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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.

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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.

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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.

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Aging Veterans and VA Benefits

More than 18.2 million veterans live in the United States, and 38 percent of them are 65 and older according to the US Census Bureau. Additionally, the Census Bureau reports that more than 9 million veterans receive services from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) annually. If you are a veteran or have a loved one who is, it is important to understand all the VA resources and aid that is available. Beyond education programs, home loans, and job search and training resources, the VA also provides a host of other resources to assist you as you transition to your retirement years.

Wartime Veterans Supplemental Income (Veterans Pension)

Supplemental income is available for wartime veterans through the VA pension benefit. If you served at least 90 days of active duty before September 7, 1980, or 24 months after that date, or served the full period for which you were summoned or ordered to active duty with at least one day of wartime, you may qualify.  You must have also been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. There are strict income and asset requirements attached to this benefit as well as the survivors pension and the housebound or aid and attendance allowance discussed below.

Survivors pension

If your late parent or spouse served during wartime, you might qualify for the survivor’s pension. This tax-free program provides relief for unmarried children or a widow or widower who has low income. The deceased military veteran must have served a minimum of 90 days active service with a minimum of one day served during a period of wartime before September 7, 1980, and been dishonorably discharged. After that September date, the deceased veteran must have served a minimum of 24 months or the full period summoned or ordered to serve active duty. Pensions are based on annual family income and under a designated amount set by Congress. More details regarding military pension eligibility are found on the VA website.

Housebound Allowance and Aid & Attendance Benefit

If you are eligible for or are already receiving a veterans’ pension, you may qualify for additional monetary benefits. If you are permanently disabled and must remain in your current home, the Housebound Allowance will increase your monthly pension. Aid & Attendance (A&A) will compensate a veteran who is either residing in a nursing home, bedridden, requires assistance for activities in their day to day life, or whose eyesight problems meet specific thresholds of degradation. More details for Housebound Allowance and A&A eligibility can be found on the VA website.

Veterans Life Insurance Options

There is a wide variety of life insurance offerings through the Veterans Administration. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI, VA form SGLV8286) is a group term life insurance that is low cost and is automatic for most active-duty service members. It is also available for those veterans who serve at least 12 periods of inactive training per year with the Ready Reserve or the National Guard. Other automatic qualifiers include belonging to the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the Public Health Service, and for midshipmen and cadets of the US military academies and ROTC members. You can extend the coverage up to two years if you are fully disabled at separation. Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI, VA form SGLV 8286A) allows you to convert your SGLI to a civilian program of lifetime renewable term coverage after leaving military service.

Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance

If you qualify for SGLI, your spouse and children are qualified for Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI, VA form SGLV 8286A). This insurance covers your dependent children free of charge, although the coverage for your spouse cannot surpass your amount of coverage.

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection

If you sustain a traumatic injury during your service that leads to amputation, blindness, or paraplegia, you qualify for benefit payments made through Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI, VA form SGLV8600).

Service-Disabled Veterans’ Life Insurance

The Service-Disabled Veterans’ Life Insurance(S-DVI, VA Form 29-4364) coverage is provided to veterans who have been given a VA rating for what is called a new service-connected disability within the past two years. Coverage is free for eligible veterans who are fully disabled, and you can purchase additional life insurance.

Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance

As a veteran, if you are disabled and approved for a VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant, you may receive mortgage life insurance coverage through the Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI, VA Form 29-8636).

This link takes you to an overview of these VA insurance benefits. You can click on the insurance program by name and be automatically redirected to the appropriate VA web page for that benefit.

Disability Compensation

Tax-free Dependency and Indemnity Compensation(DIC, VA Form 21-534EZ) is available to veterans who sustain or aggravate an injury or disease during their active service. The disability may include physical and mental health issues and secondary or related items diagnosed after your discharge. Your child may be eligible for DIC if they are not included in the spouse’s DIC, and there is an income-based DIC for parents. A disability can also qualify you for a higher, tax-free Special Monthly Compensation if you are housebound and need special assistance or have trouble performing daily living activities. Additionally, housing and insurance benefits through the VA, like Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance, Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance, and Adapted Housing Grants may be available.

Geriatrics and Extended Care Services

The Geriatrics and Extended Care Services (GEC) provides help to veterans with life-limiting illnesses, multiple chronic conditions, or disabilities associated with aging, injury, or chronic disease. The GEC will assist a veteran living at home or in a nursing home, assisted living, or other residential community care facilities. GEC services include home health aide care, daily care, telehealth care, palliative care, respite care, hospice care, and even veteran-directed care.

Military Burial

Veteran burial benefits include a gravesite in a national veteran’s cemetery, a government marker or headstone, the opening and closing of that grave and its perpetual care, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. The marker, headstone, burial flag and certificate are provided at no cost the veteran. Additionally, dependents and spouses buried in a national veteran’s cemetery may also qualify for some benefits such as burial with the veteran, inscription on their headstone, and perpetual care. For a complete description of your veteran benefits, check this VA website link.

Percentages of veterans receiving benefits:

  • 25-34 years 24.7 percent
  • 36-44 years 21.5 percent
  • 45-54 years 25.8 percent
  • 55-64 years 19.8 percent
  • 65-74 years 5.0 percent
  • 75+ years 1.3 percent

If you are a veteran or have a loved one who is, it is crucial to understand that veteran resources go far beyond career and end-of-life issues. Many veterans are not taking full advantage of VA offerings. Many VA age-related programs can benefit a veteran’s life beyond simply planning their future care. Become acquainted with the many options available and determine which programs you qualify for and best serve your interests. With so many benefits available through the VA, you can improve your living situation during your retirement.

The overview is just a summary of what may be available to a wartime veteran or a veteran who is disabled as a result of their prior service. If you or a loved one would like to explore whether you are eligible for benefits, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 with any questions.

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Why Veterans Benefits Planning is Vital for Aging Veterans

The COVID-19 virus is not going away as many had hoped. And studies have shown it is deadlier for those over the age of 65. Individuals living in senior living communities, such as independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes have the highest risk of becoming infected and possibly dying from the virus or a secondary illness, such as pneumonia, after being weakened from the virus. For many families, providing long term care for a loved one in the home has become an even bigger priority than normal. In-home care can be costly, which makes the Aid and Attendance Benefit provided by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs of critical importance to help pay for such care.

Veteran Aid and Attendance Benefit

The Aid and Attendance Benefit, technically called the Improved Pension Benefit, is a cash benefit paid to wartime veterans that are over the age of 65 and require another person to assist them with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, feeding, and assistance with incontinence, or requires a protective environment due to mental decline. The Aid and Attendance Benefit is also available to similarly disabled spouses of deceased wartime veterans that are over the age of 65. It is this need for assistance with care or a protective environment that has the family looking into long term care facilities for their loved one.

The Aid and Attendance eligibility rules also require the person receiving the benefit to have limited income. Simply put, all income of the applicant and the applicant’s spouse must be offset by the medical expenses of the applicant and the applicant’s spouse. Any income not offset by medical expenses reduces the amount of the benefit. Under the Aid and Attendance rules, when the wartime veteran or surviving spouse requires assistance with activities of daily living or a protective environment, paying an in-home caregiver to provide that care is a medical expense. It does not matter whether the caregiver is a child or hired through an agency.

Current Veteran Benefits

For 2020, the maximum benefit paid to a married wartime veteran is $2,266 per month. The maximum benefit paid to a single wartime veteran is $1,911. The maximum benefit paid to a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran is $1,228. Working carefully through the math, if a married wartime veteran needs long term care and has a household income of $4,000 per month, he or she will need to spend $4,000 per month on medical expenses to receive $2,266 per month. That veteran likely already has medical expenses in the form of two Medicare and two Medicare supplement premiums, as well as possibly two Medicare prescription supplements. The remaining income needs to be spent on additional medical expenses, specifically an in-home caregiver.

The family must now decide the best way to navigate paying the in-home caregiver. If the couple has children, perhaps the remainder of the household income can be paid to a child, or split among the children, as payment for caregiver services. In many cases, using a child or children as a caregiver allows for flexibility in the amount a caregiver is paid. The income calculation can be manipulated to net out at exactly zero, instead of going into the negative. This allows the veteran to use the $2,266 per month benefit to pay for the couple’s non-medical living expenses.

Other Veteran Benefits for Caregiving

The other option is to hire a caregiver from an agency. This option is more expensive than using a child as a caregiver, but it comes with the added benefit of ensuring taxes are withheld and workers’ compensation insurance is provided in case of an accident. If the family wants the income calculation to net out at exactly zero, the veteran typically will not get as many hours of service from the caregiver hired through an agency compared to hiring a child since an agency typically charges a higher per hour rate. This would work well for a veteran that does not need a lot of care, or that has a wife and/or children that can cover the additional hours of care for free. Otherwise, the agency will need to be paid to provide the additional hours of service, which means the $2,266 benefit paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs will also be used to pay for the care and the couple will have to use assets to pay for the couple’s non-medical living expenses.

The Aid and Attendance Benefit also has an asset limit the applicant must meet, along with a penalty for giving assets away and a 3-year period to look back at the applicant’s assets to see if any gifts were made. These rules should not dissuade a wartime veteran or surviving spouse from seeking this benefit. The need for long term care will only increase. The cost of care will only increase. And now the COVID-19 virus makes it critical that everything possible is done to protect this vulnerable community.

If you have questions or would like to discuss whether you or a loved one may qualify for Veterans Benefits, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 to learn more about your VA planning options.

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How to Plan Ahead for You or a Loved Ones Inheritances and Medicaid

How to Plan Ahead for You or a Loved Ones Inheritances and Medicaid

Mistakes can be made when it comes to inheritances and Medicaid. Those mistakes can be costly.

When a person is drawing Medicaid benefits and inherits money or property, that inheritance jeopardizes the benefits. The inheritance must be handled carefully to minimize expensive penalties. What “careful” means, though, can be misunderstood without the necessary expertise.

The Right Steps for Handling Inheritance

The first and best idea is to call experienced elder law attorneys like us. (An even better idea is to call us well before any inheritance becomes a “problem.” The sooner you call us, the more money we can likely protect for you.)

An Ohio attorney was recently suspended partly because he mishandled this Medicaid-inheritance issue. The mistaken advice was that to protect the benefits, the person who stood to inherit should “disclaim” or “renounce” the inheritance – in other words, give it away to someone else.

Medicaid Rules and Inheritance Context

That advice would have been OK in the tax context. It was not OK in the Medicaid context. The Medicaid rules count inheritances regardless whether the recipient keeps them or passes them on to someone else. The bad result, in such cases, is that the person receiving Medicaid would be charged just as if he or she had taken the money, even if he or she gave it away, and the person’s benefits would be docked accordingly. This can be a very expensive misstep.

The better result would be to consult us immediately. We can advise you on necessary  techniques to split the inheritance between the recipient and somebody else, like a child. If the right strategies are used, Medicaid would count the inheritance to an extent, but not as much as it would have if the recipient had simply given away the whole sum.

An even better result would be if the person leaving the inheritance had consulted us first. We know how to structure that person’s financial arrangements, to protect the people to whom the person wants to leave his or her legacy.

Elder law is a law unto itself. We know that complicated area of the law well and we have helped many people successfully meet the challenges it poses. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 to learn more about your planning options.

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Social Security Disability Income and Qualifications 101

Temporary or permanent disability can happen to anyone at any time. Do you understand the role social security can play? Some projections are estimating that Americans in their 20s today have an approximate 30 percent chance of experiencing a disability profound enough to cause them to miss three or more months of work before retiring. Despite the risks, most Americans do not carry short or long-term disability insurance. Close to half of all mortgage foreclosures are due to owners being struck with a disability, and fewer than 15 percent of people who purchase life insurance opt for disability insurance. The Social Security Administration (SSA) was tasked in 1956 to address disability and work income by creating a disability insurance program. Throughout its long history, additional rules have contributed to its complex regulations and eligibility requirements that make applying for disability benefits difficult.

What Are the Disability Benefits and Eligibility?

The disability benefits are in the form of monthly payments to provide a safety net for qualified individuals who have become too disabled to work. The benefits are paid through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Programs. Both of the programs are intended for disabled workers, but they have different benefits and qualifying requirements as well as different funding sources.

To become eligible for the SSDI program, you will have worked a required number of years in a job where you paid into the social security taxes (FICA, Federal Insurance Contributions Act). You have to have accrued a certain number of work credits. You can earn up to 4 work credits per year. Workers that do not have the required number of work years and who also have low income and minimal assets can apply for SSI. In both programs, you are not eligible to be engaged in a substantial gainful activity (SGA), earning a certain amount of income from some other work.

The number of work credits required as a qualification for SSDI benefits depends on the age at which you became disabled. Generally, it is possible to qualify if you have earned at least 20 credits in the ten years before being disabled and if you have earned credits that total 40 or more. If you do not have enough work credits to qualify, there is a chance you can become qualified based on a spouse or parent’s work record. There are many regulations governing eligibility for SSDI, and each individual has a varied work history. To understand how to qualify and how much you should be able to receive, it is best to contact a legal professional for help.

Maintaining Disability Qualifications and Benefits

Once you qualify from a work history perspective for SSDI, then you must prove you meet medical eligibility requirements. SSDI benefits are available to those workers who have a severe, long-term, or total disability. A severe disability is a condition that interferes with general work-related actions. Long-term disability means you are unable to perform “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) for a minimum of one year. Total disability is a person’s inability to work in their own or any other occupation for which they are suited by training, experience, or education due to a sickness or injury.

SSI medical qualifications are similar to medical terms used in SSDI qualifications; however, these individuals must also have limited resources and a low income. The benefits from the SSI program are funded through general tax revenue and not dependent on your work history or having paid into the social security taxes known as FICA.

For either program, it can be challenging to qualify for the SSA’s definition of disabled. To be considered disabled by the SSA, your condition has to last a year or be expected to last a year. Or your condition should be expected to result in your death. Your condition must also significantly limit your abilities to do necessary work activities like walking, sitting, standing, or retaining and remembering information. Additionally, your condition must be listed in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments” (Blue Book) or have medical equivalency to listed conditions. Finally, your condition must prevent you from doing any work for which you qualify before your disability.  

The Approval Process for Social Security Disability

Becoming approved for benefits is a lengthy and often frustrating process as many people are denied on their first application. A myriad of forms, doctors’ recommendations, personal medical history, work, and tax documentation all contribute to becoming accepted into either program. You can apply online or at your local social security office. It is best to contact the office to schedule an appointment to submit your application for benefits. Regarding financial qualification, be prepared with your work history and current earnings, household assets and income, your bank, and financial institution information. Also required is your current and past employers and up to five jobs you have held in the past 15 years, any other benefits you may be receiving, your status of citizenship, and, if applicable, any paperwork from a military discharge.  Pay stubs, proof of citizenship, W-2s or 1099s, information about your disability, and detailed medical records are all pertinent data to bring.

An initial application that is denied has multiple stages of appeal. You can enter a request for reconsideration or even go up as high as an appeal to a federal court. If your condition has made you very sick and you are experiencing a severe medical condition, there is a streamlined process known as the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance List. This list primarily includes adult brain disorders, certain cancers, and several rare disorders that affect children. If and when you are approved for disability income through SSDI or SSI, there is a waiting period. Benefits will not be made available to you until you have been disabled for a full five months, and, likely, you will not be approved for six months to a year, including the likelihood for at least one level of appeal. Be prepared from the outset for a lengthy process and improve your chances for approval with a well thought out, legally reviewed application for disability income. If you have questions or would like to discuss your situation with us, please do not hesitate to contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Is COVID-19 Putting Your Social Security at Risk

The recent pandemic has caused for many drastic changes in our economy including social security funding. The US Social Security Administrations funding trusts are known as the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. In their 2019 annual report to Congress, the Board of Trustees released some startling detail about projected insolvency for the Social Security Program by the year 2035. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been dipping into its “trust fund” to meet scheduled benefit payouts. Social Security program costs continue to exceed non-interest income.

The OASI has no authority to borrow money, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the American workforce is severely reduced. Now there are far fewer workers paying into the Social Security system. The payroll tax is the cash liquidity needed to fund by far the single most significant source of federal spending, and it is drying up. Trust reserves will be depleted faster than the projection of 2035.

The situation became dire in what seems like an instant, but it is due to more than 22 million Americans losing their jobs in the past four weeks. Twenty-two million fewer people are propping up the Social Security system at a time when a lot more money will soon be going out. People who are now out of work will be able to draw benefits and may do just that out of sheer economic need.

According to Market Watch reporting, by columnist Alicia H. Munnell, a leading expert on Social Security “We are going to lose a lot of payroll tax revenue this year” as “expenditures keep at their regular pace, if not at an immediately  higher pace because older people can’t find a job might turn to claim early.” The gap between what the SSA takes in versus pays out will widen further, and the trust fund that fills this gap will be depleted faster than ever. Social Security trustees Labor Secretary Acosta, Health and Human Services Secretary Azar, and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have yet to release their updated projections on just how quickly the trust fund will run out of cash.

With the advent of COVID-19 and ever-increasing expenditure to protect the unemployed and vulnerable people of America, it will behoove those who have retirement and estate plans to review and make appropriate changes to cover what may be shortfalls to their expected Social Security benefits. Also, consider any expected employee pensions you may have from businesses that may go bankrupt. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of time to get a good fix in place for you or the government because of the world-wide economic market crashes. The fix for Social Security has moved to a scale of monies not seen before this pandemic. The current solution of the SSA is for the American taxpayer to receive somewhere around 75 percent of their previously promised benefits. Still, that percentage was established before the loss of 22 million workers and their payroll tax contributions.

The perfect storm has come to pass. Americans are experiencing a pandemic that spurs massive unemployment, which in turn leaves, at minimum, 22-million fewer payroll tax contributors, which accelerates the timeline of a projected insolvent Social Security system. The Social Security solvency problem, coupled with the US Census Bureau reporting a declining US birth rate for the fifth straight year while people are living longer than ever before, and this perfect storm becomes cataclysmic.

The good news is American people want to go to work and get on with their lives. Successful retirement and estate planning are all about mitigating risk and expanding rewards. We can help with your planning. The sooner you start, the better, as we could remain in uncertain times for a while longer. We look forward to hearing from you, please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Keeping Loneliness Away from Seniors

The medically recommended protocols for social distancing and government mandates that restrict large gatherings of Americans to slow the spread of the coronavirus are minimizing our abilities to interact with each other. This isolation holds especially true for those seniors who live alone or in long term health care facilities. Human beings are, by nature, designed for close contact and social interaction. Maintaining human connection, whether it be family or casual acquaintances, can help boost immunity, combat anxiety and stress, and can even lower health risks that are exacerbated by stress like heart attacks and hypertension.

The Association of Health Care Journalists reports that it is critical for older adults’ wellbeing to maintain social ties. Those seniors who experience loneliness and social isolation are more likely to develop dementia, more likely to fall, have an increase in hospital readmissions, and an increase in mortality. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care facilities and hospitals across the country have put a pause on in-person visitation. This separation will protect the most vulnerable populations, such as older adults and those individuals with chronic health conditions.

To help your loved ones in a facility or living on their own during this challenging time of COVID-19 Right at Home, a leader in the in-home senior care industry, has some ideas to stay connected to those you love who are isolated during this outbreak.

  • Set up phone dates. Scheduling a regular call at a prescribed time and date brings you closer through conversation and also gives a senior something to look forward to experiencing. Do not over-promise. It is better to have two calls a week that you always attend rather than to miss a promised chat session because you overscheduled your time.
  • Write letters to each other. Getting postal mail is fun for all ages, especially when it is a letter, filled with memories of shared times. Include self-addressed stamped envelopes back and forth to encourage continuing the exchange. Lonely seniors will usually re-read these notes and treasure them.
  • Set up chatty technology. Whether it’s a tablet, home device, or smartphone, you can use your digital device to use apps like Facebook Messenger, Alexa, FaceTime, Skype, and more to videoconference with your senior. If your senior needs some technical help, most health care workers will be able to help get them started as you will not be permitted to be onsite.
  • Virtually watch movies together. If you and your senior have a desktop computer or laptop that uses the Chrome browser, Netflix Party will synchronize video playback and add group chat capability to your chosen show or movie. It’s like having a long-distance movie night or tv watching party.
  • Attend online events and activities. Participating online is a big deal when faced with isolation. There are thousands of people online who have similar interests as you. Meetup.com is a free membership group that has 24 separate categories, like dance, language, and culture, photography, family, tech, health and wellness, music, and more. All of these categories host multiple online events in which your senior can participate.
  • Attend virtual religious services. Faith is so important right now, especially for some seniors. If your loved one has a worship service they used to attend, see if they are now providing their services online. Many houses of worship have Facebook pages where a service is a click away. It will lift your senior’s spirits immensely to see and listen to their familiar pastor, rabbi, or priest.
  • Make use of the public library online. More than ever, libraries are offering their services for things like movies, e-books, and audiobooks.
  • Stay physically active. Log into a virtual exercise class online. Most of the classes are free, and they are found everywhere on YouTube. Just be sure to search for an exercise class that is appropriate for your age and physical abilities. As with any new exercise regime, always consult your doctor first.
  • Get outdoors, even for 5 minutes. If at all possible to do safely, step outside on the porch, patio, or balcony and encourage your loved one to do the same. Take in some sunshine and fresh air, take a deep breath and see the bigger picture of life.

Prolonged loneliness can bring about depression and even dementia. However, social distancing does not have to bring about social disconnection. Employ some of these ideas in the world of your senior to protect them from isolation during this pandemic. It is crucial to your loved one’s wellbeing to have direction and routine, hope, and human connection.

We are also using video technology for our meetings so we can continue to help with planning needs of our community.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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People of All Ages Must Plan for the Unexpected

The sudden rise of the coronavirus, COVID-19, has left many unprepared and confused. There are numerous reports of shortages of antibacterial hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and even toilet paper. While we can’t predict when something like COVID-19 might strike, we can take steps to prepare for an unexpected crisis to help reduce the stress on ourselves and family members.

Designate a family member who will check on elderly relatives. Make sure everyone knows who will responsible for checking in with an elderly loved one each day. Also set up a process for notifying other family members of an elderly loved one’s condition – this may include sending an email, text messaging, or phone calls. The method is not as important as agreeing to a process and sticking to it so all family members stay informed.

Seek medical advice in the event of a health care crisis. There has been a great deal of reporting about COVID-19, and some of it has been inconsistent. Reach out to your trusted medical team to understand what you and your loved ones should be doing in this, or any, health care crisis.

Make sure someone knows how to get your bills paid if you are unable to. This type of power can be provided to an agent under a financial power of attorney. Powers of attorney can include numerous powers, so it is critical to talk with legal counsel before signing any type of legal document that gives someone else authority over your finances.

Be sure there is an accurate list of medical prescriptions readily available in your home. If you become ill, it is important that someone knows the medicines you take and the dosage. Keep this in your home where others can find it, and make sure the list is dated, noting any time it is updated. Many of us assume that our doctor has an updated prescription list, but if you are seeing multiple specialists, that may not be true.

Designate someone you trust to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to. This should not be a form that is downloaded from the internet. Deciding what type of treatment you want, where you want to live, and what should happen if you have a terminal illness are serious topics that should be considered carefully, then translated into a proper legal document.

Planning for an unexpected health care or financial crisis can help relieve a great deal of stress for you and your family. We would welcome the opportunity to help you come up with a plan that works for you.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.