Wednesday, March 8, 2017
The teachers' pension fund in Puerto Rico is the latest example of an under-funded government-operated retirement plan. A unique complication of the Puerto Rico teachers' plan is the decision to opt out of Social Security as a separate form of retirement income. In a recent New York Times article, the reporter makes the the analogy to a Ponzi scheme:
Puerto Rico, where the money to pay teachers’ pensions is expected to run out next year, has become a particularly extreme example of a problem facing states including Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania: As teachers’ pension costs keep rising, young teachers are being squeezed — sometimes hard. One study found that more than three-fourths of all American teachers hired at age 25 will end up paying more into pension plans than they ever get back.
“I think they’re really being taken advantage of,” said Richard W. Johnson of the Urban Institute, a co-author of the research. “What’s so tragic about this is, often the new hires aren’t aware that they’re getting such a bad deal.”
The problem is magnified by the fact that the Puerto Rico teachers union — like many teachers and police unions around the country — opted out of Social Security long ago, hoping it could save both workers and the government money by not paying Social Security taxes.
That decision was predicated on the assurance that the workers’ pensions would be well managed and adequately funded. But in Puerto Rico, as in some other places, that has not been true for decades.
For more, read In Puerto Rico, Teachers' Pension Fund Works Like a Ponzi Scheme.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
The glass ceiling has long term repercussions for women. Making less during their working lives may mean they have less for retirement. The New York Times ran an article recently, Money Worries for Retired Women. Looking at a report, the article notes that
Across all age groups, women have considerably less income in retirement than men, according to a report from the National Institute on Retirement Security. For women age 65 and older, their income is typically 25 percent lower than that of men. As men and women age, the gap widens to 44 percent by age 80.
As a result, women were 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older, while women age 75 to 79 were three times more likely to fall below the poverty level than men the same age.
It's not just earning less that contributes to the problem, according to the article. Taking time off to raise a family contributes to this matter. As well, consider if the woman is a caregiver for an elder and has to take a leave of absence. (We've blogged several times about family caregivers and the impact it has on the caregiver).
Many women take time off to raise children or care for an aging relative, which gives them fewer years to contribute to a retirement plan. Moreover, because employers will often match — up to a set amount — the money an employee sets aside in a workplace retirement account, like a 401(k) or 403(b), those matching dollars are sacrificed.
“Financial problems in retirement and senior debt arise with insufficient income as a result of lower lifetime earnings and less in savings, costs of family caregiving and divorce...”
Don't forget to add increased longevity into the equation and possibility of running out of money in retirement is a real fear. One piece of good news in the story is that women are working longer, which allows them to save more for their retirement. "Working longer makes it possible to add to retirement accounts and to avoid tapping into them for living expenses. It also frequently comes with employer-based health insurance. It can also deliver a substantial financial benefit in Social Security... The extra years of earnings at these ages replace earlier years of low or zero earnings in the retirement benefit computation formula...."
From the Washington Post, an especially moving account written by former White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri about her sister, who died at age 58 following some ten years with "early onset" Alzheimer's:
Every day, more Americans receive the devastating news that someone in their family has this affliction. For now, there is not a lot of hope for recovery. It can make you envious of cancer patients; their families get to have hope. Having come through this experience with my sister, I am afraid that I can’t offer these new Alzheimer’s families hope for a recovery. But I do hope that by relaying the story of my sister’s journey, I can offer them some peace.
My sister Dana was brilliant, beautiful, full of positive energy, a force of nature. She was not an easy person. She was driven and successful, and, as the disease progressed unbeknown to all of us, it became harder to connect with her. Ironically, that began to change once she got the diagnosis.
When she called each of us with the news, she already had it all figured out. We were all to understand that, really, she saw the diagnosis as a blessing. It was going to allow her to retire early. It would motivate our family to spend time together we would not have otherwise done. It would shorten her life, but she would make sure the days she had left were of the highest quality.
The thoughtful piece can help all of us as we and our family members tackle challenges. For more, read The Blessings Inside my Sister's Alzheimer's Disease.
Monday, March 6, 2017
The New York Times recently reported the death of Dorothy Rice whose work affected so many elder Americans. Dorothy Rice, Pioneering Economist Who Made Case for Medicare, Dies at 94 explains "Mrs. Rice was an analyst at the Social Security Administration when its study on aging highlighted how about half the population 65 and over had no health insurance — and that those who needed it most were the least likely to be able to afford it."
She wrote a Social Security bulletin in 1964 that described the need for Medicare, how the number of older Americans who were not covered by health insurance "'include disproportionate numbers of the very old — particularly women — those in poor health, and those no longer engaged in full-time employment.... The high cost of hospital and nursing home care, she added, 'presents special problems for the aged because of their large and often unexpected bills.'"
She was instrumental in estimating costs and learning about the requirements of elder Americans for health care.. Thank you Mrs. Rice.
Sunday, March 5, 2017
So how about a post that is a feel good story? The Washington Post ran a story about an uptick in the adoption of older dogs. Older pets are typically harder to place, so this is happy news. More people are adopting old dogs — really old dogs focuses on those adoption agencies that specialize on adoptions of older dogs, a "growing number of animal organizations focusing on adopting out older dogs, or “senior dogs” that are typically 7 years or older. Their age makes them some of the hardest-to-place animals in a society that still adores romping puppies, although that is changing as books on elderly dogs and social media campaigns convince pet-seekers that the mature pooches often come with benefits, such as being house-trained, more sedate and less demanding of people with busy lifestyles."
For those thinking about bringing a dog into the family, the article offers that this is a good way to get started with pet companionship. There are even hospice for dogs and adopting one in hospice, can make a major difference in the dogs final days.
The article highlights several of those lucky dogs and their lucky owners. We all know about the research regarding the benefit of pet ownership. Not only are old dogs never too old to learn new tricks, they are also never to old to get new homes.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Kaiser Health News ran a story about specialized 911 responders for those under hospice care. For Some Hospice Patients, A 911 Call Saves A Trip To The ER explains a project in Fort Worth where
Fort Worth paramedics [are] trained for this type of hospice support — part of a local partnership with VITAS Healthcare, the country’s largest hospice organization — is to spend a longer stretch of time on the scene to determine if the symptoms that triggered the 911 call can be addressed without a trip to the emergency room. MedStar Mobile Healthcare, a governmental agency created to provide ambulance services for Fort Worth and 14 nearby cities, is one of several ambulance providers nationwide that have teamed up with local hospice agencies. The paramedic backup, enthusiasts argue, not only helps more hospice patients remain at home, but also reduces the potential for costlier and likely unnecessary care.
The article reports that almost 20% of hospice patients make a trip to the ER and this specialized paramedic may help the patient to avoid that trip. The article explains that these specialized paramedics are known as "community paramedics [and] they can offer a range of in-home care and support for home health patients, frequent 911 callers and others to reduce unnecessary ambulance trips."
The article explains how this works, noting that the community paramedic is dispatched along with other paramedics. The community paramedic provides many patients with an alternative to a trip to the ER.
Patients or their family members can still insist on going to the emergency room, and sometimes they do. Of the 287 patients enrolled in Fort Worth’s program for the first five years — all of whom had been prescreened as highly likely to go to the hospital — just 20 percent, or about 58 patients, were transported, according to MedStar data. In Ventura, ambulance transports for hospice patients calling 911 also have declined — from 80 percent shortly before the program’s start to 37 percent from August 2015 through December 2016 .....
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
I've noticed a fair number of articles recently on the topic of planning for retirement, including this recent one from the New York Times. What to Do Now to Retire Better looks at actions you should based on your age group, starting when one is in her 20s. For example, for folks in their 40s the article suggests working with a financial advisor, portfolio rebalancing, establishing a self-employed plan such as a SEP IRA and using a retirement calculator to make sure you are on the right track. The advice for those in their 50s is more extensive, including planning for what happens after retirement, checking out Social Security, reducing debt, investigating downsizing and more.
Since financial literacy is so important, this article would be good to assign to students to get them thinking about their own futures and planning for their retirements.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
The National Center on Elder Abuse asked various types of guardians to share their experience of being a guardian and offer advice for other guardians. We are delighted to share the first of two stories. If you would like to offer your story of being a guardian, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paula Span, the thoughtful columnist on aging issues from the New York Times, offers "Gorsuch Staunchly Opposes "Aid-in-Dying." Does It Matter?" The article suggests that the "real" battle over aid-in-dying will be in state courts, not the Supreme Court.
I'm in the middle of reading Judge Gorsuch's 2006 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. There are many things to say about this book, not the least of which is the impressive display of the Judge's careful sorting of facts, legal history and legal theory to analyze the various advocacy approaches to end-of-life decisions, with or without the assistance of third-parties.
With respect to what might reach the Supreme Court Court, he writes (at page 220 of the paperback edition):
The [Supreme Court's] preference for state legislative experimentation in Gonzales [v. Oregon] seems, at the end of the day, to leave the state of the assisted suicide debate more or less where the Court found it, with the states free to resolve the question for themselves. Even so, it raises interesting questions for at least two future sorts of cases one might expect to emerge in the not-too-distant future. The first sort of cases are "as applied" challenges asserting a constitutional right to assist suicide or euthanasia limited to some particular group, such as the terminally ill or perhaps those suffering grave physical (or maybe even psychological) pain....
The second sort of cases involve those like Lee v. Oregon..., asserting that laws allowing assisted suicide violate the equal protection guarantee...."
While most of the book is a meticulous analysis of law and policy, in the end he also seems to signal a personal concern, writing "Is it possible that the Journal of Clinical Oncology study is right and the impulse for assistance in suicide, like the impulse for old-fashioned suicide, might more often than not be the result of an often readily treatable condition?"
My thanks to New York attorney, now Florida resident, Karen Miller for pointing us to the NYT article.
February 28, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Religion, Science, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, February 27, 2017
The Washington Post ran a recent story about saving for retirement. Two-thirds of Americans aren’t using this easy way to save for retirement stress the importance of workers taking advantage of various workplace retirement accounts yet many fail to do so.
Fewer than one-third of Americans are saving money in their 401(k)s and other workplace retirement accounts, according to an analysis of tax records by Census Bureau researchers.
Although nearly 80 percent of Americans work for an employer that offers retirement programs — whether a 401(k), 403(b) or something else — only 32 percent of workers sign up for such accounts, according to a working draft of the study by Michael Gideon and Joshua Mitchell. The researchers studied W-2 tax forms from 2012 from 155 million American workers for their findings, which help shed light on just how ill-prepared many Americans are for the future.
The article discusses the importance of saving for retirement for the various age groups and notes that it's unlikely that those close to retirement have a realistic idea of what it costs to live during retirement.
Older workers ... are increasingly experiencing sticker shock when they realize just how much money they’ll need for retirement, said Manisha Thakor, a financial adviser in Portland, Ore. The most conservative calculations estimate Americans will need to have about eight to 10 times their annual salary saved for retirement, she said.
“By the time people see how much they need, it seems so horrific and out of bounds that they just freeze and do nothing,” she said, adding that she counsels clients to save at least 20 percent of their income toward retirement and other expenses. “They just throw their hands up and say, ‘What’s the point of even trying at this point? I’m so far off.’ ”
At the same time, people are living longer, which means they’ll have to save up that much more to help support themselves in their post-work years. She added, “Layered on top of both generations is the specter of student loan debt, which has now eclipsed credit card debt.”
The student debt referenced in the article is that taken on for their kids or grandkids.
What is the way to get more workers to take advantage of the offered workplace retirement plans? One idea in the article is automatic enrollment. Even though that may be successful, don't forget, "[i]n recent weeks ... Congress has moved to repeal Obama administration measures that allow states to automatically enroll workers ii retirement programs."
NPR had a good recent summary of the politics behind opposition to full implementation of fiduciary duty standards for investment brokers in providing retirement advice:
Over the past two weeks, the Trump administration has taken steps to delay and perhaps scuttle a new rule designed to save American workers billions of dollars they currently pay in excessive fees in their retirement accounts.
The Obama administration spent 5 years crafting the rule through the Labor Department. It requires that financial advisers and brokers act in their customers' best interest when offering them investment advice for their workplace retirement accounts. Firms must comply by April [2917 under the current rule].
As the commentary pointed out, early-on Trump pledged to support the interests of ordinary working Americans and to take on Wall Street:
In his inauguration speech, President Trump talked about giving America back to everyday working Americans. In one of the more memorable moments, the president said, "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."
The fiduciary duty rule for investment brokers directly signals the tension between President Trump's pledge to working Americans and his career-long focus on big business.
AARP supports the rule, recognizing that the U.S. has an "under savings" problem. Distrust of investment advisers plays into the reluctance of ordinary Americans to engage in professionally-assisted planning for the future. Will AARP rally retirees to resist repeal or delay of the fiduciary duty rule?
For more, read or listen to Trump Moving to Delay Rule that Protects Workers from Bad Financial Advice.Trump Moving To Delay Rule That Protects Workers From Bad Financial Advice and White House to Investors: Put Savers' Interests First.
Warren Buffett has been counseling -- for years -- to avoid high fee "experts" for investment advice, recommending the use of index funds instead. See e.g. Newsday's "Warren Buffett Says Don't Waste Money on Investment Fees."
Sunday, February 26, 2017
CNN has published an investigative report on sexual assault of residents in nursing homes. Sick, dying and raped in America's nursing homes opens with these paragraphs "Some of the victims can't speak. They rely on walkers and wheelchairs to leave their beds. They have been robbed of their memories. They come to nursing homes to be cared for... Instead, they are sexually assaulted... The unthinkable is happening at facilities throughout the country: Vulnerable seniors are being raped and sexually abused by the very people paid to care for them."
The report looks at a variety of issues and the failings of the system in responding to the attacks.
In cases reviewed by CNN, victims and their families were failed at every stage. Nursing homes were slow to investigate and report allegations because of a reluctance to believe the accusations -- or a desire to hide them. Police viewed the claims as unlikely at the outset, dismissing potential victims because of failing memories or jumbled allegations. And because of the high bar set for substantiating abuse, state regulators failed to flag patterns of repeated allegations against a single caregiver.
The facts of the cases are hard to read but important in understanding the scope and significance of these crimes. The perpetrators were as young as teenagers or as old as the victims. Some were caregivers, others residents.
Rather than summarizing any further, just read the story. Nothing I can add here would give you the same impact.
Responses to the report from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care and others can be accessed here.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Washington State Discusses Expansion of Limited License Legal Technicians to Estate & Health Care Law
In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court approved Admission to Practice Rule 28, which created a new program for authorization of "limited license legal technicians," also known as LLLTs or "Triple L-Ts." The express purpose of the program was to meet the legal needs of under-served members of the public with qualified, affordable legal professionals, and the first area of practice chosen was domestic relations. With that first experience in hand, in January 2017, the Washington State Bar Association has formally proposed expansion of the LLLT program to enable service to clients on "estate and health law."
As described in the Washington State Bar Association materials, this expansion will include "aspects of estate planning, probate, guardianship, health care law, and government benefits. LLLTs licensed to practice in this area will be able to provide a wide range of services to those grappling with issues that disproportionately affect seniors but also touch people of all ages who are disabled, planning ahead for major life changes, or dealing with the death of a relative." The comment period is now open on the proposed expansion.
For more about this important innovation, there was an excellent 90 minute-long webinar hosted by the Washington Bar in February 2017, with members of the Limited License Legal Technician Board explaining the ethical rules (including mandatory malpractice insurance), three years of education and 3000 hours of experience required for LLLTs to qualify. Now available as a recording, the comments from the Webinar audience, including lawyers concerned about the potential impact on their own practice areas, are especially interesting.
Many thanks to modern practice-trends guru, Professor Laurel Terry at Dickinson Law, for helping us to keep abreast of the Washington state innovation.
February 24, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, February 23, 2017
The Population Reference Bureau released a report examining the correlation between an elder's neighborhood and her health. http://www.prb.org/Publications/Reports/2017/todays-research-aging-neighborhoods-health.aspx explores the various issues involved in staying put and aging in place. Here is an executive summary:
Most Americans say they want to age in place in their own communities, but their health and ability to remain independent is shaped in part by their neighborhoods. Research finds that the social, economic, demographic, and physical characteristics of communities may influence older residents’ health and well-being.
Neighborhood characteristics affect people of all ages, but older adults—classified here as adults over age 50—may be affected more than other groups. Older people typically experience higher levels of exposure to neighborhood conditions, often having spent decades in their communities. They have more physical and mental health vulnerabilities compared with younger adults, and are more likely to rely on community resources as a source of social support. As older adults become less mobile, their effective neighborhoods may shrink over time to include only the immediate areas near their homes (Glass and Balfour 2003).
This report summarizes recent research conducted by National Institute on Aging-supported researchers and others who have studied the association between neighborhood characteristics and the health and well-being of older adults. This research can inform policy decisions about community resource allocation and development planning. A growing body of research shows that living in disadvantaged neighborhoods—characterized by high poverty—is associated with weak social ties, problems accessing health care and other services, reduced physical activity, health problems, mobility limitations, and high stress.
This area of research is challenging because lower-income people tend to live in disadvantaged neighborhoods and many detrimental neighborhood features cluster together. Disadvantaged neighborhoods often have more crime, more pollution, poorer infrastructure, and fewer health care resources—making it difficult to pinpoint which neighborhood feature is responsible for particular health outcomes.
Florida State University's Center for Innovative Collaboration in Medicine & Law and Big Bend Hospice have announced that they are co-sponsoring a National Healthcare Decisions Day on Thursday April 20, 2017 from 5-7:30 p.m. The event includes a resource fair, presentations, q & a and a copy of the 5 Wishes document.
National Health Care Decisions Day is actually a week, rather than a day, and it "aims to help people across the U.S. understand the value of advance healthcare planning. For 2017, NHDD will be a week long event, from April 16 to 22." More information about the health care decisions day, including how to get involved, is available here.
North Carolina Appeals Ct Declines to Recognize Pre-Death Cause of Action for Tortious Interference with Expectancy
An interesting decision addressing standing issues arising in the context of a family battle over an 87-year old parent's assets was issued by the North Carolina Court of Appeals on February 21, 2017. In Hauser v Hauser, the court nicely summarizes its own ruling (with my highlighting below):
This appeal presents the issues of whether (1) North Carolina law recognizes a cause of action for tortious interference with an expected inheritance by a potential beneficiary during the lifetime of the testator; and (2) in cases where a living parent has grounds to bring claims for constructive fraud or breach of fiduciary duty such claims may be brought instead by a child of the parent based upon her anticipated loss of an expected inheritance. [Daughter] Teresa Kay Hauser (“Plaintiff”) appeals from the trial court's 3 March 2016 order granting the motion to dismiss of [Son] Darrell S. Hauser and [Son's Wife] Robin E. Whitaker Hauser (collectively “Defendants”) as to her claims for tortious interference with an expected inheritance, constructive fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty as well as her request for an accounting. Because Plaintiff's claims for relief are not legally viable in light of the facts she has alleged, we affirm the trial court's order.
The succinct North Carolina opinion, declines to follow the logic of Harmon v. Harmon, a 1979 decision from the Maine Supreme Court, that addressed the "frontier of the expanding field" on torious interfence of with an advantageous relationship, by recognizing a "pre-death" cause of action.
Currently the North Carolina opinion is available on Westlaw at 2017 WL 672176; I'll update this post with a open access link if it becomes available.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Registration is now open for Stetson's annual Fundamentals of Special Needs Planning webinar (full disclosure, I'm the conference chair) scheduled for May 5, 2017.
Topics include :
- Becoming a SNT Administrator
- A Primer on Tax When Making Distributions
- Changes in Laws and SSA Regulations (you know, the POMS) and How Those Impact the Administration of Your SNT
- SNT Administrators: More Choices Than You Think
- Question and Answer Panel
The marketers of reverse mortgages often paint a rosy picture of how seniors will be able to draw on the equity in their homes to cover daily expenses, without risk of repayment before death. But details of these mortgages can be overlooked and as we've reported before, seniors can be surprised when terms and conditions create traps that can lead to foreclosure. However, from Florida, we're now hearing about cases where one of the simplest conditions -- the borrower continuing to live on site -- has become the subject of litigation.
“All of a sudden, we saw a spate of foreclosures where the mortgage companies alleged the seniors no longer lived in the home,” said Gladys Gerson, supervising attorney for Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida’s senior unit. “This has been happening around the state.”
About a dozen similar cases reached Gerson and other attorneys at Coast to Coast, who have helped a growing number of low-income seniors fight and win dismissals despite aggressive lender litigation.
Florida is ground zero for seniors’ issues, but as the strategy has often proved effective, it’s likely to spread, according to defense attorneys. “If you see the volume of national advertising that’s geared to seniors, I can’t believe this is limited to Florida,” Corona’s father and partner, Ricardo, said. “The servicers are not even based in Florida, so I don’t see why they would limit themselves.”
Corona admits he didn’t expect a hard fight when he first reviewed El Hassan’s case, but court records show he was wrong. Over the last 10 months, the ongoing litigation yielded two hearings, 40 docket entries and attempts by both sides to collect attorney fees.
For more, read the full article, Foreclosure Litigation Strategy Takes Aim at Seniors, Attorneys Say.
Thank you to my colleague, Dickinson Law Professor Laurel Terry, for this source.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The deeply disturbing medical practice history of Christopher Duntsch, who worked as a neurosurgeon in Texas until 2013, culminated in his February 2017 conviction and sentence of life in prison for his injuries to a 74-year old patient. It is relatively rare for medical "malpractice" cases to lead to criminal charges, but as detailed in news articles covering the trial, there was strong, adverse medical testimony about how Duntsch's improper surgical procedures caused a horrific outcome.
Initially accusing Duntsch of criminal acts arising in the context of surgical procedures to several of his patients, the prosecution ultimately focused the criminal trial on his 2012 spinal surgery on a single patient under Texas Penal Code Section 22.04, for "Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual." The pertinent portion of the statute provides:
"(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence, by act . . . causes to a . . . elderly individual . . . : (1) serious bodily injury."
The offense becomes a first degree felony, if it is proven that the conduct was "committed intentionally or knowingly." If the conduct had been "only" reckless, the offense would be a felony of the second degree.
Under the statute, an "elderly individual" is defined as a "person 65 year of age or older."
In a Washington Post article on the conviction, a Texas attorney is quoted:
“I cannot recall a physician being indicted for aggravated assault for acts committed during surgery,” Toby Shook, a Dallas defense attorney who spent 23 years working as a Dallas County prosecutor, told the magazine. “And not just Dallas County — I don’t recall hearing about it anywhere.”
As we had blogged previously, D.C. city council had passed an aid-in-dying law that was signed by the mayor. Congress had 30 days to overturn it and as we also blogged previously, that at least one Congressman attempted to overturn it. The 30 days expired last week, and the law became effective on February 18, 2017. Washington, D.C., now seventh place in U.S. to officially legalize assisted suicide explains that this means that "D.C. became the seventh jurisdiction in the U.S. to legalize assisted suicide on Saturday, as the Republican-controlled Congress failed to block the law." Although there was a resolution from the House Oversight Committee, the resolution wasn't voted on by the House, so the law became effective.