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            Last week I was sharing with you the most common scams that target the elderly.  This week let’s talk about tips to help avoid these scams, provided courtesy of the National Council on Aging. Never sign blank insurance claim forms. Never give blanket permission to a medical provider to bill for services rendered. Ask medical providers what they charge and what the out-of-pocket portion will be. Carefully review your insurer’s explanation of benefits statement.  If you have questions call the insurer and ask. Don’t do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople who tell you that medical equipment is free. Only give your insurance/Medicare ID to those who have provided you with medical services. Keep accurate records of all your health care appointments. Know if your physician ordered equipment for you. Protect you Medicare number as carefully as you do your credit card numbers. Be wary of salespeople who claim that something they are selling you is paid for by Medicare. Review your Medicare statements to be sure you have received the services being billed to you. Report suspicious activities to 1-800-MEDICARE. Don’t buy from unfamiliar companies. Always ask for and wait to receive written material about any offer or charity. Obtain a saleperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address and business

            In the information age and with the explosion of technology have come fraud, theft and deception of various kinds.  Elder fraud is the act of targeting older adults by attempting to deceive them with promises of goods, services or financial benefits that do not exist, were never intended to be provided or were misrepresented.  It is estimated that victims lose $2.9 billion annually as a result of elder fraud.             The elderly are particularly susceptible to scammers and schemes as their mental abilities begin to decline.  Seniors also tend to be more trusting.  Let’s look at the more common schemes. The Health Care Scam -  The National Council on Aging reports that scammers pretend to be health insurance or Medicare representatives so they can gain access to personal or contact information.  They then call back the senior at a later time, stating that they spoke with a son or daughter and that it is OK for the senior to reveal his/her Social Security number or driver’s license number.  The scammers then use that information to fraudulently bill Medicare in the name of the senior and keep the payments. The Grandchild Scam – My father-in-law recently almost fell for this one.  Scammers will

            This week I thought I would discuss some changes and trends that are - and in the future may - make it more difficult to qualify for two programs that provide critical benefits to pay for long term care, the VA’s Aid and Attendance and New Jersey’s Medicaid program.             A year ago I told you that the VA had proposed new regulations that would severely restrict the ability of wartime veterans and their spouses to qualify for a pension that can provide as much as $2120 a month that can help cover long term care costs (See Blog Post 2-9-15).  The biggest change that has been proposed is the imposition of a 3 year look back which would work similar to Medicaid’s 5 year look back.  Whereas now, with proper planning and restructuring of assets, an applicant with assets in excess of the VA’s asset limit of approximately $80,000 can immediately qualify for benefits, a 3 year look back would act as a 3 year waiting period for those same benefits.             Rumors circulated for months that these changes would occur in February, 2016.  Now word is that these changes could be coming in March, 2016.  For anyone with assets

            A few weeks ago (1-11-16 post) I was discussing what happens to Social Security benefits when someone dies.  Specifically I am talking about the entitlements of a surviving spouse. These benefits are commonly referred to as survivor benefits.  Other family members, such as disabled children (provided  the disability began before age 22), may be entitled to survivor benefits but this post will focus on the surviving spouse.             Generally, the surviving spouse is entitled to 100% of the deceased spouse’s Social Security benefit provided it is greater than his/her own benefit.  In other words, the surviving spouse will receive either his/her own benefit or the deceased spouse’s benefit, whichever is greater, but not both.  The surviving spouse will also receive a one-time death benefit payment of $255.             Additionally, the surviving spouse must be age 60 or older or 50 or older provided he/she is disabled from a disability that began no later than 7 years after the deceased spouse’s death.  The surviving spouse must also have been married to the deceased spouse at least 9 months and is not currently remarried where the marriage occurred before he/she turned age 60.             An ex-spouse may also collect survivor benefits under certain circumstances.  The

               Two weeks ago (1/4/16 post) I was pointing out that while the holiday season is a time when we reconnect with family who we may not have seen for some time, health and behavior changes in the elderly may also become more noticeable.               So what can or should you be doing? A physical and neurological exam should identify any medical issues.  A Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) can help assess the options available that will allow your loved one to continue to live a full, fruitful and safe life.  Suggestions may include a home health aide, adult day care, and personal organizer to help with money management.               If your loved one can no longer live alone, possible alternative living arrangements include another family member’s home, assisted living, senior housing or nursing home. Each choice has pros and cons and expense is often an issue.  Planning should be done as early as possible to determine what government benefits can be tapped to help pay the cost, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Veteran’s benefits.                 Because the family is together once again, the holidays  are a good time to begin discussing these difficult decisions.  For example, if one child lives nearby an aging parent and sees

               It’s a common question we get all the time.  How do I handle Social Security since Dad has died?  The Social Security Administration must be notified as soon as possible when a recipient dies.                Usually notification is handled by the funeral director, however, if the funeral home doesn’t provide this service then the surviving spouse or other family member must contact Social Security. It cannot be done online but you can make a phone call to your local Social Security office or to 1-800-772-1213.                Any benefits received for the month of death or any months after that must be returned. For example, if Dad died in January you must return the benefits paid in January and after.  If benefits are paid by direct deposit you will need to contact your bank and request that any funds received for the month of death or later be returned to Social Security.  If the benefits are paid by check then do not deposit the checks but return them to Social Security as soon as possible.                 Next month we’ll address the question of how much Mom will receive in survivor benefits after Dad's death.