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Every year the relevant numbers for the government programs we work with change.  It starts with the Social Security Administration, which announces its cost of living adjustment (COLA).  Other government programs then adjust their numbers, sometimes using the same COLA as Social Security.  For many years the adjustment has been small and there have been some years in which there has been no change. Inflation, however, is now at heights we have not seen since the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  That resulted in a 5.7% adjustment in 2022.  In 2023 the COLA will be another big one, 8.7%.  This means that Social Security recipients will receive the biggest jump in their monthly payment in years. Medicare numbers will also change next year.  The standard Medicare Part B premium that most people pay will actually decrease a bit from $170.10 to $164.90.  Certain Medicare copays will increase next year.  The Part A hospitalization deductible will increase to $1600 and the copay for days 61 through 90 will be $400 per day. Medicare covers the cost of rehabilitation in a skilled nursing but there is a copay for that as well.  The first 20 days are covered 100%.  The next 80 days have a copay, which increases to $200 per day in 2023. Other government programs adjust

In this third post of three, I talk again about financial fraud, something it seems that has become more prevalent with each passing year.  Last week I discussed some basic do’s and don’ts with respect to emails. But if my mom walks into her bank and wants to withdraws a large amount of money or says she needs to wire funds - even if it is overseas - should the bank honor that request?  Can it refuse to allow her access to her own money?  We typically have this conversation with family members after the fraud has occurred.  It’s always easier to say what should have been done after the fact.  Not so in real time.  If my mother presents no signs that she lacks capacity what reason does the bank have for denying her request?  Can they question the reason for the withdrawals from her account?  In each instance or just for some withdrawals?  How should that be determined?  By age? By the reason given for the withdrawal?  And if the bank denies the request what happens then?    There are privacy rules and discrimination laws to consider and there could be many angry bank customers they were refused access to their own money. So, what can be done proactively?  Restrictions can maybe be

In last week’s post I wrote about the increasing number of our senior clients falling victim to online financial scams.  Once money has left your account the chances of recovering it are remote.  So, the best defense is to prevent it from happening in the first place.  As I stated last week, there are some simple things we all can do to avoid being the next victim. Some scammers make initial contact by phone and others by email.  In either case, if you don’t recognize the caller or the email address, you should be on high alert.  If a caller asks for personal information such as your birth date or Social Security don’t provide it.  No legitimate business or government entity will ask for this information on the phone or in an email.  Whatever story you are told to increase the urgency that you “must respond immediately” don’t believe it.  There is never a good reason to act now before doing some investigation. In the case of emails, never click on links in an email from someone you don’t know or an email address you don’t recognize.  Also be wary of an email from someone you do know but whose email address looks different than the one you know.  It might have

As internet use and online business have increased, so has online financial theft and fraud.  Seniors are especially susceptible for a number of reasons.  For one thing, criminals go where the money is.  Much of the country’s wealth is held by the older population.  Secondly, as we age, our cognitive skills are not what they once were, making it harder for us to recognize a scam.  Thirdly, many seniors are unfamiliar with and confused by technology.   For these reasons, scammers find seniors to be an easy mark.  We’ve seen an increase in calls to our office from clients and their family members relating stories of how they were scammed out of tens and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are common elements to every scam.  The scammer has a story.  Why is he or she asking for your information or for your money?  Sometimes it’s the promise of  a greater reward.  “Give me a small amount of money now and I’ll give you a larger sum back later.”  In other cases the story is that you owe the scammer money.  To establish legitimacy, the scammer makes it look like you are dealing with a known business or entity - except that you’re not.  It’s all fake. By the time the victim realizes he has

I have always said that the desire to quickly file a Medicaid application should be tempered by the ability to provide the documentation that is required for an application to be successful.   The State is now scrutinizing every single transaction in and out of every single account that existed in the past 5 years.  Often the family member gathering the required documentation has no previous knowledge of the assets.  The State, however, thru its asset verification system, using the applicant’s Social Security number, can find these accounts. It will then request the documentation with respect to these accounts but typically only provide 7 to 10 days within which to produce it.  Getting these documents from financial institutions is never easy.  Our clients are so often told that statements for closed accounts cannot be retrieved.  Not true, but you must be persistent and it will probably take more than 7 to 10 days to get them. All this works in favor of the State.  Each time an application is denied for lack of verification (meaning a failure to provide the requested documents) you can refile so long as you provide the missing documents.  However, you may lose months of eligibility since retroactive eligibility can only go as far back as

In last week’s post I started to discuss clauses found in some laws that are called “sunset provisions”.  They are essentially expiration dates for a law.  We’ve seen them in estate tax laws.  The current federal estate tax exemption is scheduled to “sunset” in 2025, unless Congress votes to extend.  The key here is that if the current law expires, the previous estate tax law and exemption go back into effect. What caught my ear was talk about sun setting other programs, such as Social Security and Medicare which I had not heard about previously.  Back in March Congressman Rick Scott put forward his “11 Point Plan to Rescue America”.  In it he suggested that all federal legislation should sunset every 5 years.  As he explained, “if a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”  He didn’t specifically mention Social Security and Medicare, however, they are federal laws so presumably they could be included. In recent years, Washington has become so gridlocked that government shutdowns seem to be an almost annual occurrence.  In this climate, the thought of every federal law automatically expiring unless affirmative action is taken by Congress to extend it is a bit unsettling. The chaos it could cause is not hard to envision.  Let’s look, for example,