On November 7, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Culbertson v. Berryhill, to determine if there should be a cap or limit to the amount of legal fees awarded to lawyers for representing clients before the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Majority of disability claims are denied

For the period between 2006 and 2015, SSA approved 34 percent of applications for SSDI benefits. 62 percent of all applications were denied. Of the pool of applicants issued denials, 2 percent of them were overturned at the reconsideration level and 9 percent were overturned at the hearing level.

Words have meanings. They can quickly build-up or knock-down its recipients. One word emitting a great deal of comment is elderly. My father, an 82-year-old retiree, refuses to be identified as a senior. He prefers grey panther. He tells me that he wishes to be identified by the color of his hair, not his age.

Identity in the 50 plus range is a hot potato. People are living much longer than prior generations. 50 as the fashion magazines love to exclaim is the new 40. Is age a number or a feeling?

Is calling someone elderly or senior ageist?

The Roman statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero once said, “the eyes are the window to the soul.” In reality however, the eyes are the window to hidden health conditions. A dilated eye exam can detect diabetes, hypertension, auto-immune disorders, like Lupus, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, certain cancers, like skin cancer, and tumors, before these medical conditions are confirmed with blood tests or other diagnostic testing.

Individuals with “good” eyes should have their eyes examined once every two years. Other folks should consult with their eye doctor to determine how often to follow-up for chronic conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, nearsightedness, and farsightedness.

Protecting your vision

Glucose powers the brain and is the organ’s main fuel source. According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases that affect how the body uses blood sugar, known as glucose. Too much sugar in the blood can cause serious health problems.

There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Other types of diabetes include gestational diabetes and prediabetes. Gestational diabetes typically goes away after the mother gives birth. Prediabetes is reversible in many circumstances with the proper diet. The most prevalent type of diabetes in the United States is type 2.

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that is treated by carefully monitoring the level of sugar in the blood. The blood is tested through a standard venous draw in a laboratory or doctor’s office or at home using one of the popular home testing kits. The New York Times reports that the home tests are ineffective and in fact are a waste of money for individuals not on insulin.

The White House is working on a proposal to have Uncle Sam browse social media websites, like Twitter and Instagram, to help identify individuals who claim Social Security disability benefits without actually being disabled. They would like to browse your social media presence and determine if you are participating in activities you claim you can no longer do because of your disability.

An example is an individual who claims a back injury prevents him from working. In his trip to Hawaii photos, there is one posted where he is surfing during the period of disability. The government would like to use that evidence to deny the application or stop disability payments of someone already approved and receiving benefits.

Online investigations of people seeking government benefits is not a new practice. Such investigations are routinely conducted when the government conducts a marriage-based immigration petition investigation, for example, as part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services review to confer lawful permanent residence status on a spouse of a U.S. citizen.

Anyone who has ever been hospitalized remembers times when assistance was needed and despite using the call button to request help had to wait a long time for assistance. On one particular hospitalization I remember the nurse telling me that I had to call her in order to use the bathroom. I was taking a diuretic and I had to go dozens of times. Each time I called for the nurse however, I had to wait and wait and wait. Her suggestion, that I keep a bed pan was unacceptable.

Virtual assistants have the potential to dramatically change this common hospitalization annoyance. Introducing Aiva, Alexa’s cousin. Alexa is like Apple’s Siri. Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled virtual assistant was born with the iPhone 4S. She can be found on all Apple devices – phones, televisions, iPads, laptops, and desktop computers. All the other tech players quickly followed with their own voice-controlled virtual assistants. Microsoft has Cortana, Amazon has Alexa, and Google has Google Assistant.

Essentially, all these systems function the same. A voice request is made by the user and the virtual assistant fulfills the request by providing the requested information. The assistant is accessed through a device. For Apple it can be the iPhone; for Alexa it is the Amazon Echo or Dot. Information provided can be playing music, reading a book, controlling the smart home features of your house, or reading a recipe. The information provided by these virtual assistants is endless. Top news, the days weather report, and setting reminders, alarms, and timers are some additional features.

Environmental problems disproportionately impact young children and the elderly. Older people are affected because their mobility is reduced as they age, they suffer from medical conditions that are exacerbated by the weather, and they lack the resources to move or obtain help that can alleviate some of the worst climate change consequences.

Natural disasters hit the airwaves every couple of months. Whether the disaster is a tornado, hurricane, fire, or flood, some of the earliest casualties are seniors. The news reports almost always report that that deceased person lived alone. One wonders if they received the warnings in a timely manner, or worse, they were aware of the warnings but were unable to seek shelter or obtain assistance in time. Heat and air-pollution can kill people ahead of time.

The Union for Concerned Scientists released a list of global warming impacts and warn that rising temperatures will lead to increased air pollution, a longer and more intense allergy season, the spread of insect-borne diseases, heavier rainstorms and floods. All of these climate issues will impact the health of the people affected.

The best time to plan for long-term care is when you are mentally and physically well. While it is a task often avoided, thinking about how you wish to be cared for when you become older or are suffering from an illness or incapacitation is important for you and your loved ones. The only way to ensure that your wishes are followed is to write them down and communicate them to others.

People live longer these days even with serious illnesses and various stages of incapacity. There are steps you should take to plan for any potential future period of incapacitation to protect your finances and the ability for your family or loved ones to afford to care for you as you get older and in need of assistance to care for yourself. A catastrophic accident or medical emergency may alter the course of your life forever. Once these acts occur, you may or may not be in the position to make decisions for yourself. Having a plan will help your family and you focus on healing and living again.

To guide your thoughts, begin by thinking about the answers to the following questions:

The popular adage that the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes is a good starting point as we begin our discussions on the topic of the possibility of the claw back of gift transfers under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an estate tax is a tax on an individual’s right to transfer property (cash, real estate interests, or other holdings) at his or her death. An accounting of everything owned on the date of death is made and a tax is levied. This tax can greatly reduce the value of the overall estate, cutting the value of the gifts bequeathed in the will, because the tax must be paid before the gifts made in the will can be disposed.

A method people use to reduce the imposition of the estate tax is to make a gift of money or property to someone during an individual’s lifetime. This gift however may subject the person giving the gift called a donor to federal gift tax. Each year, donors are permitted to make gift transfers that are tax free if they are made under the threshold limit. For example, in 2019, the gift tax exemption amount is $11.4 million. By making a transfer by gift under the threshold limit, the donor and estate avoid paying taxes on that portion of the estate.

Contact Information