Those Re-Entering Dating Game Later In Life Can Use Some Help

Here’s the bad news: dating never gets easy, not even for people in their 60s and beyond.
There’s some good news, as well. Those matchmaking sites so heavily advertised on television can also be of great benefit to people getting back into the dating decades after they thought that aspect of their lives was concluded, although some are opting for a more traditional approach.

Romance isn't just for teenagers...
Romance isn’t just for teenagers… (Photo credit: Ed Yourdon)
“According to AARP, 45 percent of adults 65 and older are divorced, separated or widowed” Ally Ellinmarch wrote in a recent article in The New York Times. “The 60-plus crowd represents the fastest-growing segment in online daters, said Wendy K. Watson and Charlie Stelle, professors of gerontology at Bowling Green State University.
“Since its start just over a year ago, AARP Dating, which has teamed with HowAboutWe, a website, to suggest actual offline dates, has attracted almost 60,000 users, said Michelle Alvarez, an AARP spokeswoman.”
Ellinmarch did note that, as is sometimes the case with email, Facebook accounts and simply looking something up with Google, some in their golden years find computers more than a little daunting.
“Unlike younger daters, who are versed in the special etiquette of digital romance, many older people struggle with it,” the story states. “And that’s why some seniors are calling matchmakers and dating coaches to help them make sense of the whole situation.
“A surprising number of older people don’t use computers at all, and many who do aren’t comfortable using them for dating sites,” Judith Gottesman, a geriatric social worker turned matchmaker who works with Jewish singles of all ages along the West Coast, was quoted as saying.
“About 90 percent of the estimated 3,000 matchmakers in the United States will work with seniors, though not necessarily exclusively, said Lisa Clampitt, co-founder of the Matchmaking Institute, which trains professional matchmakers. But she warns prospective clients, especially women, to ask matchmakers how many older men they have in their database.”
“Older women often get ripped off with empty promises from matchmakers that they have plenty of men for them,” she told the newspaper.
Still, whether it’s through an individual or a website, 60-somethings are finding ways to get back companionship they have lost.

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Budget Cuts Affect Veterans and Survivor Benefits

A budget cut in last month’s budget agreement will not only affect all military retirees, but also the benefits received by surviving spouses, according to a recent article. The budget agreement included a cut to the annual cost-of-living increases of one percent, which according to the Pentagon will save $6 billion dollars over the next ten years.

Veteran (Photo credit: las – initially)
The cut, however, will affect annual payments by the military insurance plan known as the Survivor Benefit Plan. The Plan pays surviving spouses monthly annuities amounting to up to 55 percent of the retiree’s coverage to cover the retirement income lost. The cut will also affect all active duty, reserve and disabled military retirees, as well as combat related special compensation program payments.
House members defended the cut by highlighting what they see as only a marginal loss in payments. For example, according to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the cut would drop pension payments from $1.8 million to $1.7 million for a service person who retires at 38 over the person’s lifetime. Also, according to Congressman Ryan, a majority of military retirees have second careers after leaving the service.  However, in reaction to outcry from veteran’s groups, House members are working to reduce the impact of the cut on disabled veterans through an omnibus bill containing over $1 trillion in spending expected to roll out next week.

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Bill would help veterans capitalize on military skills

They fought for our freedom. They shouldn’t have to fight for jobs.
Too often, veterans of the various recent conflicts abroad return home to discover the skills they needed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere aren’t appreciated by potential employers, and that they don’t have a way of explaining just how prepared their experiences make them for all kinds of jobs.
Fortunately, a first-term U.S. Senator from Virginia and a Congresswoman from Illinois are jointly sponsoring a measure, one that has significant bipartisan support, to alleviate the situation.
“The Troop Talent Act of 2013 improves the alignment of specialty skills acquired in the military with civilian certifications or licenses required for post-service employment,” according to a recent press release put out by the office of U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth . “The legislation will also enable Military Tuition Assistance (MTA) and the Post 9-11 GI Bill to be used on courses and programs that guarantee a credential or industry certification after successful completion.”
The statement goes on to announce that 66 members of the House of Representatives and 10 members of the Senate have signed on as cosponsors of the legislation.
“Veterans who return from Iraq, Afghanistan, and any other place where they wore one of the nation’s military uniforms should get more help converting their specialized military training into a civilian career, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said (Oct. 24) in Toledo,” according to an item in The Blade newspaper.
Brown is among the cosponsors of the measure, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a former governor of the state.
“If you’re a medic in the military you ought to have a leg up on getting EMT certification,” Sen. Brown was quoted as saying. “If you’re a driver in the military you ought to be able to get a commercial driver’s license easier and you should be able to get a job when you come back to Lucas County. The purpose of this bill is to connect better than we’re doing. If you’re an electrician in Iraq you have a leg up on electricians’ apprentice programs.”
“None of us can feel good if we hear the unemployment stats that our veterans are facing in a tough economy,” Kaine said in the statement from Rep. Duckworth’s office. “As we draw down out of Afghanistan and as more transition from active to veteran life this challenge could compound if we don’t tackle it. It’s something that we owe to those who serve. It’s also good for our country and economy. Military training is an enormous public investment in skills. We should take advantage of those skills and talent that is there among our folks who are transitioning out of active duty for the benefit of our entire society.”

Veterans Should Not Be Held Hostage in Budget Impasse

As the government shutdown continued, there was plenty of blame and lots of shame to be passed around.
For veterans, it’s looking like they may become hostages to the political infighting and budget impasse.
“Veterans groups have reacted angrily to news that an extended government shutdown will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs unable to make disability compensation and pension payments to veterans,” according to a Sept. 30 story in The Washington Post.  “Losing the payments could have a devastating impact, particularly on severely wounded veterans who are unable to work and depend on VA checks, said Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.”
“Congress and the White House, they’re playing chicken with people’s lives,” Tarantino was quoted as saying. “That’s where this becomes scary.”
“We have to be hopeful that Congress will reach some sort of compromise before millions of disabled veterans and survivors are financially devastated,” Joe Davis, spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, told the newspaper.
If that happens, it will be shame on everybody.

Threatened Food-Stamp Cuts Would Harm Elderly

That’s the only way to describe the recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to cut $40 billion from the nation’s food stamp program. The impact of that attack on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on just one vulnerable segment of the population, the elderly, is potentially devastating, and an advocacy organization quickly and pointedly raised objections.

English: Logo of the .
English: Logo of the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The slashing of that much from the program has the potential for “causing significant harm to vulnerable seniors and other Americans who are food insecure,” according to a statement issued by the National Council on Aging.
“Nearly three million households with seniors, 6.5 million people, lack access to enough food for a healthy life,” the statement continued. “Nearly four million people aged 60-plus are enrolled in SNAP. Yet, the typical senior household enrolled in the program has an annual income under $10,000 and only receives about $4 per day in benefits. This modest benefit helps seniors who too often are forced to choose between paying for food, medicine, rent, or other daily costs.”
The National Council on Aging is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., that has as its mission improving the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.
“Included in the cuts are reductions to federal funding used to reach millions of seniors who are eligible for, but not receiving, this critical benefit,” the NCOA stated. “Only about one-third of eligible seniors actually receive SNAP. State and local agencies rely on federal outreach funds to help these vulnerable seniors enroll. The bill also eliminates provisions that streamline access to SNAP, making it more difficult for individuals with modest assets but limited fixed incomes to receive the benefit. This change will drop 1.8 million low-income Americans, many of them seniors, off the program.”
The Council was not the only advocacy organization to step into the fray and make its position known in no uncertain terms.
“This House leadership appears hell-bent on attacking the most vulnerable people in our nation, the poor, millions of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,” National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said in a statement. “Most of us were brought up to believe that it’s morally wrong to kick a person when they are down, and it is morally appalling to kick millions of people when they are facing economic hardship.”

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Special needs of military for consumer protection recognized

In a gesture somewhat overdo but almost worth the wait, the federal government formally recognized Military Consumer Protection Day on July 17.
According to a wide array of sources, improving ways to keep men and women who have honorably served their country from falling prey to scams isn’t going to stop at only one day a year.
“Today, July 17, 2013, the FBI joins other government agencies, advocacy organizations, and private sector groups to celebrate the first annual Military Consumer Protection Day, kicking off a year-round campaign to empower military and veteran communities with information as the first line of defense against consumer fraud,” the agency’s website states.

US Navy 090904-N-6326B-261 Gen. David H. Petre...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“This broad coalition is sharing tips and information about managing money, dealing with credit and debt, building savings, protecting personal information, recognizing identity theft and avoiding fraud. Although all consumers can benefit from these tips, the unique challenges of military life — frequent relocation, separation from family and friends, and the stresses of deployment — can make military households an attractive target for scam artists. In fact, during 2012 the Federal Trade Commission logged more than 62,000 complaints from service members, veterans, and spouses about their experiences in the marketplace.”
“According to the Federal Trade Commission, members of the military are ripe for attacks by scam artists,” according to a story in The Baltimore Sun.
“They are targets for fraud because they relocate frequently, and many are living on their own and earning a steady paycheck for the first time,” Jessica Rich, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Director, stated in a news release quoted in the story.
Of the 62,000 complaints mentioned in the FBI statement, 24,800 involved identity theft, The Sun story indicated.
“The FTC recommends that service members check their credit reports annually for errors or signs that lines of credit have been opened under their names by thieves,” the story added. “The FTC notes that service members on active duty can reduce the chance of identity theft by placing an ‘active duty alert’ on their credit report. You only have to contact one credit bureau, which is supposed to notify the others. An active duty alert lasts one year.”
“An Active Duty Alert does not require a lender to contact you directly to get your approval before granting credit in your name, but it does enable them to take appropriate action to protect your identity,” the story quoted from Experian, one of the major credit bureaus. “Each lender must determine what constitutes appropriate action for its particular business.
“When you add an Active Duty Alert, your name is also removed from lists for preapproved offers for two years.”

Law would treat military parents of children with disabilities with the same respect as it does their civilian counterparts

On the plus side, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and of the Senate recently had the courage to introduce a bill that would greatly aid children with disabilities who have a parent in the military.
On the down side, the website gives the measure only a 1-percent chance of making it out of the House Armed Services Committee and no chance at all of being enacted.
And that, as the website for the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys points out, is a shame.
Introduced in early June by Congressman Jim Moran (D-Virginia) and Senator Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina) the Disabled Military Child Protection Act of 2103 would allow military retirees to transfer Survivor Benefit Plan annuities to a Special Needs Trust to provide long-term care for a disabled child.
“While the general public can transfer funds into an SNT, there is currently no mechanism for members of the military to do the same.”according to the announcement of the legislation on Rep. Moran’s website.
“As a father of a special needs child, I know how important it is for parents to be able to provide the best possible care for them,” Moran stated. “The Disabled Military Child Protection Act will give peace of mind to middle class military parents of more than 1,000 dependents that their children will receive good care after they are no longer able.”
“The Disabled Military Child Protection Act ensures that special needs dependents of our service members receive the care they need, deserve and have earned while making sure military special needs children are treated the same as those of civilians,” Hagan said in the announcement. “North Carolina is the most military-friendly state in the nation, and I am committed to supporting commonsense legislation like this that will support our military families that sacrifice so much to protect us.”
“The bill would allow more than 1,000 severely disabled military dependents to receive survivor benefits without losing access to Medicaid and SSI,” according to the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys.
The measure would not, the organization insists, lead to any abuse of the system.
“The benefit of the SNT is that it allows this individual with disabilities to have supplemental funds to pay for basic living needs and extra care above that provided by the government without disqualifying the individual for government benefit,” the website also states.

Family Caregivers Search for Resources and Support

As people in the U.S. continue to live longer, and as our aging population grows, more and more adult children are finding themselves straying from their own goals and career paths in order to provide caregiving services to elderly parents or grandparents. It should come as no surprise to our readers that, according to a recent article in USA Today, “family members [of aging parents] provide a staggering $450 billion worth of unpaid care annually.”

This trend has resulted in a growing concern for the caregivers themselves, who have a tendency to take on more and more responsibility for others at great cost to their own health and financial future. “Although they often don’t identify themselves as ‘caregivers,’ more than 42 million Americans perform some form of consistent care for older or impaired adult relatives or friends, according to a 2009 estimate. It can range from paying bills, to driving Mom to doctor appointments, to more hands-on care such as bathing, and even tasks once left to nurses such as the care of open wounds… the stress and the time involved can take a toll on the caregivers’ own health and finances as they put off their own doctor visits, dip into their savings and cut back their working hours.”

AARP has recently sponsored an ad campaign aimed at letting caregivers know that they aren’t alone, that they don’t have to neglect their own health and finances for the sake of their loved ones, and that there are resources out there to provide help and support.

We hope that our readers will consider us a resource as well. Whether you need to petition for conservatorship, execute a power of attorney, or find a care manager to help you locate service providers in your area, our office can help.

Tax Law Allows Married Couples to Reduce Their Estate Taxes

Married couples take note: Congress passed a law in 2010 that can significantly reduce the amount your estate pays in estate taxes. Unfortunately, most couples are either completely unaware of this opportunity for savings, or they find out about it too late to take advantage of it.

This recent article in the Wall Street Journal gives an example to explain the law both under the previous law and the newer, 2010 law: “A husband and wife together have $7.5 million of assets, $6 million of it in a business owned by him and the rest owned by her. Under prior law, if they died and each partner left everything to the other (with no trusts), the estate of the second-to-die partner would owe federal tax on $2.5 million—even though the law gave each spouse a $5 million exemption. Under the new rules, when the first partner dies—say it’s the wife—the executor files an estate-tax return preserving the value of her $5 million exemption. The result: At the husband’s death, the wife’s exemption is added to his, and the entire $7.5 million passes to heirs tax-free.”

Taking advantage of this opportunity isn’t difficult to do… but only if married couples (or their financial/legal advisors) are aware of the law. And in this case it’s not enough to be simply aware of the law, couples will need to be made aware of the law in time to take advantage of it within the limited time frame. “An estate-tax return must be filed soon after the first partner’s death—usually within nine months—in order for a couple to get this new benefit.”

For more information about this beneficial tax law, or to find out how to take advantage of it before it’s too late, please contact our office.

Should Heirs Pay Taxes on Assets They Can’t Sell?

Throughout history artists and their artwork have often been on the leading edge of controversy. In a recent brou-ha-ha between the heirs of the New York art dealer Ileana Sonnabend and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service the controversy is over nothing less than the value of art—although perhaps not “value of art” in the philosophical way it often gets discussed in universities. Instead, this controversy is over the much more practical questions of art and taxation.

According to this article in the New York Times, the IRS is trying to demand that the heirs pay $29.2 million in taxes on a work of art which most appraisers have valued at $0. “The object under discussion is ‘Canyon,’ a masterwork of 20th-century art created by Robert Rauschenberg… Because the work, a sculptural combine, includes a stuffed bald eagle, a bird under federal protection, the heirs would be committing a felony if they ever tried to sell it. So their appraisers have valued the work at zero.”

Not only are the heirs unable to ever sell the piece of work, they also cannot donate the piece to a museum and claim a charitable deduction. There are very few legitimate purposes for the piece of art under current law. Currently the piece is on a long-term loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; something for which the family, as far as we know, receives no monetary profit.

The IRS, however, “has appraised ‘Canyon’ at $65 million and is demanding that the owners pay $29.2 million in taxes;” an act which, as the article notes, “puts the heirs in a bind: If they don’t pay, they would be guilty of violating federal tax laws, but if they try to sell ‘Canyon’ to zero-out their bill, they could go to jail for violating eagle protection laws.”