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Handling Veteran Non-Service Disability Pension Denial

What to do if your claim for Non-Service Disability Pension for Housebound and Aid & Attendance is DENIED.

by Rita Files - 

Did you know that 75% of claims filed for the VA Aid & Attendance benefits are denied the first time they are submitted? Many times it is due to lack of sufficient documentation, or the claim is not complete. The veteran or surviving spouse often gives up and ends up not taking advantage of this program.

The correct name of this benefit is the Non-Service Disability Pension; however, it is commonly referred to as the VA Benefit for Aid & Attendance. The purpose of the benefit is to supplement the income of Veterans and Surviving Spouses, or those who have high monthly out of pocket medical expense. A Veteran or Surviving Spouse must be age 65 or older and have served a minimum of 90 days in the military with one of those days during wartime. The additional monthly income can be used to pay for home care, assisted living, adult day care, family caregivers as well as recurring expenses for insurance premiums, pharmacy co-pays and more.

Veteran Files focuses primarily on assisting Veterans in attaining this benefit through the initial claim process, as well as with claims that have been denied. Through a comprehensive Care & Resource consultation, we help Veterans determine if they are eligible and whether to file for the benefit.

In the case of denied claims, we have had tremendous success with having the decision reversed; the Veteran or Surviving Spouse not only receives the additional income, but in most cases they also receive retroactive benefits from the date the VA was notified of the intention to file a claim. With experience in the eldercare industry as well as accreditation through the Department of Veteran Affairs as a Claims Agent, we thoroughly review the denied claim, file a notice of disagreement on the outcome and take the necessary steps to win a reversal on the outcome of the claim.

If you or someone you know has applied for the Non-Service Connected Disability Pension with Housebound or Aid & Attendance benefits and has been denied within the past year, contact us today for a review of the paperwork initially submitted. Our goal is to get your claim back on the right path to a successful outcome.

Veteran Files™ assists Senior Veterans, Surviving Spouses of Veterans and Veteran families navigate the complexities of the Non-service Connected VA Disability Pension for Housebound and Aid & attendance Benefits. Rita Files, founder of Veteran Files, is one of less than 250 accredited VA claims agents in the United States. Ms. Files has been working as an eldercare and Veteran for over 20 years.

More informaLearn more about Rita Files on her Author page.

Rita’s Holiday Eating Tips: with a smile and grain of salt

by Rita Files - 

Rita’s eating tips serve as a reminder to not take the holiday crush too seriously and not be overly hard on ourselves.

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly! Like in single-malt scotch, it’s rare. In fact, it’s even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can’t find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if you’re going to turn into an eggnog-aholic or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or whole milk. If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas (or New Years) party is to eat other people’s food for free. ..lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or, if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards!!

10. One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention. Reread tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner!

ENJOY!

Learn more about Rita Files on her Author page.

Cyber Monday Crackdown Helps Keep Shoppers Safe

by Florence Klein

Our government shut down 150 website domains for Cyber Monday to keep online shoppers safe. This marks the largest domain name seizure to date by our government as part of “Operation In Our Sites”. Operation In Our Sites aims to prevent and stop the selling of counterfeit goods and pirated products. Last year’s domain crackdown closed 82 portals to illegal profits by fraudsters.

Operation In Our Sites is a cyber space enforcement group headed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in a joint effort with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), the Department of Justice and the FBI. The operation started with a June 2010 launch and since then the IPR Center has seized a total of 350 domain names in eight waves of shutdowns.

You can read the list of 150 domains in the ICE Fact Sheet “Websites seized during the eighth phase of Operation In Our Sites.” Looking these over can give you an idea of the types of names to be cautious of. You may note that many of them are in reference to very popular gift ideas including professional sports jerseys, golf equipment, DVD sets, footwear, handbags and sunglasses, representing a variety of trademarks from online retailers.

Does this crackdown mean you can go online and shop with out worry? No it does not. However, knowing that there are more sites like these on the Internet should help raise your awareness and help you navigate shopping the web with more care.

So what should you watch for? Follow these tips from the US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team). You may have heard them before but they bear repeating:

  • Maintain up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Do not follow unsolicited web links in email messages.
  • Use caution when opening email attachments.
  • Ignore and delete screensavers or other forms of media that may contain malware.
  • Decline and delete unsolicited credit card applications that may be phishing scams or identity theft attempts.
  • Do not follow online shopping advertisements because they may be phishing scams or identity theft attempts from bogus retailers.
  • Make sure that you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor before providing any personal or financial information.
  • Take advantage of security features by using passwords and other security features that add layers of protection.
  • Check privacy policies before providing personal or financial information; check the website’s privacy policy. Make sure you understand how your information will be stored and used.
  • Make sure your information is being encrypted on safe sites that use SSL, or secure sockets layer, to encrypt information. Indications that your information will be encrypted include a URL that begins with “https:” instead of “http:” and a padlock icon.
  • Use a credit card because there are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, and you may not have the same level of protection for your debit card.
  • Check your statements and keep records of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages. Compare these documents to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.
Report suspected Internet scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, visit the IC3 complaint page to get started.

Stay safe,
Florence Klein

Sources

What I’ve Learned as an Expert in “Things” (Part 2)

by Julie Hall - 

You know as well as I as Wal-Mart and almost every other store are playing holiday music already:  The holidays are coming soon!!

I wrote this blog as an expert on “things” and I hope that these last two thoughts will revolutionize how you view this year’s holidays.  They will likely save you money and frustration when doing your holiday shopping.  Please consider the following observations from this expert in “things:”

3.  It’s what you do with what you have that really counts, not what you possess.  Economic times are tough, so it is important to remember there are others dealing with greater difficulties than you.  Even when we tighten our purse strings, we can still give in many ways that others would be so grateful for.

  • Give of yourself.
  • Go visit someone you have been meaning to see for a long time.
  • Write that letter.
  • Bake those cookies.
  • Volunteer for those needing help.
  • Visit those confined to home by infirmity or sickness.
  • Surprise a loved one.
  • Make that phone call to make amends with one you haven’t spoken to for years.
  • Bring your children to an assisted living or nursing home; watch the residents light up.
  • Say what you need to say right now.
  • Ask for forgiveness and offer it, no matter what.
  • Offer hugs to those who really need it.
  • Listen to your elders because you will learn so much.

4.  If you have seniors in your life … Spend a full day with them. Ask them to share stories of your family history — fun stories, challenges, family secrets, marriages.  Look through old photos.  Record this day and make a book for them (and copies for each sibling) so it may be passed down for years to come.  Many children regret not having more family history, but they realize this only after a loved one has left us.

If you missed my first two lessons, you can catch up on them here in Part 1

First Published in Dealing with Stuff by Julie Hall – The Estate Lady

Medical Benefit Plan Scams vs. Major Medical Health Insurance

Florence Klein - 

 The FTC and Attorney General of Tennessee strike a victory in the battle to protect consumers from misrepresented medical benefit plans.

United States Benefits, LLC and its principals Timothy Thomas and Kennan Dozier were charged in August of 2010 with deceptively offering comprehensive health insurance that was actually a fake medical discount plan. According to allegations the defendants misrepresented the products they offered and charged a one-time enrollment fee and then a recurring monthly charge of up to $1,300.00 a month.

The FTC allegations against U.S. Benefits, LLC (which also did business as United States Health, United Benefits of America, United Benefits, United Health Benefits, Health Care America, HCA, National Benefits of America, Insurance Specialty Group, and Adova Health) claim the defendants provided not insurance but membership in a benefits association. The defendants purportedly offered membership in a benefit association that provided access to various health care and non-health care-related discounts but allegations claim the consumers were unable to realize any significant savings or medical discounts.

A settlement reached September 1, 2011, announced11//7/2011, bans the defendants from selling or promoting and health care related benefits or discount programs or helping anyone else to do so. They are also banned from collecting any money for any of the former clients of their program. The settlement judgment order imposes a judgment of $15,738,941 which will be suspended upon the surrender of various assets worth approximately $1,000,000 by the defendants.

 

The case above is not the only bogus medical discount plan out there. There are others to be on the look out for. Back in August of 2010, when the above case was started, the FTC reported that there were 54 lawsuits in 24 states.

Medical benefit plans are often misrepresented and pushed by scammers as medical health insurance plans. These benefit plans are not medical insurance and do not replace medical insurance. Many of the medical benefit plans are hardly even a benefit given that they are sold to out of area clients who cannot use them.

Scam telemarketers do not care about that and target many who do not have health insurance: unemployed, uninsured, the un-insurable. This group of citizens seems to be growing in our current economic times.

Avoid becoming a victim of one of these scams by asking questions, doing some research and protecting your personal information.

Here are the questions to ask:

  1. Can you give me a list of the providers who participate in your program? If the answer is no, pass on the offer.
  2. Ask for the company’s website address so you can get more information. If they don’t have one, pass them by. If the do, look at the site and find out if they provide services, discounts, etc that you can and will use. If you do not see your providers, call them and ask if they accept the plan being offered.
  3. Ask for and read the “fine print” regarding all aspects of the plan (payment amounts, limits, recurring fees, use limits). If these are not given, pass them by.

Do the research. Check out any and all of the above information given or provided to you. Ask someone you trust to have a look at it as well. Calculate out what your total costs and savings are likely to be and make sure you come out ahead on the financial end. Lastly, call your local consumer protection agency to see what they know of the company. You should also check with your state Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau to see if anyone else has filed a complaint.

Follow these tips and stay safe!

Florence Klein

Sources

FBI Works to Reverse Reverse Mortgage Fraud Schemes

By Florence Klein

Reverse mortgage programs, like the Federal Housing Administrations HECM (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage), enable owners aged 62 or older to withdraw some of the equity in their home to fund retirement. They are one way to enjoy the fruits of your labor and age in place in the home you love and cherish.

Beware however because when money gets involved there are un-ethical individuals looking to get at it any way they can. Reverse mortgage fraud looks to take advantage of owner equity as a way to get some quick money and leave the owner at a loss or just out the cash scammed for filling out and filing fake application forms.

Last July the United States Southern District of Florida Attorney’s General Office charged three loan officers and a title agent in a $2.5 million reverse mortgage and loan modification fraud case following an FBI investigation. In August, two of the loan officers (Louis Gendason, 42, of Delray Beach and John Incandela, 24, Palm Beach, FL) and the title agent (Kimberly Mackey, 46, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) plead guilty. Sentencing is scheduled in Novemberwith the defendants facing imprisonment of up to 30 years.

The scam involved defrauding borrowers (home owners), Genworth Financial Home Equity Access, Inc. and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The loan officers, working for 1st Continental Mortgage, solicited individuals, ages 62 and older, from around the country to refinance their existing mortgages with a reverse mortgage loan financed by Genworth. None of the borrowers had sufficient equity to qualify for reverse mortgages but with fraudulent, altered real estate appraisals and other fake documentation the reverse mortgages were approved.

The licensed title agent and proprietor of Real Estate One Land Services, Inc. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) fraudulently closed the Genworth loans without paying off the borrowers’ existing mortgage loans. The reverse mortgage money was diverted to a bank account controlled by the loan officers involved it the case.

Are there more cases like this one? I fear so. I also hope they are discovered. Should we fear reverse mortgages and avoid them at all costs? Not at all! Should we take care and seek advice when looking into a reverse mortgage? By all means yes.

Here is what you should look for to spot a possible fraud or scam:

    • Reverse mortgages that look too good to be true, if you see a sizable discrepancy between the terms a lender or broker offers and the terms typically offered, consider it a warning sign of possible deception and check things out
    • Broad and unqualified claims that sound false, misleading, or not clearly and prominently defined such as:
      • “reverse mortgages provide income for life”
      • “consumers can never lose their homes”
    • Consider the names, seals, logos, and other representations of the lenders and brokers as some may look and sound like those of government agencies to create the impression that the lender or broker is part of or affiliated with a government program rather than an organization offering a loan that the client must pay back
    • Pressure in any way by the reverse mortgage seller to use the reverse mortgage to buy products or services (long-term care insurance, annuities, investments, home repair, or travel)

Seek outside help if you encounter any of these warning signs.

Be sure to read up on reverse mortgages and visit NewRetirement for a whole suit of tools and information on financing retirement.

File complaints in connection to HECM loans with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development online or call the department toll-free at 1-800-CALL-FHA.

To file a complaint with non-HECM loans contact the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit the FTC; TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a FTC video, How to File a Complaint.

Debt Scams: “Another Day Older and Deeper in…”

Bogus Debt Elimination Scams Create More not Less Debt

By Florence Klein

Financial demands brought on by today’s economy have many people, young and old, looking for ways to lessen their unhealthy debt load. Their search for debt relief opens the door for fraud scams that usually leave the consumer, like the Sixteen Ton coal minor, “deeper in debt.”

This week the Federal Trade Commission stopped operations of a debt relief operation alleged of luring debt stressed consumers deeper into debt. The FTC complaint claims Debt Relief USA and principals James Wojcik, Valerie Leath, Kelly Reilly and Alvin Bell made deceptive claims to mislead consumers and collected thousands of dollars in upfront fees without providing any debt relief.

Consumers were told they could eliminate 40 to 60 percent of their credit card debt and be debt free in two to four years according to the FTC complaint. Claims of becoming debt free can be hard to resist if you are watching your budget and find yourself climbing ever closer to you personal debt ceiling.

The settlement against Debt Relief USA, Inc., James Wojcik, and Valerie Leath bans them from doing further business or marketing any financial products and services. Litigation continues against Kelly Reilly and Alvin Bell the other two principals of Debt Relief USA.

If you find yourself or someone you know looking into debt relief or elimination, be sure to check out any company or individual before you start doing business with them. At the very least you need to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints filed against them.

What warning signs should you watch for if you are looking for short term or credit card debt relief? Raise your red flag and get outside help if anyone:

  • tells you to stop paying your bills
  • asks you to pay them or someone other than your creditors
  • instructs you to stop talking to your creditors
  • asks you for pay for debit relief services before you receive it
  • charges large monthly service fees
  • tells you your debt will be paid off for cents on the dollar
  • claims they can remove negative credit information from your credit report
  • offers you a “new government program” to get you out of debt

Following these cautions and getting all questions answered before using a financial service for debit elimination should keep you safe.

More information on dealing with debt is available on the FTC’s Money Matters web site.

To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit the FTC or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261 or watch a video, How to File a Complaint.

One of the Military’s Best Kept Secrets

Veterans Non-Service Connected Disability Pension Benefit or the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit for short

By Rita Files

If you are you one of the 10 million plus baby boomers caring for an aging parent who is financially struggling to meet the expenses of additional medical and care costs you would be well served to learn about one of the best kept “military secrets” . . . the Veterans Non-Service Connected Disability Pension Benefit, commonly called the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit.

This little known, underutilized VA Disability Pension benefit provides Veterans and surviving spouses of Veterans that are low income or have high out of pocket monthly medical expense with additional monetary benefits to supplement the cost of care and services that they may need. The benefit is significant. It pays up to $1,949 per month to provide care for single or married veterans, or their surviving spouses. Applicants must meet certain medical and financial thresholds, but eligibility is not dependent on service-related injuries, or even overseas service.

To be eligible, the veteran must have served a minimum of 90 days of active military service 1 day of which was during a war period and have been discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable.

The 3 tiers of VA Pension are:

  1. Basic Pension — paid to veterans age 65 or older, or, if under 65, are permanently and totally disabled and surviving spouses with countable family income below the yearly limit set by law or those who have no income.
  2. Aid & Attendance — additional benefit amount paid in addition to basic pension when the claimant can no longer manage the functions of day to day living. Factors such as not being able to self medicate, cook and clean, bathe, and needing assistance with mobility are all examples of aid and attendance requirements.
  3. Housebound — additional benefit amount paid in addition to basic pension when a claimant is substantially confined to a premise and dependent upon others to get around. If the claimant does not drive, this would be a key indicator for eligibility.

The housebound or aid & attendance benefit is often used to defray the cost of home care, assisted living or skilled nursing care for a veteran or the veteran’s spouse. In addition, the benefit can be used to compensate a friend or family member who functions as the caregiver for an elderly loved one.

Seeking expert advice can help veterans make the most of their benefits — just be sure the advice is from an Accredited Individual, which includes attorneys, claims agents and veteran service representatives. By law, organizations and individuals must be recognized or accredited by the Department of Veteran Affairs to represent Veterans in their claims for VA benefits. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that Veterans have qualified and competent representation.

Millions of veterans and their families are failing to take advantage of this benefit simply because they do not know it exists. According to recent reports, approximately 105,000 veterans were using this benefit last year. Yet the pool for recipients could be much higher: there are 2.3 million World War II vets still living, along with 2.6 million living Korean War vets and 7.7 million Vietnam vets.

It doesn’t have to be this way. By becoming informed citizens and neighbors, we can make sure our elderly veterans are getting the benefits they deserve and the care they need.

When Alzheimer’s Turns Nice People Violent

Dementia has made husband violent; what to do

By Carol Bradley Bursack

Dear Carol: My husband has mid-stage Alzheimer’s. He’s always been a wonderful man, but the disease has changed him and he’s become violent. After he hit me in the face, I needed eye surgery. Even after this event, my children fight the idea of placing him in assisted living. How do I convince them that things need to change? ~ Andrea

Dear Andrea: I’m assuming that your husband’s doctor knows about his violent behavior and has done whatever can be done as far as medications are concerned.

You don’t say how close your children live to you, but it doesn’t sound as though they are helping you with the caregiving. Tell them their father needs specialized help, and it’s no longer safe for you to care for him alone. I’m sure it’s extremely painful for your kids to think that their kind father hit their mother, but they are hiding from reality if they are not supporting you.

Have you tried a family meeting? If not, please consider having one. If necessary, you can do this by phone, but an in-person meeting would be best. Have information ready for your kids. If they haven’t researched Alzheimer’s, send them a link to the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org and mark special sections on the site if that would help.

Get pamphlets from local assisted living facilities that have memory units for Alzheimer’s patients. If necessary, ask a third party such as a social worker or clergy person to help you with this meeting. Please call the Alzheimer’s organization in your community, as well. They will help you cope with or without your children’s help.

Be very clear to your kids that you are not blaming their father, that you still love him, and that you know it’s the disease that has changed him. Impress upon them how terrible their father must feel about his hurting you, or would feel if he could understand. Also, be clear that you can’t endanger your well being any longer.

Of course you want your children to understand and support you in this heartbreaking situation. Their help would be invaluable to you. But this is your decision to make. Consider the fact, too, that you can be a more giving wife in many ways if you are not the full-time, physical caregiver.

You can visit your husband refreshed from sleep. You’ll have support and social outlets. The confusion and fear that comes with living with Alzheimer’s disease can change the most gentle person’s personality, so this is not his fault. Getting the right help for your husband is the best move for him, as well as for you.

“Ask Medicare” Website Good Medicine for Medicare Information

Internet Helps Seniors & Caregivers Unravel Medicare Mysteries

By Carol Bradley Bursack

Dear Readers: At one time I carried Medicare cards for four elders, and every time there was a question about their coverage, I had to make a time-consuming phone call.

To add to the fun, my mom had lost her Medicare card before I was carrying hers, so I was well initiated in the red tape of card replacement.

While Medicare can still seem a mystery to many, the help they offer in navigating the system has vastly improved. The Internet, of course, is one of its most prominent aids.

Recently, I was given a tour of the newly updated “Ask Medicare” site, because Medicare is trying to get the word out about how much it is doing to help caregivers, as well as care recipients, find the information they require.

If you type www.medicare.gov/caregivers into your Web browser, you’ll find the Ask Medicare main page. From there, you can follow topics as varied as “how to pay for care” to “caregivers’ stories.” Yes, Ask Medicare wants your stories, as that link is the second most popular link on the site.

From the main page, you’ll also find links leading to the Benefits Check Up page, which can help you make certain you or your elder are getting the benefits you have earned.

By clicking on Support for Caregivers and then “Find support in your community,” you will be led to the Eldercare Locator, which helps you find local support. There is also a link to see if your elder qualifies for extra help with finances.

If you follow the link under “Caregiver Topics,” you’ll find information about what types of care will be covered by Medicare, how to locate a doctor, how to find the right hospital and the Nursing Home Compare tool.

Medicare is increasingly recognizing and highlighting the fact that the caregiver is a key part of the care team. The people I talked with at Medicare said that they want to let people know that they consider the elder, the caregiver, the professionals and Medicare a team working together for the good of the elder.

You’ll probably want to sign up for the “Ask Medicare” newsletter. It’s a helpful, free resource with just the right amount of information without being overwhelming.

Ask Medicare won’t be able to solve all of your caregiving problems. But if you are caring for an elder, or are on Medicare yourself, there are many answers on the website.

Ask Medicare is a welcome step forward in helping caregivers through a complicated system with far less frustration than in the past.