a fiduciary duty the heirs of a probate estate depends on the state in which the estate is being probated. Only a few states require the lawyer to meet the same fiduciary duty to the estate heirs as the Executor. These states believe that since the Executor owes a fiduciary duty to the heirs and the lawyer owes a fiduciary duty to the Executor, the duty flows from the Executor to the lawyer.

Most states, however, take the position that the lawyer does not owe a fiduciary duty to the estate heirs. These states view the fiduciary duty owed by the Executor to the heirs as unique from the fiduciary duty owed by the lawyer to the Executor. Also, these states want to maintain the Executor’s ability to have protected communication with the attorney.

There is a small third set of states, including California, New Mexico, and Illinois, that apply a balancing test to determine who was the actual intended beneficiary of the attorney-client relationship, the Executor or the heirs? Each state has established their own test criteria, but some common questions the courts ask include: who was the intended beneficiary of the attorney’s services, the Executor or the heirs; what was the foreseeability of the harm to the heirs as a result of the malpractice; and what was the proximity of the misconduct and the damage to the heirs?

If you are the Executor hiring the attorney, ask what the law is. If you are an heir of the estate, the lawyer should give you some guidance. If the probate estate is in one of the majority states, the first letter from the attorney should start with a sentence that reads, “I have been retained by Mr. Smith, Executor of the Estate of Ms. Smith. It is important that you understand I do not represent you.”  Otherwise, call and ask.

Everyone’s goal should be for the settling of the probate estate to go smoothly. Understanding the lawyer’s role will go a long way towards achieving that goal.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Elder Law

The Benefit of an Elder Law Attorney

An elder law attorney specializes as a legal advocate for aging adults and their loved ones. Elder law encompasses a wide range of legal matters affecting an older or disabled person. Issues related to guardianship, retirement, health care including advance directives, long term care planning, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and other relevant matters to aging all fall under the umbrella of elder law.

An older family member who legally prepares for their aging process helps their family members by addressing day to day issues that affect their actual care through proper legal documentation should the senior become incapacitated. Seniors often falsely assume that a close family member, including a spouse, will automatically be able to make decisions on their behalf if something goes wrong with their finances or health. Postponing legal document preparation through an elder attorney generally winds up being more problematic and expensive to a senior’s estate and wellness.

Many seniors find making legal preparations uncomfortable at first, as the task forces them to confront and assess their mortality. Further into the process, many aging adults experience relief, having removed the fear of the unknown of aging to the best of their ability. Legal preparation can keep a senior from health or financial ruin if they become incapable of making informed decisions regarding these matters. In the absence of legal documents, their family is left with the expensive and time-consuming process of petitioning the courts for legal authority to act on their loved one’s behalf – referred to as establishing a guardianship. By planning early and making sure the correct legal documents are prepared stress on the senior and the senior’s loved ones is greatly reduced.

Personal choices regarding end of life care and the disposition of assets and property outlined in legal documentation guarantees that your wishes will be respected by law. This documentation is especially important for seniors when a family member might seek control over the process, whether moral or self-serving, to follow their whims when handling your wellbeing when you are most vulnerable. Besides adhering to your expressed wishes, having your choices documented relieves family members from guessing what you want.

When preparing for your aging process, seek out a well-regarded attorney who specializes in elder law. While many general practice attorneys may have some experience with elder law topics, regulations are ever-changing and complex. It is best to find an attorney who specializes in elder law so that you get the best and most up-to-date advice.

Proactively address your aging process with a qualified elder attorney to ensure your wishes are carried out now and in the future, regardless of what happens with your health. Both you and your loved ones will garner invaluable peace of mind knowing that your wishes are known and legally documented. We would be happy to help you with your planning, and we look forward to hearing from you. Please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law

Legal planning Related to Alzheimer’s Disease

Currently, there is no cure for the more than 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease. Projections by the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org) are that by 2050 more than 14 million Americans will suffer from this disease. What can you do if you are medically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? Aside from following the advice of your medical doctor an important step in your overall estate plan is an advanced directive to ensure your future wishes are met when you are no longer able to think or communicate clearly because of your disease progression. Having an advanced directive that accurately and legally reflects your financial and health care wishes allows you to focus on enjoying your life knowing you are doing all that you can to address your future circumstances.

You may already have advanced directives. It is a general term for various documents like a living will, instruction directive, health care power of attorney, and health care proxy. Now that Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, a newer advance directive specifically addressing dementia is becoming more common and is called the Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Mental Health Advance Directive.

An advanced dementia directive takes a comprehensive look at living with Alzheimer’s. Issues like where you will live, coping with profound changes in intimate relationships, how to finance your care, your preferred caregiver and healthcare agent, care of your pets, when you stop driving, and more. The essence of a dementia directive is to make life decisions that will span the course of time you survive with the disease. Life expectancy after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can range from as short as three years, with an average of eight to ten years, and as long as twenty years. Your advanced dementia directive provides you a measure of control and a sense of relief that your intentions are known when the time comes when you can no longer communicate them effectively. This document also serves as a detailed guideline for your loved ones to follow.

Some advanced dementia directives may even include an end of life strategy known as “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking” or VSED.  A VSED is considered a legitimate way to hasten death and is used in cases of terminally ill patients. Originally a VSED addressed a patient experiencing physical decline while maintaining cognitive function. In the case of Alzheimer’s, a VSED addresses the opposite issue of cognitive decline. Most people, when faced with a future of being mentally unfit in a body that will not quit, prefer to find an exit strategy they consider has a modicum of dignity. A VSED can prevent distressing situations for yourself and your family system.

Though requests for VSED are currently uncommon there is a groundswell of patient-driven need. This need says that if incapacitated through dementia, their choice is not to endure what can be a long physical decline while cognitively absent. Most people do not want life prolonged beyond the point where they are participating in it. Still, state and federal laws have to catch up to VSED as, by law, long term care facilities are required to offer daily meals with feeding assistance if necessary.

A directive that addresses Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia does not replace the more standard advance health care directive. Most conventional health care directives address cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the use of ventilators, artificial hydration (intravenous fluids) and nutrition (feeding tube), participation in research and clinical trials, organ donation, comfort care, and pain relief services. Having both advanced medical and dementia directives in place not only assures you but also provides relief to your family. Your clearly defined choices can lighten the suffering your own family will feel when you can no longer communicate with or recognize them. Reconciling end of life scenarios is always challenging, but once handled, it frees you up to get on with the joy of living. 

We would be happy to help you determine the correct advanced directives for your needs and desires. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this matter further. Please don’t hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Living

The Best Technology for seniors Aging in Place and their caregivers

A big part of American life now includes technology and it is becoming more pervasive in senior populations as the tech industry targets this growing market demographic. A new survey by AARP projects by the year 2030 close to 132 million Americans aged 50 or more will annually spend more than 84 billion dollars on technology products. Today, 91 percent of those aged 50 or more use a computer, and 94 percent say that technology allows them to keep in touch with family and friends. Even smartphone use in older Americans (80 percent) maps out to the same number as the population at large. Also, many parents and grandparents are spending considerable amounts of money on tech-focused gifts for children and grandchildren. Even people aged 70 or more are showing a growing interest in technology and its applications to better their lives.

A Cambria Health survey finds that an estimated 100 million people, 45 percent of the US population, currently care for a loved one and that 64 percent of these unpaid caregivers are increasingly using digital tools to help them. Technology applications are ubiquitous in the paid caregiver world. Applications that are most commonly used include virtual medicine and health trackers worn as digital watches, home automation, motion-sensing devices, medication reminders, GPS devices, and emergency response systems.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held every January in Las Vegas, NV showcases more than 4,400 exhibiting companies from all sectors within the technology industry attended by 170,000 people from 160 countries. The blog, Aging and Health Technology Watch, which tracks industry market trends, research, and analysis, identifies ten intriguing new technologies that currently address the older adult digital tools market. While these are specific to proprietary development companies, there is an expectation as the technology takes off, other tech companies will follow suit. Some of these digital tools are available, while others are not. The booming market for senior technology tools and their associated applications is undergoing very intensive development.

CarePLUS, though not yet available on the open market, uses discreet cameras throughout a household which can detect not only motion but the postures of loved ones. Through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) the system is capable of releasing warning messages in a moment of danger in real time. The artificial intelligence can detect hazards, including falling, sitting for too long, remaining too long in the bathroom, leaving home at an undesignated time, skipping medications, and more. This system reduces the need for multiple individual digital tools by combining many monitoring aspects into one technology product.

The Essence Group Fall Detector Radar is exclusively a multi-sensor fall detection system using Texas Instrument radar technology. Though this product is not yet available, the application programming interface (API) works with Essence’s Care@Home™ monitoring platform for seniors. Radar mmWave (extremely high-frequency millimeter-wave bands) technology tracks a person’s position in their home and provides immediate detection of a fall, alerting healthcare providers. 

For those aging adults with hearing loss, HeardThat™ is capable of turning a smartphone into a hearing assistant by tuning out background noise. Through the use of AI, this technology enables individuals who have hearing loss to more clearly hear speech, allowing them to more fully engage in conversation. The “de-noised” environment can also work with Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids and other listening devices like earphones in conjunction with your smartphone. While this is not yet available an invitation to become involved in the beta testing program and information about a release date is available through their webpage.

AARP Innovation Labs is developing an augmented reality application HomeFit AR™ that enables users to scan a room, discovering what improvements can be implemented to help seniors who choose to age in place have a safer home environment. Appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves, commonly used spaces like sinks and stairs, are identified for specific fixes to put in place that will make a home safer as well as a more comfortable fit for senior living. While the HomeFit AR Guide is still in beta version (part of a software release cycle), the public release date is slated for the year 2020.

Voice-enabled AI is adding integrated voice and conversational intelligence into your digital products using an independent platform that is continuously learning. Houndify™ is a “speech to meaning” engine that can interpret language with unprecedented accuracy and speed. Deep Meaning Understanding™ technology allows a user to ask multiple questions and receive filter results all at once. As the platform is non-brand specific, it can work with your existing device.

A smart remote caregiver solution known as Kytera Companion™ can provide insight into the activity of aging at-home seniors. This home system solution includes data collection, a mobile app for loved ones and a dashboard for professional caregivers. This product can detect both hard and soft falls using a wristband, location sensors, a base unit, and an internet-connected dashboard. Soft falls are the most common type of fall among the elderly and this is the first technology able to assess such a fall. Using AI the system provides comprehensive wellness monitoring that can detect physical and mental deterioration, and be predictive as to evolving disease conditions like depression, dementia, and UTI all based on behavioral symptoms.

Created by physicians and medical device engineers, MedWand™ helps to fulfill the potential of telemedicine. The wand incorporates multiple diagnostic tools in one and is a handheld device. Clinicians are able to conduct remote office visits through the real-time collection of multiple vital sign readings allowing for key patient assessments among numerous medical conditions anywhere in the world.

Orcam MyEye 2 is an advanced wearable assistive technology for the visually impaired or blind. It helps to provide independence by audibly conveying visual information. It can read a text, recognize faces, identify products, and more by simply clipping the device onto your glasses. For the hearing impaired, OrCam Hear is a wearable assistive technology device that uses artificial intelligence, combining lip reading with simultaneous voice separation for better listening. The wireless hearing aid is worn as a necklace with camera modules and microphone sets, allowing for hands-free operation and crisp, isolated voice reception even among crowds.

A companion robot called PECOLA is in development by Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). It incorporates ambient intelligence for the elderly through the collection and analysis of the user’s life and physiological data. It is capable of detecting abnormal behaviors of a loved one allowing for preventative rather than responsive healthcare which can provide best outcomes. By following the senior around their home, PECOLA can identify emotions as well as perform video-generated diet analysis and fall detection. It can conduct sleep assessments through breathing and heart rate readings. The daily generated activity reports are then automatically provided to the user’s caregiver.

The Zibrio SmartScale is available for pre-order and enables a home user to measure and track their balance with a safe and simple 60-second test. The test itself is eyes open, stand still for 60 seconds while the scale assesses balance and provides a score (1-10); the lower the score in seniors 65 or more, the higher the risk for falls. This scale also provides personalized insight into lifestyle factors that affect your balance. 

Other notable new products are available for review at these websites:

Digital technology innovation specifically designed to address older adult care needs provide new ways for seniors to age in place successfully. Consultation with your healthcare providers as to what systems they employ can help synchronize your healthcare and reduce doctor office visits through the use of telemedicine and at-home monitoring. It also can provide unpaid caregivers reliable, real-time information about a loved one’s well-being that can help reduce stress on the part of the caregiver.

If you are caring for a loved one, please give us a call to see how we can help to ensure that the proper legal documents are in place for you and your loved one. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Estate Planning

Dangers of Adding Others to your Accounts

I want to leave my bank accounts to my children when I’m gone. Can’t I just make the children joint owners?

That idea sounds better than it actually is. Yes, you would avoid court proceedings when you pass. But you’d put yourself at risk, at a time when you might need your money yourself. Your accounts would be exposed to your children’s divorcing spouses, bankruptcy, liability for legal actions, or, last and doubtless most uncomfortable to think about, your children could simply spend your money without your permission.

The best way to resist temptation is to avoid the opportunity in the first place.

Plan for the Future of Your Finances

While you are alive, it is essential to designate a person you trust to pay your bills when you can’t. With our comprehensive power of attorney document, your trusted person can take care of your finances when you aren’t able. Avoid downloadable internet versions. Come see us instead. You don’t want banks and insurance companies rejecting your document as insufficient when you most need it!

Then, for when you pass, make your bank account “payable on death” (POD). You remain sole owner of your account during your lifetime. Then, when the time comes, the POD designation is a simple and no-cost way to leave your money to your heirs.

Just gather your heirs’ contact information, Social Security numbers, and birth dates. Then visit the bank, ask for their POD forms, and fill them in with the people or charities to whom you would like to leave your money. Tell your heirs what you are doing, and where your accounts are located, so they will know to come forward to claim the money at the appropriate time.

Power of Attorney

If your power of attorney is powerful and detailed enough, you can be confident that your trusted person will take care of your finances if you become disabled. For when you pass, you will have your POD in place to transfer your money to your heirs at that time. No fees, no court costs, and your accounts are covered. That’s a much better plan than a joint account.

For help with your planning needs, please give us a call. We’d be honored to help make sure your plan is what you want and that it is properly documented.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

Millennials Financial Planning

A large part of millennials’ formative years was influenced by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis beginning in 2007, shortly followed by an international banking crisis, which led to what became known as the Great Recession. Millennials include fiscally conservative, savings oriented, and future planners seeking financial freedom as core attributes. The millennial generation would have ranged from ages 11 – 26 years of age when this economic downturn began. Living through this economic volatility, not seen since the Great Depression, gave rise to the fiscally conservative millennial mindset. The other socio-economic force that continues to shape the millennial fiscal mindset is the student loan crisis. Cbinsights.com finds 41 percent of millennials carry student loan debt for which there is no personal bankruptcy relief. This debt crisis places unique financial pressures on nearly half of a generation, and many are seeking new ways to manage their income, debt, and future savings. 

This conservative mindset has underpinnings of investment optimism about achieving financial goals according to reporting by the Union Bank of Switzerland Investor Watch report (UBS), and millennial goals are different from generations before them. The definitions of what being successful include a focus on personal success rather than maxing out returns on investments. This personal success is a balance of financial, relationship, and experiential factors, prioritizing long-term financial considerations like retirement or caregiving aging parents. Millennials understand their number one goal is to attain financial freedom, with a conscience. The UBS report goes on to say that 78 percent of millennials are more likely than other generations to believe income is a critical success factor and feel that income should be about 220,000 dollars to be considered a success. Millennials are also more apt to think money can buy happiness because their pursuit of money is geared toward financial freedom rather than excessive accumulation.

UBS Investor Watch Report

According to Forbes, many mid-life millennials (late 20’s and 30’s) are changing the order of, or opting out of traditional family and financial milestones of their predecessor generations. Some will have children before marriage; others will resolve all debt (think student loans) before entering into homeownership, and most will invest with sustainability and environmental concerns at the forefront of decision making. As the oldest millennials turn age 40 in 2020, many are conducting personal financial checkups, taking stock of their assets, liabilities, and insurance needs. Re-evaluation of and adjustments to financial plans help to ensure financial goals can be met.

Though most millennials do not yet have a professional financial advisor, ten self-directed steps can help to evaluate your current financial plans and make any necessary adjustments.

  • Specifically, relist your financial goals and work backward from them to see what financial processes you need to put in place to achieve those goals. Embrace learning and be patient as you track your spending, pay yourself first, and break long term goals into short achievable steps.
  • Think about life insurance. What will happen to your family or loved ones in the event your family has to survive without you and the income you provide? A death benefit will provide financial stability and help them to survive.
  • If you have not already done so, make a will and include medical directives, and consider a durable power of attorney should you become incapacitated.
  • Revisit the parameters of your current budget, and if you are willing, get outside professional input as most people’s expenses are higher than they think. There is a human tendency to overlook some existing expenditures and not be aggressive enough when it is time to make cuts in spending.
  • Assess and update your investment choices. Particularly pay attention to your 401(k) plan and other retirement savings vehicles like IRAs. Confirm they are aligned to your risk tolerance and perhaps reduce the number of high-risk equities into slower, high-dividend stocks. Look at the advantages of adding an annuity into your 401(k) plan and other changes that the SECURE Act of 2020 brings to retirement planning. Understand that the old model of 60 – 40 equities to bond ratio is no longer deemed advisable.
  • If you have excessive credit card debt, address it now. Pay down the highest interest balance(s) first if you are servicing debt as opposed to attacking a principal payment.
  • Do you have student loans? Again, pay down the highest-interest loans first by monthly auto-deducting it from your checking account. Explore the possibility of consolidating multiple student loans into one payment and negotiate a lower rate and longer time to pay lower monthly payments.
  • Weigh the costs of homeownership. Some millennials, particularly those without children, may prefer not to be anchored to home real estate, maintaining the flexibility of movement for job opportunities. Those who want a home must assess financial responsibilities beyond the costs of a mortgage and real estate tax, considering the workload and cost of home upkeep.
  • Review your health insurance, and be sure it is adequate to cover your family’s needs. Children especially are subject to many doctor visits and requirements for attending school with proper vaccinations. If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance through your employer, check that the deductible and co-insurance options make the most sense for your situation.
  • Finally, take a good look at your health situation. While this doesn’t sound related to finances in the long run, it is. Is your diet unhealthy, and are you overweight? These factors potentially set you up for the likelihood of diabetes two and future joint and mobility problems. Are your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers in a healthy range? Do you need to reduce alcohol intake? Do you work out consistently in the three formats you need, which are weight training (strength building), aerobic exercise, and a stretching routine like yoga? Being as physically healthy as possible reduces overall health costs.

Millennials are at the cusp of their middle age planning stage of life and realizing that life’s priorities are a moving target.  While the above pertains to millennials, the importance of planning – both legal and financial – is critical at any age.

We help families of all ages plan for what is important to them, and to make sure their plans and wishes and properly documented. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please give us a call. We’d be honored to help. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

Ten Military Benefits you May Not Know About

The US Department of Veterans, through Tricare and the GI Bill, offers numerous education and basic health care benefits to veterans. Even with these programs that help veterans and their families, other little-known services can improve their lives and ease the financial burden of medical care and other expenses. Check your veteran status to see if you qualify for the following ten benefits:

Long-term Care

It is well documented that long-term care is expensive, but it is often necessary to provide aging relatives. Through the Aid and Attendance program, many veterans can receive money that covers the cost of assisted living programs, nursing homes, and other long-term care facility options. Currently, couples can receive up to $25,020 annually, which can defray a significant portion of the costs associated with long-term care. A veteran’s surviving spouse is also eligible to receive up to $13,560 annually to cover their long-term care costs.

Caregiver Support

Suppose you decide to provide care for your ailing veteran at home, then check into the Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support program. While the program does not offer monetary support, it does give the caregivers a no-cost support line and a caregiver support coordinator who can provide invaluable information when navigating military benefits and learning stress-reducing techniques while caregiving.

Death Benefits

Burial benefits for veterans provide a family with a way to open and close the gravesite of their loved one in any of the 148 national cemeteries with available space and provide perpetual gravesite care at no cost. Additionally, the program provides a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.

Non-College Degree Certificates and Programs

Many veterans are looking for jobs to increase their income or boost their retirement savings.  The GI bill can provide training certification courses and vocational training programs for emergency medical training, barber/beautician school, truck driving, HVAC repair, etc. The VET TEC program offers other non-college degree programs with accelerated learning in coding boot camps and other associated information science programs and software training. There are also free certification programs in information technology for qualifying veterans.

Free Tax Preparation Services

Veterans and their families can use the free tax preparation services available on military bases through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offices. The tax preparers in these offices have expertise working with the complex nature of military-related tax issues.

GI Bill Credits Transfers

As a veteran, if you have unused credits through the GI Bill, you may transfer them to your spouse or dependents. If you qualify for the service limits, then you can transfer the benefits.

Life Insurance

Traditional life insurance can be difficult for a veteran to get; this is particularly true in sustaining an injury during their time of service. The Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Group, Life Insurance Program, can provide up to $400,000 in life insurance and offer competitive premium rates. To learn more, visit the VA’s Group Life Insurance website for servicemembers and veterans.

Delinquent Mortgage Help

Repayment assistance is available for veterans having trouble making their mortgage payments. Some of the options available include special repayment plans, loan modification, and loan forbearance programs. There are also benefits for veterans with VA loans as well as for homeless veterans.

VA Foreclosures

Veterans can search the list of VA acquired properties and purchase these homes at a discount. The VA maintains this list of homes that are serviced through VA Home Loans and are in foreclosure. Although you do not have to be a veteran to search the property list, all qualify for VA financing.

American Corporate Partners

Veterans can connect their skill sets to job opportunities in top companies through American Corporate Partners. This service also provides one-on-one mentoring, interview coaching, resume assistance, and more. If you are looking to start a second career, this service can help you identify the best move for you.

Benefit opportunities for a veteran can make a big difference in lifestyle for themselves and their family members. Understanding the process of veteran qualification/eligibility and properly submitting paperwork for approval can be difficult to navigate. Identify the programs that can help your veteran and then contact an elder law attorney specializing in veterans’ benefits, like us. We’d be honored to help. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Elder Law

AARP Creates New COVID-19 Dashboard

As COVID-19 continues to spread among nursing home residents and staff, valuable and accurate data pinpointing areas of concern is often rife with haphazard data collection providing skewed information. The most recent Kaiser Family Foundation data analysis indicates that federal policymakers are slow in meaningful response to the nursing home coronavirus crisis. The increasing loss of life is often due to this inadequate federal and state response during this fall flu season. To better address the concerns, AARP has created a COVID-19 Dashboard that will standardize information collection and provide better data integrity. The 5-point plan aims to save lives by better protecting nursing home and long-term care facility residents at state and federal levels through more accurate data collection and its use in timely responsiveness.

  1. Ongoing testing and sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents and staff must be a priority. PPE must also be readily available for inspectors and any visitors.
  2. Create better transparency with a focus on the daily public reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths in facilities. Improving communication with families about transfers and discharges and increase accountability for state and federal funding provided to facilities.
  3. Following federal and state guidelines for safety, ensure access to in-person visitation as well as the continuation of virtual visitation for all residents.
  4. Ensure residents’ quality care via adequate oversight, staffing, and access to in-person formal advocates known as long-term care Ombudsmen.
  5. Reject immunity as it relates to COVID-19 for long-term care facilities.

The AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard is a collaboration between the AARP Public Policy Institute and the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio. The dashboard is a four-week snapshot of the coronavirus infiltration into nursing homes and its impact on residents and staff. The goal is to promptly identify specific areas of concern at a state and national level.

A second dashboard will aggregate and analyze the self-reported data from nursing homes provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that cover specific three 4-week time intervals from mid-summer into autumn. This dashboard will specifically gather five key measures from nursing homes: resident death per 100 residents, resident cases per 100 residents, staff cases per 100 residents, percentage of nursing homes without a one-week supply of PPE, and percentage of nursing homes with staffing shortages. There will also be an additional 33 data points providing more information about each category and updated every month. As tracking continues and trends present themselves, additional categories will evolve to follow other measures of interest.

The second dashboard already presents five key findings, including:

  1. Nursing home resident and staff COVID-19 deaths and cases had been on the decline at a national level during the summer. The 2020 flu season brings an uptick to cases, and coronavirus community spread continues to rise rapidly throughout most of the country, increasing vulnerability to nursing homes, staff, and residents.
  2. State trends vary dramatically. Many states with previously high death and infection rates in the summer are improved in the most recent weeks; however other states, particularly in the Midwest, see rapidly increasing rates of cases and deaths in nursing homes.
  3. The variation across states can be as high as about 1 out of every 52 nursing home residents to no resident deaths in the four weeks between September 21 to October 18. Nationally, the same reporting period reported an average death rate of one in every 215 residents.
  4. Direct care staff continues to have infections at a very high rate during this same period from September to October. While more than one-quarter (26 percent) of nursing home residents had confirmed COVID-19 cases, twice as many (53 percent) had confirmed staff cases. More than 90 percent of the nursing home staff tested positive for the coronavirus in the hardest-hit states.
  5. All states indicate nursing homes have a PPE shortage, which is defined as not having a one-week supply of surgical masks, N95 masks, gloves, gowns, and eye protection. In the best-performing state, only 5 percent of nursing homes reported a PPE shortage, while the lowest-performing state had 53 percent of nursing homes reporting a PPE shortage.

Reliable, timely data regarding nursing homes and COVID-19 can help facility operators and personnel gain a better understanding of the crisis facing nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The federal government has begun to require nursing homes to self-report COVID-19 cases and deaths at the national level and ordering testing, providing PPE, issuing guidance for the re-instituting of in-person visits, and more. However, as cases and deaths continue to rise, AARP and other organizations will continue to accumulate data and shine a light on the tragedy befalling nursing home residents to make policy and lawmakers accountable to the crisis. AARP has a webpage providing more information for you or a loved one in a nursing home.

If you have questions about anything you have read or would like to speak to us about planning for you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to reach out.Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

Uncategorized

Power of attorney after 18 years old

When your child turns 18 (in most states), it might be hard to imagine that your little kid once needed you for everything. Now your child is free to vote, marry, apply for a credit card, make medical and financial decisions, sign contracts, and live independently. No wonder the law calls this coming of age “emancipation.”

But if your adult child is hurt in an accident and needs somebody to make critical medical decisions, you cannot be the one to do that without your child having named you as power of attorney, even if you’re still paying for your child’s health insurance. If that child is so injured that a guardian is needed, you would not automatically be that person. Court proceedings would be required and those are expensive and time-consuming. A health care power of attorney would avoid that headache and would give you the standing you need, in one efficient document.

In money matters, you will not be permitted access to your adult child’s bank accounts unless your child has made you agent in a financial power of attorney.

Even if you’re paying for your child’s education, schools are not permitted to release educational records without a signed “FERPA” disclosure statement when your child reaches majority. See:

Becoming an adult is a major milestone. Your child’s 18th birthday would be a good time to explain about paying bills, getting a copy of the child’s social security card and birth certificate, living independently, registering to vote, and signing contracts to rent apartments, for example, or make major purchases like a car.

Remember to include the powers of attorney in that discussion. They are invaluable when your adult child needs you, at a stressful time when you do not want to hear any “no’s.” Powers of attorney could save you and your child delay, heartache, and expense.

We would be happy to help you or your child with the proper powers of attorney, as well as other planning needs that become more urgent as we grow older. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation in a confidential setting, please schedule time with us to do so.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.