Friday, October 25, 2019

Used car challenges from a new law

Buyers beware!
As of July 1, 2019, West Virginia Code sec. 46A-6-102(4) allows dealers to sell “as is” any vehicle that has more than 100,000 miles on it or is seven or more years old or is being sold for $4000 or less.
The old days of assuming that there is a warranty on the vehicle because you’re buying it from a dealer are gone.
Dealers do not need to provide any warranty at all for those older, high mileage, or low cost vehicles, and the old implied warranty of “good working order” is no longer applicable to them.
Further, West Virginia’s lemon law has not ever applied to used vehicle purchases.
This change makes a test drive and an examination by a knowledgeable mechanic more crucial in finding a car that will function well and be worth the money.
Many find that having a savvy buddy along helps to make a hard choice easier and more rational.
The new law does permit the buyer to return the vehicle for a refund within three business days by taking it back to the dealer lot. This could be hard to do if the vehicle isn’t even in running condition; you might have to pay to tow it back.
Many purchase a used car from a dealer for the convenience of multiple cars to choose from and immediate financing.
Some consumers are not aware that they pay a higher interest rate when the car dealer arranges the financing, regardless of their credit score. Dealing directly with the bank or credit union is likely to save money.
The alternative of looking for used vehicles online or arranging a private sale from someone nearby can result in paying less. No warranty will be available from those sales either, but at least the buyer is aware of that in advance. In this situation also, having a good mechanic check out the vehicle before purchase can save considerable money and frustration.









Friday, October 18, 2019

New estate closing requirement

For those handling estates, the clock is ticking.

A new law which became effective in May 2019 WV Code §44-2-19(a) requires that all estates that have been inactive for three years or more be closed by action of the County Commission.

To handle an estate, a person or financial institution representative must qualify as executor (because the decedent left a valid Last Will and Testament) or administrator (no will is available for the deceased person or there is property not covered by the will). Also, two reports about the assets and debts must be filed with the County Clerk before distributions to heirs can be made.

It turns out that sometimes a will is entered in the county courthouse records and the executor/administrator never completes all of the steps. Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of questions about what happened and can cause property ownership issues at a later time.
The new law will close the estates officially.

Around the state, County Clerks’ offices are working on having inactive estates closed.
Some County Clerks are notifying by letter all of the executors, heirs, and creditors listed in the first estate report, the appraisement, about the potential closure and deadline for further activity.
For those handling an estate that hasn’t been fully resolved and closed and there has been no activity for three years or more, it’s appropriate to find a way to resolve the open matters as soon as possible. Completing the final estate report is required by law to do that.

If an attorney or other person is handling an estate with no activity for at least three years, the new closure law is a way for known or potential heirs to urge the attorney or executor to focus more attention on it.

Many heirs wonder how much information they are to be provided while the estate is open. There is no legal requirement for doing that, but the will and any related documents are placed in the public records at the courthouse and can be viewed by anyone. Some counties also have online records, including wills and estate reports.

Going forward, estates will be subject to the same requirement to be closed by official action if there is no activity for at least three years.

If an estate has been closed, state law allows it to be reopened by the executor or administrator under appropriate circumstances.

Those working in the County Clerk’s office can answer questions about procedures and requirements but may not provide a legal opinion on a specific situation.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Medicare open enrollment 10/15/19 to 12/7/19

What is it?
Medicare open enrollment is the time you can choose and enroll in Medicare Advantage plans (optional private insurance HMO or PPO plans you can choose instead of getting your Medicare benefits through the government) and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plans (all private insurance plans, there is no government option). Changes you make during this period take effect 1/1/2020.

Where to get help
Your county senior center can get you connected with a SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) counselor trained to assist you with Medicare open enrollment. Our state ADRN (Aging and Disability Resource Network) can also help 1-866-981-2372. Medicare's Plan Finder tool online at medicare.gov offers comparisons of Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans, or you can call 1-800-MEDICARE to get list of plans in your area and then find out from each plan directly what they offer.

Tips about Medicare open enrollment
Keep notes when you talk to anyone: when, who you spoke to, what you asked or told, what they told you in response, what next steps they said they would take, what next steps they recommended you take, etc.

Verify what anyone tells you by checking online or written materials, address conflicting info you find before making enrollment changes.

Changing plans? Enroll directly through Medicare rather than through the insurer. That increases your likelihood that Medicare will have the right plan enrollment information for you.

What's new this year:

Planfinder searches
Personalized searches require you to log into your www.mymedicare.gov account, or create one if you don't already have one. You can do a basic anonymous search by giving some personal information.

Medicare Advantage
Expanded benefits may be available with Medicare Advantage plans, including some non-medical services and services for beneficiaries with chronic conditions like nutrition services, home modification, in-home supports.

As always, Medicare Advantage plans have networks of covered doctors, hospitals, and other providers. Those networks can change providers during the year, too. Whether you are changing or staying in the same plan you may as well check to be sure your providers are covered in your 2020 plan, though that network may change later.

For those who want to leave their Medicare Advantage plan and go back to original Medicare we used to have a separate Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period. Now instead we have Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period Jan 1 through March 31 every year. You may make one change during this period, either leave to go back to original Medicare, or switch from one Medicare Advantage to another.

Part D Prescription Drug plans
The average premium for 2020 is $32.74, down a little from last year. The donut hole gap of coverage starts once you reach $4,020 in drug costs in 2020, and catastrophic coverage picks up after you pay out $6,350.

As always, the formularies of covered drugs change so whether you are changing or staying in the same plan check to see if your regular prescriptions are on the list and what your copays will be.

Medicare beneficiaries who get Extra Help (the Low-Income Subsidy also called LIS) can change their Part D plan once a calendar quarter.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Just kidding, even though Equifax owes you $125 you're apparently not going to get it

According to this Bloomberg Business article published yesterday, the FTC's Equifax settlement website has been changed to say you won't get the full $125 previously offered in the cash compensation option, and they are encouraging claimants to choose the credit monitoring option instead.

Hey FTC, what's up with that?

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Equifax owes you $125+, here's how to get it: The Equifax Data Breach Settlement

This is reposted from the Federal Trade Commission's webpage https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/07/equifax-data-breach-settlement-what-you-should-know July 22, 2019
by Alvaro Puig
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
In September of 2017, Equifax announced a data breach that exposed the personal information of 147 million people. Under a settlement filed today, Equifax agreed to spend up to $425 million to help people affected by the data breach. If you were affected by the Equifax breach, you can't file a claim just yet. That's coming. But you can sign up for FTC email alerts about the settlement at ftc.gov/Equifax.

(Not sure that you were affected? The breach claims site will have a tool to let you check. Sign up for an FTC email update to find out when that tool is up and running. ftc.gov/equifax)

Here’s what you need to know about the settlement:

Benefits Available To You
If you were affected by the breach, you may be eligible for benefits.
1. Free Credit Monitoring or $125 Cash Payment
You can get at least 4 years of free credit monitoring of your credit report at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). On top of that, you can get up to 6 more years of free credit monitoring of your Equifax credit report. That’s a total of 10 years of free credit monitoring. (Minors affected by the breach are eligible for even more free credit monitoring.)

If you have credit monitoring that will continue for at least 6 months and you decide not to enroll in the free credit monitoring offered in the settlement, you may be eligible for a cash payment of $125.

2. Reimbursement for Your Time and Other Cash Payments
You may be eligible for reimbursement and cash payments up to $20,000 for:

time you spent protecting your identity or recovering from identity theft, up to 20 hours at $25 per hour
money you spent protecting your identity or recovering from identity theft, like the cost of freezing or unfreezing your credit report or unauthorized charges to your accounts
up to 25% of the cost of Equifax credit monitoring or identity protection products you bought between September 7, 2016 and September 7, 2017

3. Free Identity Restoration Services
You are eligible for free identity restoration services for at least 7 years that you can use if someone steals your identity or you experience fraud.

Next Steps
The claims process will start after court approval. To learn more about the settlement, go to ftc.gov/Equifax. We’ll update that page when there’s new information.

You can also sign up to get FTC email updates about this settlement.

If you were affected by the breach, you may also receive an email notification after the court approves the settlement. The notification will provide more information about the settlement, the benefits available to people impacted, and how to request the services offered under the settlement.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Landmark Court Decision on Surface vs. Mineral Rights

Many West Virginia landowners own the surface rights of their property, but not the mineral rights.

In recent years there has been a boom in drilling for natural gas in some sections of the state, increasing the importance of mineral rights.

When landowners don’t own the mineral rights, do they have any protection against an energy company sending workers and machinery onto their property without permission to drill wells that are intended to access the gas under adjacent properties?

That question was the focus of a case decided recently by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

In a landmark decision, the court affirmed that using one property’s surface area, without permission, to access minerals under neighboring properties qualifies as trespass.

In earlier times when shallow wells were drilled around the state, the surface owner who did not own the minerals generally was given free gas and often a portion of the royalties. The energy company was cooperative about well site location and intrusion on the land, especially on farms. But current deeper drilling operations are much more complex, and the companies have not sought out the cooperation of the surface owners. Free gas is gone too.

Approximately 350,000 mineral rights owners in West Virginia don’t own the surface rights, so there’s significant potential for conflicting rights. A majority of the mineral rights, but not the surface rights, in the southern part of the state are owned by corporations.

Current West Virginia law permits an energy company to occupy the surface to extract minerals under that specific property even though the surface rights’ owner has not given permission.

The new technique of deeper drilling combined with underground shale hydrofracturing (known as fracking) has been used to reach greater distances horizontally and extract more gas from each well. In West Virginia, Doddridge County has become a center of extensive gas extraction.

When EQT, Inc., based in Pittsburgh, began drilling operations on the properties of two Doddridge County surface owners in 2013 as a way to reach the gas under adjacent properties, EQT did not have their permission to use their land and had been warned by the landowners’ attorney not to engage in drilling.

There was a 1901 shallow well lease still in effect for the properties which EQT used for their right of entry for the gas under their land, but the landowners disputed that the old lease gave EQT a right to drill using fracking methods to reach underground to access surrounding properties’ gas.

Over 16 months, EQT used 20 acres for the well area and the drilling and operation of nine wells.

The surface owners sued in 2014. A jury trial resulted in $190,000 in damages for the landowners from the company’s trespass in order to access other properties’ gas and resulting property losses.

EQT appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, and the court’s recent decision upheld the rights of surface owners to block the use of their surface area when the company wants to reach adjacent lands’ minerals.

As the landowners’ attorney, Dave McMahon, said, “...we won and we won big time!”

Numerous landowners around the state do not want the extraction or well operation on their property because of the potential for environmental harm and have organized to oppose fracking.

This case is ground-breaking, and there will be ongoing financial and operational ramifications for both gas companies and landowners in the Mountain State.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Social Security Taxation Changes

As has happened in many other states around the country, some West Virginians will be able to benefit from tax-free Social Security benefits in the future.

The 2019 legislative session passed a law that allows 35% of a person’s 2020 Social Security benefits to avoid income taxes. For this tax reduction to apply, the person’s federal adjusted gross income must be $50,000 or less (or a maximum of $100,000 for a married couple).

In 2021, the tax-free amount increases to 65% of the Social Security benefits, again with the top limit of $50,000 federal AGI per person.

In 2022, 100% of the benefits will avoid West Virginia income taxes as long as the person’s income is at the appropriate level or lower.

These new rules apply to Social Security Old Age, Survivors and Disability benefits and to Supplemental Security Income for the Aged, Blind and Disabled (SSI).

For example, if Anna, who is single, receives $25,000 in Social Security benefits during 2020 that are reportable on her federal tax return and has no other income, the 35% “income discount” will apply, and only $16,250 will be reported as taxable on her West Virginia return.

What is reported on the federal return is not affected by the new state rules.

However, if Anna’s 2020 total federal adjusted gross income, because of the combination of her Social Security and some investment income, was $65,000 instead, she would not be able to use the 35% reduction, and all of her Social Security would be reported in the same way as in earlier years.

Because of the income cap, some receiving these government benefits will have tax-free amounts for some years and none in other years, depending on their total income.

Remember also that this change in taxation for Social Security recipients does not apply to 2019 income.

Monday, April 15, 2019

National Healthcare Decisions Day

It's time to think about death and taxes, the two things you can really count on.

Today is tax day in America, and tomorrow is National Healthcare Decisions Day. If you couldn't make your own healthcare decisions who would you want to make them for you? You can choose if you want to, and in West Virginia healthcare providers are required to respect your properly-executed Medical Power of Attorney.

A power of attorney is not a person, it's a piece of paper. The person you choose is your agent or your representative. Your agent might be in a position to make healthcare decisions for you at the end of your life, or at some other time in your life when healthcare choices need to be made for you but you are not capable of making them.

Your agent does not have to accept the responsibility, so talking to your chosen agent in advance of executing a power of attorney document is a vitally important step in helping your wishes get carried out.

National Healthcare Decisions Day is a good excuse to talk about it. You can celebrate by facing the elephant in the room. For more information about healthcare decisionmaking in West Virginia see http://wvendoflife.org/

If you have an organization or a group who wants to host a pair of workshops for proactive legal planning, including healthcare decisionmaking, contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid about the Get Ready, Get Set, Go! program. Email us at seniorlegalaid at yahoo.com, or call us at 1.800.229.5068

Friday, February 22, 2019

2019 Federal Poverty Guidelines

Eligibility for many benefit programs is based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines which are updated annual by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The 2019 guidelines were published in the federal register on 2/1/19 Here below is a chart showing the annual and monthly income guidelines:
2016 Federal Poverty Level Guidelines
Family Size 100% Annual 100% Monthly 135% Monthly
1 $12,490 $1,041 $1,405
2 $16,910 $1,409 $1,902
3 $21,330 $2,222, $2,400
4 $25,750 $2,146 $2,854
5 $30,170 $2,514 $3,344
6 $34,590 $2,883 $3,834

Thursday, December 27, 2018

2019 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums, Deductibles, and Copays

On October 12, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2019 premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts for the Medicare Part A and Part B programs.

Medicare Part B Premiums/Deductibles

Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and certain other medical and health services not covered by Medicare Part A.

The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees will be $135.50 for 2019, an increase of $1.50 from $134 in 2018. An estimated 2 million Medicare beneficiaries (about 3.5%) will pay less than the full Part B standard monthly premium amount in 2019 due to the statutory hold harmless provision, which limits certain beneficiaries’ increase in their Part B premium to be no greater than the increase in their Social Security benefits. The annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries is $185 in 2019, an increase of $2 from the annual deductible $183 in 2018. Premiums and deductibles for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug plans are already finalized and are unaffected by this announcement.

Since 2007, a beneficiary’s Part B monthly premium is based on his or her income. These income-related monthly adjustment amounts (IRMAA) affect roughly 5 percent of people with Medicare Part B. The total premiums for high income beneficiaries for 2019 are shown in the following table:

Medicare A & B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2019

Part A (hospital) Beneficiary pays:
Hospital Deductible $1,364/benefit period
Hospital Copay $341/day for days 61-90
$682/day for days 91-150
Skilled Nursing Facil Copay $170.50/day for days 21-100
Part A Premium $437/month for those with fewer than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
$240/month for those with 30-39 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
Part B (doctor, outpatient services, etc.) Beneficiary pays:
Annual Deductible $185
Part B Premium for those with incomes below $85,000 or $170,000 married couple $135.50/month – for those beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare prior to 2016, whose premium is taken out of their monthly Social Security benefit
Most covered Part B services 20%

Friday, December 07, 2018

Marriott's huge data breach

It’s happened again – a massive data breach of personal information we all want to keep confidential but evidently can’t.

Marriott International has disclosed that around 500 million customer records worldwide have been hacked over a four-year period. That occurred in their subsidiary Starwood hotel chains.

These hackers found more than names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, and dates of birth. They found passport numbers and loyalty program data too. Encrypted credit card numbers were also stolen.

Learning from Target’s and Expedia’s loss of huge amounts of data in this way, Marriott is contacting by email those who have been affected if the email is on file.

They have also established a call center and website at https://answers.kroll.com/.

Further, those affected by the breach will have a year’s fraud monitoring service paid for by Marriott. The sign-up for the service is at the website shown above.

Marriott said it will not ask customers to provide their password by phone or email and told guests to stay vigilant against phishing attempts in the wake of the data breach.

The hackers didn’t do all this work for nothing, so checking your credit card statements closely is another way to do your part.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Nov 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender people experience higher rates of violence and threats of violence than cisgender people worldwide. On November 20th every year we remember the transgender victims of murder. In 2018 at least 22 transgender people have been killed by violence in America.

A new report from the Human Rights Campaign explores many of the factors that can contribute to or facilitate such fatal violence. The 73 page report, "A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2018" is available for free download at https://www.hrc.org/resources/a-national-epidemic-fatal-anti-transgender-violence-in-america-in-2018

At WVSLA we honor the courage of older transgender West Virginians every day, and remember those we have lost to violence especially on November 20.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Problems voting? Call 681-443-7083 or 681-443-7065

West Virginians having trouble voting on election day can call a hotline offered by WV ACLU, Mountain State Justice, and WVU College of Law. The hotline will be open on election day 11/6/18 from 6:30a to 7:30p. If you can't get through you can leave a voicemail with your number and get a return call.

Voters who run into anything unusual in the voting process or who encounter a problem related to the voter ID requirements are encouraged to call, and to vote a provisional ballot and request a receipt.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

100,000 names purged from WV voter registration rolls, check your registration online

WV Secretary of State Mac Warner announced today that his office in cooperation with county clerks around the state have purged over 100,000 names from voter registration rolls. He said the purpose was to reduce fraud by removing deceased, duplicate, convicted felon, and "outdated" voter registrations.

There are about 1.2 million registered voters in the state as of this week. The percentages of registrations purged varies substantially from county to county, with Wirt at less than 3% but Calhoun and Monroe counties having purged over 23% of their registrations.

You can check online to be sure your voter registration was not removed at the WV Secretary of State's webpage https://services.sos.wv.gov/Elections/Voter/AmIRegisteredToVote where you must input your name and date of birth. You can also register to vote or update/change your valid voter registration (change party, address, etc.) at https://ovr.sos.wv.gov/Register/Landing#Qualifications where you'll have to answer several questions and enter more identifying information about yourself including Social Security number and ID or drivers license number. You can also verify, register, or update your voter registration in person at the County Clerk's office in your local county courthouse.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Time is running short on getting your Medicare ducks in a row if you stayed on Health Insurance Marketplace coverage after becoming eligible for Medicare.

September 30, 2018 is the deadline for making the switch to Medicare Part B and requesting relief from late enrollment penalties.

A good way to take care of everything is to make an appointment to meet with a staff person at the nearest Social Security office. Call 800-777-1213 very soon.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has more detailed information on the cms.gov website at https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Eligibility-and-Enrollment/Medicare-and-the-Marketplace/Downloads/Limited-Equitable-Relief-Fact-Sheet.pdf

Numerous documents are needed to make the switch, so don’t forget them at home.

This deadline is not applicable to those who had employer/union healthcare plans when they became eligible for Medicare.

For those West Virginians age 60 and over with legal issues of any type, we can help at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid. Call 800-229-5068 to speak with a staff attorney.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Public Input Forums: WV Aged and Disabled Medicaid Waiver Policy Manual

Purpose: The WV Bureau for Medical Services is holding eight statewide forums to gather input for the new Aged and Disabled Waiver policy manual
Who's Invited: All Aged and Disabled Waiver service providers, participants and family members.

Berkeley Senior Services
217 North High Street
Martinsburg, WV 25401
Date: July 19, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Senior Monongalians
5000 Greenbag Road, Suite 7
Morgantown, WV 26507
Date: July 20, 2018
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Cabela's - Powder Horn Grill
One Cabela Drive
Tridelphia, WV 26059
Date: August 7, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Hampton Inn-Mineral Wells
64 Elizabeth Pike
Mineral Wells, WV 26150
Date: August 8, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Summersville Arena & Conference Center
3 Armory Way
Summersville, WV 26651
Date: August 15, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Cabell County - Underwood Center
632 9th Avenue
Huntington, WV 25701
Date: August 21, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Raleigh County Commission on Aging
1614 S. Kanawha Street
Beckley, WV 25801
Date: September 12, 2018
Time: 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Saint John XXIII Pastoral Center
100 Hodges Road
Charleston, WV 25314
Date: September 25, 2018
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Reshipping, Gift Card and Sweepstake Frauds

Who wants to be scammed?

Absolutely no one, but it keeps on happening.

The proliferation of rip-offs are the work of dishonest people all over the world.

One work-at-home scam involves agreeing to have packages or money orders sent to your home or business address first and then re-shipped by you to another address. The scammers especially like those living in rural areas.

The crooks will order products using stolen credit cards, and the items will come to you. You will be collecting them for shipment, often out of the country and often at your own expense. The destinations can be Russia, Europe, Africa or anywhere.

You will receive instructions that will require you to pay the shipping in order to receive your fee. You will probably never get a penny. And yes, it’s all illegal and you could be arrested for mail fraud, smuggling and other crimes.

Some of the reshipping scams involve contact through dating websites (. hearts). or Internet career sites. Some even claim to be shipping items for a foreign charity. Don’t help them!

Payment to scam victims often involves counterfeit money orders in large amounts. The plan is for you to deposit your share in your checking account and send the excess amount to another person. Before you know it, you’ve lost the full amount of the counterfeit MO from your hard-earned savings

Learn more at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/raddocs/consumer/reshippingscam.html.

One evening, a call came to John’s home. He was being warned by Deputy Thomas that he had one hour to pay a $1000 fine for missing jury duty in the county recently.

He was to go to a local discount store, purchase a gift card, and call the “official” number back. He was then to give them the card’s account number to avoid being arrested.

John didn’t cooperate after concluding the caller didn’t have the basic information he should have if this were actually an official call, but he realized how easy it is for scammers to penetrate our daily lives.

One of the oldies somehow keeps on working: fake sweepstakes or lottery winnings, even though you don’t recall entering the contest or purchasing a ticket. Some of the worst ones in operation today are coming from Jamaica or Costa Rica.

The phony notification may come by phone, text, email or social media. You will be persuaded to send money for income taxes or a special handling fee. Those amounts are just the come-on, and you haven’t won anything other than the sad honor of being the next victim.

The most notorious sweepstakes scams have earned a lot of attention on the Internet. Search for the company name, and you will see that other victims have reported their bad experiences.

Keep your radar on for any and all frauds and scams. If you’ve been wondering whether you may have been caught in the net of a scam or have other legal concerns, call West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at 800–229–5068. This free service is for West Virginia residents, age 60 and over, and they must make the call on their own behalf.

Friday, June 15, 2018

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

You can't undo abuse, so prevention is critical. We can all do more to prevent elder abuse in our communities and in our families. One place to learn more about elder abuse and what you can do for prevention is the National Council on Aging

Friday, June 01, 2018

2018 West Virginia Legislative Highlights for Seniors

Yes, the 2018 West Virginia legislature passed the Fiscal Year 2019 budget before adjourning. That felt good after earlier years in which that process so crucial to the state’s welfare was such a struggle.

All links below are to the bill language in a pdf document from the legislature's website.

House Bill 4279 Thanks to this new law, there are now more specific protections for incapacitated adults and nursing home and facility residents against financial exploitation by facility staff, family, caregivers, or others. The Department of Health and Human Resources Adult Protective Services’ staff is authorized to investigate exploitive or fraudulent financial situations for those persons.

It seems that we hear more and more about financial abuse of so many, whether through intentional scams or family schemes.

This law means that those, friend or foe, who are preying on incapacitated adults or those in nursing homes by scamming them out of their money and property will face another hurdle in getting away with it. Adult Protective Services is now charged with initiating investigations and working with other entities, including county prosecutors, to stop the exploitation.

The legal definition of financial exploitation is the unlawful expenditure or unlawful willful dissipation of the funds or other assets owned or paid to or for the benefit of an incapacitated adult or facility resident.

For those who are concerned about someone suffering from financial exploitation or similar abuse, contact the APS staff at the county level or call 800-352-6513.

House Bill 4150 A new law prohibits West Virginia telemarketers from misleading you about their company’s identity when calling and from collecting your identifying information with their electronic resources. That information can be used for further scams.

So if your caller ID screen shows Tiffany‘s NY as the caller (but it is actually from Big Time Rip-off, Inc.), the company has violated the law.

The new law does not appear to apply to out-of-state telemarketers but hopefully will have a deterrent effect on such deceptive practices anyway.

An upcoming government study authorized during the session will evaluate ways to improve palliative medical care practices. Also, an assessment of whether changes to the taxation of Social Security income would be appropriate in West Virginia was discussed but did not pass.

House Bill 4035 Palliative care is specialized medical treatment for those with a serious illness, focusing on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of what is often the most significant illness the person has faced. The overall goal of the care is to improve the quality of life for patients and families. A Palliative Care Advisory Council will be made up of healthcare professionals in this field, consumer advocates and other end-of-life professionals.

House Concurrent Resolution 115 Currently, a majority of states do not tax their residents’ Social Security benefits. Others tax them at a lower rate. Only West Virginia and four other states tax the benefits like the federal government does. Recognizing that those collecting Social Security may face many serious financial concerns, especially a lessened ability to earn extra income, a joint committee would discuss retirement security issues and evaluate the impact of any taxation change on future budgets.

Senate Bill 397 One other new law--it is illegal now to claim that a pet is a service animal unless it has been certified or claim to be a handicapped or disabled person if that is not true. Violation of the law is a misdemeanor.

If you have questions about how any of the new laws will impact you or have other legal concerns, feel free to contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid for assistance. To be eligible for this service, you must be a West Virginia resident at least 60 years old and must be the one to call 800-229-5068. We’re here to help!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

MoneySmart Week: Your Credit Score

What’s your score? 730. 640. Do you know?

Developed in 1989, a credit score has become a crucial component for many financial decisions by individuals and financial institutions.

Its true name is a FICO score, which was developed by Fair, Isaac and Company. In observance of Money Smart Week, April 21-28, it’s time to learn more about your use of credit and its implications.

When being considered for a loan or mortgage, new credit card, renting property, and even a job, your credit score is likely to be one determinant of the final decision made.

Those with higher scores can pay lower loan interest rates or get the apartment or job!

Knowing your credit score is downright important.

Utilizing many factors, especially

  • payment history,
  • ratio of credit used to credit available on credit card accounts,
  • number of open accounts and their longevity, and
  • bankruptcy,
each of three national credit bureaus calculates your credit score. It can be different at TransUnion, Equifax and Experian based on the version of the scoring algorithm used and the data collected by the credit bureau.

Reviewing all three of your credit reports is an important way of being money-wise. Checking the accuracy of all of the information and finding out who has been checking on you allows you to evaluate your situation when considering additional accounts or borrowing.

Under federal law, you may request a free credit report each year from each credit bureau at www.freeannualreport.com or 1-877-322-8228. You will not receive a free credit score with the report, but that can usually be purchased online for less than $10.

Other sites can provide your credit report but there will be a charge for it.

Some individuals stagger their credit report requests every four months so that they can get new information throughout the year.

If any errors are found in the report, you may file a challenge with the credit bureau in writing and it must be investigated within 30 days. More information on the process for filing a dispute is located at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0151-disputing-errors-credit-reports.

Conversely, too many credit card accounts can harm your insurance score. Many insurance companies set your premiums on your use of credit. The basic philosophy is that the more accounts you have, there can be a higher likelihood of filing false insurance claims.

Be Money Smart – take your credit’s temperature periodically to avoid scorching moments down the road.

If you have questions on credit issues, you can contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid www.seniorlegalaid.org for assistance. To be eligible to talk to our staff attorney, you must be a West Virginia resident at least 60 years old and must be the one to call 800-229-5068. We’re here to help!