Thursday, April 16, 2015
From the New York Times on April 14, an article from the business section, As Nursing Homes Chase Lucrative Patients, Quality of Care is Said to Lag.
Promises of “decadent” hot baths on demand, putting greens and gurgling waterfalls to calm the mind: These luxurious touches rarely conjure images of a stay in a nursing home.
But in a cutthroat race for Medicare dollars, nursing homes are turning to amenities like those to lure patients who are leaving a hospital and need short-term rehabilitation after an injury or illness, rather than long-term care at the end of life.
Even as nursing homes are busily investing in luxury living quarters, however, the quality of care is strikingly uneven. And it is clear that many of the homes are not up to the challenge of providing the intensive medical care that rehabilitation requires. Many are often short on nurses and aides and do not have doctors on staff.
Some colorful quotes here ("patients are leaving the hospital half-cooked"), but a lot of this well-written article nonetheless seems like old news to me (okay, perhaps that's because of my chosen research focus), with reporting on trends influenced by operating margins on the "nonprofit" side of care, and "return on investment" for shareholders on the for-profit side. Perhaps "intensity" of the pressures is the theme here?
Tip of the hat to George Washington University Law student Sarah Elizabeth Gelfand ('16) and GW Professor Naomi Cahn for making sure we saw this article!
Saturday, April 11, 2015
One of the first assignments I give to law students in my Elder Law course is to visit a "nursing home" and to see if they can get a copy of the admission agreement or contract. (Most of the facilities in my area cooperate with these student visitors.) The lesson here, however, is revealed when the students bring the documents back to the classroom for discussion. We discover that the majority of the contracts are not for admission to "skilled nursing facilities."
More frequently the facilities in question are licensed as "continuing care retirement communities" or CCRCs, which are big in Pennsylvania, or personal care homes (PCs or PCHs), or assisted living (AL) communities, each of which have different state regulations applying to their operations. These are not "nursing homes," or at least, they are not "skilled nursing facilities." Further, in Pennsylvania, increasingly there may be no label at all -- at least not a label that the public is familiar with -- and that is often by design as the facility or community may be attempting to avoid a "higher" level of requirements.
The usual explanation is that the choice in label is not driven by concerns over "quality" of care, but by costs of having to meet some non "care" related regulation, such as AL state requirements for room size or physical accommodations. The facility makes the case that it can meet the real needs of its clientele without being tied to "higher care" and therefore more "costly" models for senior housing. Fair enough. Caveat emptor. If you are the customer, make sure you do your homework, ask questions, comparative shop, and avoid assumptions based on pretty pictures in marketing brochures. And try to do all of this before an emergency that accelerates the need for a move.
But, there can be significant differences triggered by a label (or lack thereof) that are not readily apparent to the public. A recent Policy Issue Brief published by Justice In Aging (formerly the National Senior Law Center) uses examples from California to shine a spotlight on subtle issues in labeling, as well as on the importance of regulations that are responsive and up-to-date. Merely changing an "identity" or label should not be the basis for failing to comply with minimum standards relevant to the clients' needs.
In How California's Assisted Living System Falls Short in Addressing Residents' Health Care Needs, Justice in Aging (JIA, to make our circle of acronyms almost complete), provides a sample job notice for a California facility and asks "can you spot the legal violations in this Assisted Living job announcement?" The notice, appears to be hiring for a "certified med aide," despite the fact that there is no such thing in California, and more importantly, if the facility calling itself "Assisted Living" is actually a RCFE (residential care facility for the elderly), the California regulations do not permit staff to administer medications. Outside of Medicare/Medicaid standards for skilled nursing facilities -- the "nursing homes" of the past -- there are no national standards for labeling of "assisted living" or the many alternatives.
JIA's issue brief dated April 7, 2015 is part of a series that explores how California's system functions and points to ways it could be modified to help assure residents their expectations and needs will be satisfied.
The lessons in the JIA brief -- with a few tweaks to respond to any given state's set of acronyms -- seem equally relevant in all states.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
The AARP Public Policy Institute has recently published an Insight Report (March 2015) on older workers and unemployment following the recent economic crisis. The report draws upon surveys of persons aged 45 to 70 affected by unemployment during the last 5 years. The primary focus of the analysis is on "reemployment," including what strategies were used in successful efforts to find jobs.
Lots of interesting information here. Even though the rate of unemployment is lower for older workers, those losing their jobs later in life stayed unemployed longer than younger job seekers, and their recovery jobs reportedly paid less. Some of the findings, however, are of equal relevance to younger job seekers. One set of responses was especially sobering, on a question about possible working life regrets:
"When asked whether there was anything they wished they had done differently over their working lives or careers to better position themselves for dealing with unemployment, 52 percent said 'yes.' The most common answer —65 percent — was a wish that they had saved more money. Also of note, 48 percent wished they had gone back to school to complete or get another degree, and 38 percent wished they had chosen a different field. The unemployed and the long–term unemployed were more likely than the other groups to wish they had chosen a different field. Those who elected that regret also tended to be younger (56 percent were ages 45 to 54)."
Many thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn at George Washington Law for alerting me to this report, and sending a link to related Wonk Blog coverage of the study from the Washington Post -- lots of well-explained graphs from an oral presentation that accompanied the launch of AARP's written report.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
A new book about Social Security has been getting some buzz since its release last month. Get What's Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Social Security is published by Simon & Schuster and authored by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Phillip Moeler & Paul Solman. Here is an excerpt from the publisher's website
Learn the secrets to maximizing your Social Security benefits and earn up to thousands of dollars more each year with expert advice that you can’t get anywhere else. Want to know how to navigate the forbidding maze of Social Security and emerge with the highest possible benefits? You could try reading all 2,728 rules of the Social Security system (and the thousands of explanations of these rules), but Kotlikoff, Moeller, and Solman explain Social Security benefits in an easy to understand and user-friendly style. What you don’t know can seriously hurt you: wrong decisions about which Social Security benefits to apply for cost some individual retirees tens of thousands of dollars in lost income every year. How many retirees or those nearing retirement know about such Social Security options as file and suspend (apply for benefits and then don’t take them)? Or start stop start (start benefits, stop them, then re-start them)? Or—just as important—when and how to use these techniques? ...
The New York Times ran an article about this book on March 13, 2015. The Social Security Maze and Other U.S. Mysteries discusses the book as well as the intricacies of Social Security. Those of us elder law profs who cover Social Security in our classes know how complex it can be. As the article illustrates, it is more complicated than even we thought.
Given that there are 2,728 core rules and thousands more supplements to them according to the authors, it pays, literally, to seek out a guide...
The book’s success is also, however, symptomatic of something that we take for granted but should actually disgust us: The complexity of our financial lives is so extreme that we must painstakingly manage each and every aspect of it, from government programs to investing to loyalty programs. Mr. Kotlikoff’s game has yielded large winnings for his friends and readers (and several dinners of gratitude), but the fact that gamesmanship is even necessary in the first place with our national safety net is shameful.
The lead author explained how he came to this point "[s]oon, Mr. Kotlikoff was developing a computer model for various payouts from the government program and realized that consumers might actually pay to use it....From that instinct, a service called Maximize My Social Security was born, though it wasn’t easy to do and get it right. 'We had to develop very detailed code, and the whole Social Security rule book is written in geek,” he said. “It’s impossible to understand.'” The article goes on to illustrate some complexity by using as example health savings accounts and discuss why a well-intentioned law has become so complicated.
We all know it is a complicated program, so it's great to have another resource available to help explain everything. The book is available in hard copy or as an e-book either from the publisher or other book sellers.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
The SHRM Foundation has released a report on the aging workforce, The Aging Workforce: Leveraging the Talents of Mature Employees. The foreword explains the value of these employees
Mature workers—generally defined as workers over age 50 or 55—have experience and skills honed during decades of employment. Retaining talented mature workers—and recruiting new ones—is simply good business for most organizations. This report helps you to understand and prepare for these demographic changes so your organization can leverage the mature workforce as a valuable competitive advantage.
The report includes a number of helpful charts, including one illustrating the reasons why some individuals work during retirement and what spurs people to retire. The section on recruiting and hiring older workers includes strategies and examples. The report concludes with, among other things, suggestions for businesses.
To effectively use the talent pool of older adults, HR professionals and business leaders must devise flexible strategies that address the specific needs, preferences and motivators of this population. Surveys suggest that mature workers want and need flexible work arrangements and health care benefits. They also want to feel valued and respected, and they want opportunities to continue learning and growing. Many need the income or the health care benefits associated with continued employment.
The SHRM Foundation " is the globally recognized catalyst for shaping human resource thought leadership and research... [and] advances global human capital knowledge and practice by providing thought leadership and educational support, and sponsoring, funding and driving the adoption of cutting-edge, actionable, evidence-based research."
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Colleagues in the U.K., Dr. Una Lynch in Northern Ireland and Dr. Karim Hadjri in Lancashire, England, shared information on an opening for a new academic position in aging research. The listing nicely illustrates how global research into aging issues is multi-faceted, challenging and not solely focused on health care:
The postholder will be an established researcher in Architecture or an Ageing related discipline, with demonstrable evidence of developing and promoting their cognate research or knowledge transfer/consultancy activity to high-level peers. The appointee will work closely with the Project Coordinator of ODESSA. ODESSA - Optimising care delivery models to support ageing-in-place: towards autonomy, affordability and financial sustainability, is a Europe-China initiative funded by China NSF and research funding agencies from four EU countries (UK, France, Germany and The Netherlands) under the Understanding Population Change theme. The project partners are Tsinghua University from Beijing, China, and Université Paris Dauphine and Université CNRS/Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne from Paris, France. ESRC is the UK funding agency and the programme manager. The total value of the project is around GBP 1m and duration is 36 months starting on 1st March 2015.
The successful candidate will have an established international reputation in research (or knowledge transfer/consultancy), research project coordination and management, with demonstrable high impact areas that are supported and evidenced in leading peer-reviewed journals and extant literature. Educated with a PhD in architecture, built environment, or ageing related disciplines, and evidence of knowledge of architecture or ageing related disciplines research methods as well as a proven track record of meeting project deliverables and deadline is essential for this position.
Applicants can obtain further information and details here or by contacting the Project Coordinator, Professor Karim Hadjri, at University of Central Lancashire.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
University of Florida Professor Stephen M. Golant has a new book, Aging in the Right Place. The gerontologist advocates examining a host of modern options, and urges resistance to an overly simplistic mantra of "aging in place" as the only goal. For example, he examines assisted living, co-housing, supported "independent living" environments, the "village" movement and CCRCs.
Interviewed for a Washington Post article, Golant explained:
“It’s not an all-or-nothing situation, obviously,” Golant said in an interview about aging-in-place. “But I just wanted to point out the imperfections, and the weaknesses in some of the arguments. . .I want to point out that sometimes there’s too much hype.”
It’s the sort of hype that has surrounded what he calls the New Gerontology, a long running trend that sometimes seems to imply that if people follow certain regimens of diet, physical exercise, social activity and cognitive training, they might avoid aging altogether.
As I have also suggested here, it is important for individuals and families to be realistic about what it will take to stay at home safely, making it important to be open to a larger definition of "home" in order to emphasize better quality of life.
Monday, March 2, 2015
The White House Council of Economic Advisors released "The Effects of Conflicted Investment Advice on Retirement Savings" in February 2015, and the report is a must-read for anyone teaching courses on aging policy.
The major focus of the analysis is on evidence of "conflicts of interest" for those advising individuals on roll-over investment of IRA accounts, but the findings undoubtedly have relevance beyond that window on retirement planning.
The decision whether to roll over one’s assets into an IRA can be confusing and the set of financial products that can be held in an IRA is vast, including savings accounts, money market accounts, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, individual stocks and bonds, and annuities. Selecting and managing IRA investments can be a challenging and time-consuming task, frequently one of the most complex financial decisions in a person’s life, and many Americans turn to professional advisers for assistance. However, financial advisers are often compensated through fees and commissions that depend on their clients’ actions. Such fee structures generate acute conflicts of interest: the best recommendation for the saver may not be the best recommendation for the adviser’s bottom line.
The report focuses on the quantifiable cost from conflicted advice, concluding that savers receiving such advice "earn returns roughly 1 percentage point lower each year." But isn't there also a deeper cost, as the large swath of middle-income Americans, who may have justified fears of being able to safely evaluate investment risk and their investment advisors, do nothing productive with their savings?
The New York Times editorial board draws upon the White House Council's report to call for adoption of reality-based rules on fiduciary duties for the financial services industry. See NYT's "Protecting Fragile Retirement Nest Eggs."
Sunday, February 22, 2015
The first White House Conference on Aging Regional Forum was held on February 19, 2015 in Tampa Florida. The morning featured comments by the WHCOA Executive Director Nora Super and remarks by Cecilia Munoz, Assistant to the President and Director, Domestic Policy Council. Two panels followed, with comments by panelists on the 4 topics of emphasis for the 2015 WHCOA, healthy aging, long term services and supports, retirement security and elder justice. In the afternoon, participants were divided into working groups for those 4 topics, where they discussed priorities, obstacles, and actions. Representatives from each working group presented the group's topic recommendations in a closing panel presentation moderated by Kathy Greenlee, Administrator for the Administration on Community Living and the Assistant Secretary for Aging. In person attendance was invitation only, but the event was live webcast through HHS. The next regional forum is set for Phoenix, Arizona on March 31st. Visit the WHCOA forums website a day or so before the event to register for the live webcast.
February 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Programs/CLEs, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, February 16, 2015
The themes for the two day conference are:
November 12 (Day 1): Connecting Across Discipline and Geography:
Join practitioners from law, social work, health care, finance, non-profit and other sectors from across the country and around the world to talk about the challenges and issues involved in working with older adults. Particular topic areas we are seeking include:
- elder abuse,
- assisted living and retirement housing,
- financial abuse,
- age friendly communities, and
- outreach strategies.
November 13 (Day 2): Key Practice Challenges and Hot Topics in Legal
Explore issues engaged in powers of attorney and substitute decision-making, health care decision-making and end of life care, mental capacity and dementia, elder abuse and neglect, and other challenging subjects that arise in representing older adults and their families.
Contact National Director Krista Bell with any questions, and additional details, including submission information are available here.
February 16, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
ABA's Litigation magazine's Winter 2015 issue has an interesting theme -- "regrets" -- and I encourage all attorneys and law professors to track it down. Lots of gems here, offering plenty of stimulus for conversation.
Famed trial attorney Gerry Spence starts off one of the articles in this way:
"Like most old men looking back, I tend to forget the major regrets in my life. Mine may been becoming a trial lawyer in the first place. I learned how to try case by failing. I regret I wasn't taught in law school the first rudimentary principles of a jury trial. But how could that happen when most of the professors had never been in a courtroom?....
"In short, the justice system is broken.... I've labored in the system for over 60 years, and I regret, not winning, but in contributing to the myth that there's liberty and justice for all. I regret aiding and abetting the 'appearance of justice' that continues to defraud most Americans who have never awakened one day to find themselves crunched in the system...."
Abe Krash, with a 50 year career at D.C.'s Arnold & Porter law firm, shares his thoughts, thoughts that are on the whole, more positive that Spence's, but include:
"The bloom on the Washington legal rose began to fade somewhat in the mid-1980s during the era of deregulation. At about the same time, the legal profession began to change in significant ways. I applaud a number of the changes... such as the widening opportunities afforded to women and minorities. But like many others of my generation, I regret some of the changes, including the shift among large law firms from a partnership mode to a corporate mode."
Elder Law, which as a specialization is still relatively young, is now "old enough" to see a first generation of long-time practitioners contemplating their own retirements. I wonder how the theme of "regrets" might play out for these individuals?
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Sunday, February 15, 2015
George Washington University Law Professor Naomi Cahn sent us a link to an interesting study that seeks to demonstrate the impact of income equality -- and wage stagnation for low and middle income workers -- on the long-term solvency of Social Security.
In a release accompanying the release of its study, the Center for American Progress (CAP) explains:
"Specifically, CAP’s issue brief finds that the trust funds would be $753.8 billion larger had the average worker’s wages kept pace with productivity growth between 1983 and 2013, thereby reducing the expected 75-year shortfall of the trust funds by 6.8 percent. The brief also shows that the trust funds would be greater by more than $1.1 trillion had the maximum taxable wage base remained fixed at 90 percent of earnings over the same time period, reducing the expected 75-year shortfall by 10.1 percent. Both scenarios would have added years of additional solvency to the Social Security trust funds. These findings come on top of Social Security trustees’ projections that, looking ahead, freezing the taxable wage base at 90 percent today would on its own close more than one-quarter of the projected 75-year shortfall....
CAP’s brief outlines how, as a result of the [existing] cap on taxable earnings--$118,500 for 2015—Social Security’s funding is tied directly to the full wages that low- and middle-income workers earn—but not to the full wages that higher-earning workers receive. The brief finds that in 2013, the top 1 percent of earners took home nearly the same share of the nation’s total wage income as the entire bottom half of workers. As a result, income has shifted away from workers whose full earnings are subject to payroll taxes and toward high-income workers whose additional dollars are exempt."
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
With the shift from defined benefit pensions to 401(k)plans, the welfare of retirees increasingly depends on their ability to make sound financial decisions. This situation has raised concerns that the cognitive decline that comes with age could compromise the elderly’s decision-making ability and thereby their financial well-being. This brief, based on a recent study,1 addresses this issue using a unique dataset that follows a group of elderly individuals over time.
The report is divided into four parts: literature review, data, analysis and conclusion. The conclusion paints an interesting picture
The findings confirm that declining cognition, a common occurrence among individuals in their 80s, is associated with a significant decline in financial literacy. The study also finds that large declines in cognition and financial literacy have little effect on an elderly individual’s confidence in their financial knowledge, and essentially no effect on their confidence in managing their finances. Individuals with declining cognition are more likely to get help with their finances. But the study finds that over half of all elderly individuals with significant declines in cognition get no help outside of a spouse. Given the increasing dependence of retirees on 401(k)/IRA savings, cognitive decline will likely have an increas-ingly significant adverse effect on the well-being of the elderly.
Monday, February 9, 2015
Recently Elder Law Attorney Bob Anderson from Marquette, Michigan, spoke to law students at Dickinson Law on the theme of "planning" and his presentation stressed the importance of understanding long-term care insurance or, because our world loves acronyms, "LTCI."
Bob used his thirty years of experience in counseling families to outline key points, and to explain factors that have impacted the LTCI industry. I asked the students to summarize what they found to be most interesting and important. Their "takeaway" highlights included:
- LTCI is an important consideration, part of the same evaluation for insuring against "unacceptable" losses, that should take place in deciding whether to insure against home fires or early death, recognizing that such events are "unlikely" to happen, but can happen to a significant percentage of the population;
- LTCI has a "cost of waiting," both in terms of the potential to become "uninsurable" because of a disqualifying medical condition arising, and because of the cost increase in first time premiums as you get closer to the age of potential need; and
- The cost of LTCI has several important variables, which lawyers can help families understand when advising about planning options, including the term of coverage (e.g., 1, 3 or 5 years), the "elimination" period, the interaction with Medicare's 100 day maximum for post-acute care, and the need to consider inflation protection for the daily benefit.
Bob also talked about "hybrid" insurance products, combining life insurance with an LTCI option. I think it is safe to say that regardless of their goals after graduation, all of the law students came away with an appreciation for the need to understand all available options, including LTCI, in planning or advising for post-retirement needs.
One of our students, who is thinking about general practice, said that he can see clients asking questions about LTCI. Bob was excellent at reminding all of us that effective elder law and estate planning attorneys address more than just what happens after death.
Bob, whose diverse interests include cross-country ski racing and hockey, also provided a bit of surprise during his visit when he began speaking Russian -- and, I think, Ukrainian -- with our Russian and Ukrainian Law expert, Bill Butler.
We especially appreciate Pennsylvania elder law attorney Amos Goodall and the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) for their roles in making this interactive program possible; the recording will be available to practitioners in the future through NELF's educational arm. Amos also addressed our students, adding important Pennsylvania specifics to the discussion.
In a timely coincidence, AARP has a newly published Money Column, on "Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?"
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Driving home last evening, I had one of those "driveway" moments, where you don't want to shut off the car -- and thus the radio -- because a program on NPR is so compelling.
This time it was the Invisibilia story of Iggy Ignatius, born in India, but living in Florida. He decided to create a retirement community that looked like home, with low buildings, a courtyard, Bollywood movies, lots of Indian food, and lots of ... Indians. At first, his creative timing seemed all wrong, as he was opening the doors in 2008, on the threshold of what turned out to be a deep recession, hitting many Florida housing ventures hard. But, in fact, he sold out the first condo wing almost immediately, and success has apparently continued. Iggy has a theory for the popularity of his Indian retirement community:
"And at that time, he thinks, it's beyond your control. No matter who you are, you'll experience a deep primal desire to withdraw, like a salmon swimming upstream to the place of its birth to spawn and die. 'I think that is an animal instinct which we as human beings seem to have.'"
Hmmm. I'm not sure spawning salmon are experiencing the same motivations as elderly individuals, regardless of ethnicity. But, the story continued with a potential science-based explanation:
"Iggy is absolutely right, according to Jeff Greenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona. If you raise the specter of death in a person's mind, he says, Christians like Christians better; Italians like Italians better. Even Germans, who are usually pretty lukewarm about other Germans, if you get them to contemplate their own mortality, suddenly they really like Germans...."
Thus, if true, there is a potential dark side to a "return to kind," both in terms of the subconscious fears that may drive it, and the impact on community and society.
Does this make sense to you? To read or listen to the whole story, go to "Being With People Like You Offers Comfort Against Death's Chill."
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Third Circuit: Officers & Directors of Bankrupt Nursing Home Liable for "Deepening Insolvency" But Punitive Damages Not Proven re Directors
We reported in December 2013 about the long saga of the Lemington Home for the Aged, a troubled nursing home that sought bankruptcy court protection in 2010. Now, in a 2015 decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, following an appeal from the March 2013 jury verdict that awarded the Home's unsecured creditors a total of $5.75 million, key issues about that damage award are addressed.
Judge Vanaskie, who had taken the lead on an earlier appellate opinion regarding the officers and directors, provided some relief for the five former directors on the nonprofit organization's board, who faced joint and several liability for more than $3.5 million in punitive damages. The opinion begins with a concise summary of the outcome:
"This lawsuit, which concerns the mismanagement of a Pittsburgh-area nursing home and its ensuing bankruptcy, comes before the Court for a third time on appeal. In the present appeal, the Defendants, two former Officers and fourteen former Directors of the nursing home, present several challenges to the jury's verdict, which found them liable for breach of fiduciary duties and deepening insolvency. The jury also imposed punitive damages against the two Officers and five of the Directors.
We will affirm the jury's liability findings and the punitive damages award imposed against the Administrator and the Chief Financial Officer of the nursing home. We will, however, vacate the jury's award of punitive damages against the Defendants who served on the nursing home's Board of Directors. We conclude that the punitive damages award against those Defendants was not supported by evidence sufficient to establish that they acted with 'malice, vindictiveness and a wholly wanton disregard of the rights of others .' Smith v. Renaut, 387 Pa. Super. 299, 564 A.2d 188, 193 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1989) (citations omitted)."
Thursday, January 22, 2015
We have written many posts about underfunded benefit programs at the federal and state levels (see e.g., here), but another looming problem is underfunding of pension programs at the local levels. The potentially affected employees include firefighters and sanitation workers and police officers.
This week WITF-Radio's Smart Talk program explored the issue in Pennsylvania:
"More than 500 Pennsylvania municipalities' pension funds are considered "distressed" because they're funded at less than 90%. Some Pennsylvania cities, boroughs, and townships currently have pension funds at lower than 50%. State law impacts public employees' ability to negotiate their contracts, making this issue of particular concern to lawmakers in Harrisburg.
Last week, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced that in total Pennsylvania's municipal pension funds have a $7.7 billion liability. Legislation is expected to be proposed this year that will seek to eliminate some of the liability over the long term."
It seems unlikely that Pennsylvania is the only state with a local-level pension funding problem.
The primary speaker on the program, Pennsylvania Municipal League Executive Director Richard Schuettler, pointed to an interesting aspect of the problem, what he sees as unrealistic decisions by arbitrators in collective bargaining labor disputes over pay and retirement benefits.
Monday, January 19, 2015
If you were retiring, would you want marketers of insurance products and funeral services -- or similar products -- obtaining your name and address from your former employer? Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law could be permitting just such access to information on a large number of state retirees.
In a decision issued January 9, 2015, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, an intermediate court, ruled the Pennsylvania State Retirement System (SERS) failed to satisfy its burden to prove "a substantial and demonstrable risk" arising from a request for 15 years' worth of records containing the "names and addresses of all retirees" from the state. Therefore, the names and contact information of more than 1,000 retirees, or if deceased, the information on their beneficiaries, must be disclosed by SERS. And if SERS "failed" in carrying the burden of proving why this should not happen, as the opinion demonstrates, it was not for lack of trying.
The Court recognized an exception from disclosure for retired judges and law enforcement officers on the grounds of specific "personal safety and security" language tied to those positions, contained in Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
The University of Michigan's Retirement Research Center regularly releases working papers and policy pieces that explore issues relevant to lawyers and legal academics. From MRRC's most recent news release, here are some interesting topics:
- “Does Protecting Older Workers from Discrimination Make It Harder to Get Hired?” by David Neumark, Joanne Song and Patrick Button. Abstract
- “Will They Take the Money and Work? An Empirical Analysis of People’s Willingness to Delay Claiming Social Security Benefits for a Lump Sum” by Raimond H. Maurer, Olivia S. Mitchell, Ralph Rogalla and Tatjana Schimetschek. Abstract
- “Long-Run Determinants of Intergenerational Transfers” by John Karl Scholz, Ananth Seshadri and Kamil Sicinski. Abstract
On the last item, I was intrigued by the opening lines for the abstract:
"Understanding whether the elderly are saving adequately is fundamental to understanding whether elderly households are able to maintain reasonable living standards. One factor that affects wealth accumulation is the extent to which parents need to support children and the extent to which children need to support parents. The presence of Social Security may affect intergenerational transfers, but the extent to which it ‘crowds out’ transfers from parents to children is controversial...."
For more studies from MRRC, you can review the longer list of current publications and upcoming programs here.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Who amongst us have not heard of a senior discount? They are ubiquitous in some areas, such as movie tickets or dining out. Here is one program that allows the recipient of a senior discount to donate it to a charity. The NY Times ran a story about this program, Getting a Senior Discount? Here’s How to Give It Away, which allows the recipient of a discount to donate it. The article tells the story of the Boomerang Giving Project which allowed senior moviegoers to pay full price for their movie tickets and to donate their senior discounts to a charity of their choosing.
More information about the Boomerang Giving Project is available on their website. According to the website, "BOOMERANG GIVING is a national movement of Baby Boomers who dare to imagine the impact we can make as a generation if Boomers with the means reinvest some or all of our senior discount savings back into our communities through charities we each choose ourselves..." The project was also the subject of a story on PBS.
The Boomerang Giving website provides some history on the project. Originating in Washington state, "seven community leaders from Bainbridge Island and Seattle Washington, all dedicated to bolstering future generations through support of nonprofit organizations" created the project with the mission "[t]o redefine Baby Boomers as the generation that gives back. By inventing multiple ways to give back, Boomerang Giving is committed to creating opportunities for the 3.5 million persons who turn 65 each year to increase their charitable giving and join others in supporting their communities."
Returning to the NY Times article, the story notes the upward trend in charitable giving and the benefits of doing so. The obvious, of course, is the help to the charity, but as well, the donor benefits
- "A crucial conclusion from a study published last year in the International Journal of Happiness and Development ... concluded that people feel good when they make a charitable donation — especially through a friend, relative or social connection."
"Harvard researchers found in an experiment that donating to charity can increase physical strength. .. " and
"An increasingly popular way for retirees to stay active mentally and socially is to join a local giving circle."
The article also offers some advice on checking out a charity's legitimacy before committing to a financial contribution and basic charitable planning.