Archive for August, 2011

Planning Needed to Safeguard Assets as Medicare Changes Loom in the Debt Talks

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

The future of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will become a heated topic again this fall as the 12-member Congressional super committee decides how to cut $2.4 trillion in spending by Thanksgiving. Medicare will most likely take the deepest cuts in the second stage of spending negotiations. This is of special concern to baby boomers who continue to retire and seek these government benefits. Questions regarding how long the Medicare trust fund will last, access to doctors, and the Medicare Part D coverage gap are increasing.

People are concerned that as the cuts get passed, Medicare costs for beneficiaries will rise. The Medicare Rights Center advocates that the bipartisan committee should look to raise revenues by doing away with tax cuts and increasing taxes on the wealthiest individuals and companies. “Only by promoting shared sacrifice can we avoid balancing the budget on the backs of older Americans, people with disabilities and their families,” said Joe Baker, the Medicare Rights Center president.

The second stage of spending negotiations will look at changes to Medicare including:

-       raising the age of eligibility, premiums, deductibles, and co-pays

-       changing the means test for income-related premiums

-       decreasing payments to health care professionals and pharmaceutical companies

-       shifting coverage for individuals who can receive both Medicaid and Medicare

-       allowing states to reduce benefits and eligibility

Littman Krooks Elder Law Attorneys and Medicaid Planning Attorneys are at the forefront of helping seniors stay abreast of the changes and how this can affect their health care and financial decisions. Their New York City, White Plains and Fishkill Elder Law attorneys are skilled in tailoring a plan to protect an individual’s assets and estate plan, deal with insurance and government benefit concerns, and properly plan for the future.

To learn more about New York elder law and New York estate planning, visit http://www.littmankrooks.com or http://www.elderlawnewyork.com.

Estate Plans Should Include Provisions for Pets

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Many seniors fail to consider their pets when building an estate plan, an oversight that often finds them homeless or in animal shelters, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

People often incorrectly assume they will outlive their pet, or that a friend or family will take care of their pet when they are gone, according to Anne Culver, director of Disaster Services for the Humane Society. Formal provisions can ensure a pet will receive proper care in a loving home after its owner has passed away.

It is important to outline a temporary plan for a pet before even drafting a long-term plan. Estate plans can take time to carry out, especially if they are contested, but pets need daily care and immediate attention. A designated friend, family member or neighbor can ensure a pet’s needs are met while an estate plan is being carried out.

Formal, long-term arrangements for a pet can be created with the help of a lawyer in the form of a special will, trust, or other document. When selecting a caregiver, seniors should consider close family or friends who have met the pet and who have successfully cared for a pet of their own. If an estate plan includes more than one pet, they should be kept together, especially if they have bonded. Seniors should keep in contact with potential caregivers over time to ensure that their circumstances have not changed, and they are still willing to care for the pet.

In the event that a caregiver cannot be found, the executor of a will can be authorized to find a satisfactory new home for a pet. This may take time, so careful instructions and proper funding are paramount. An estate plan can include funding for a pet’s temporary and permanent expenses.

A trust for a pet may also be set up as an alternative to a will. Unlike a will, which only takes effect upon death, a trust goes into effect as soon as a senior becomes incapacitated. This means that a pet can be cared for immediately.

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To learn more about New York elder law, New York estate planning, visit http://www.elderlawnewyork.com or http://www.littmankrooks.com

VA Begins Massive Outreach Program for Female Veterans

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it will implement a comprehensive plan to improve care for female veterans.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced that the VA has first begun a massive outreach effort to contact female veterans and ask them to share their experiences with the system. Callers trained to be “friendly” and “conversational” to encourage candidness ask female veterans why they are not using VA benefits, whether they are aware of VA gender-specific services, and what additional services they would like the VA to offer. Callers also offer to connect women to the appropriate departments if they are interesting in receiving VA benefits.

Shinseki said the department would use the information obtained from the calls to draft its comprehensive plan. He said the initial draft would be released in January 2012.

The Women Veterans Health Care program has made significant changes in the past few years – including providing specialized and improved service for female veterans, comprehensive primary care for female veterans, and using cutting-edge research to study the effect of military service on women’s lives – but Shinseki said that even this “has not been enough.”

The new plan will likely include a renewed focus on military sexual trauma, childcare, homelessness, OB/GYN care, and aging issues.

Female veterans currently comprise 8 percent of the total veteran population in the U.S., and account for 6 percent of all veterans who use the VA system. The VA estimates that these numbers will rise to 10 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively, by 2020.

For more information on Veterans’ Benefits, visit www.elderlawnewyork.com or www.littmankrooks.com.

Social Security Benefits To Be Paid On Time

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Social Security payments for August 3, 10, 17 and 24th will be made on time and as scheduled. People that receive paper checks can sign up for Direct Deposit.All current beneficiaries must switch to electronic payments by March 1, 2013.

For more information, visit the officuial Social Security website by clicking here.

New Stipend Program for Caregivers of Veterans Disperses First Payments

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Family members caring for veterans received their first payments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ new Family Caregiver Program in July.

The new program, officially titled the Family Caregiver Program of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act 2010, provides a monthly stipend to family members who care for veterans that were seriously injured in the line of duty after Sept. 11, 2001.

Nearly 200 Family Caregivers of Veterans completed the program’s required caregiver training program in time to receive a stipend in July. The VA is dispersing more than $430,000 this month, with each caregiver receiving an average of $2,500. This figure will lower to around $1,600 in following months, as the first payments are retroactive to the date of the application.

Since the program’s launch on May 9, approximately 1,250 Family Caregivers of Veterans applied for the program. The program requires applicants to complete a caregiver comprehensive core training program – developed by VA clinical experts and the nonprofit community-based health agency Easter Seals – before they can begin receiving payments. Eligible Family Caregivers of Veterans are also given access to mental health services and health care insurance if they do not already have it.

Caregivers who qualify for the program can also utilize in-home and community based care for when a veteran needs additional help, respite care that can help care for the veteran for a short time while the caregiver needs relief, additional education programs covering severe traumas like Traumatic Brain Injury, and caregiver support groups

Caregivers who wish to apply may download the application at www.caregiver.va.gov.

For more information about Littman Krooks LLP, visit www.littmankrooks.com or call (914)684-2100.