Monday, November 23, 2015

Medicare A & B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2016

CThe premium for Medicare Part B is calculated by outpatient utilization figures from the year before. Because beneficiaries used the services more than anticipated in 2015 the Part B premium for 2016 will increase will increase for many beneficiaries from $104.90 to $120.70.

But because there will be no cost of living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits a federal "hold harmless" provision will allow Medicare beneficiaries whose premium was the $104.90 in 2015 (not the increased premium for higher incomes) and have their Part B premiums deducted from their Social Security. For beneficiaries who have Medicaid paying their Part B premiums there will be an increase but the beneficiary won't be affected since Medicaid will pay it.

Medicare A & B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2016

Part A (hospital) Beneficiary pays:
Hospital Deductible $1,288/benefit period
Hospital Copay $322/day for days 61-90
$644/day for days 91-150
Skilled Nursing Facil Copay $161/day for days 21-100
Part A Premium $411/month for those with fewer than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
$226/month for those with 30-39 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
Part B (doctor, outpatient services, etc.) Beneficiary pays:
Annual Deductible $166
Part B Premium for those with incomes below $85,000 or $170,000 married couple $104.90/month – for those beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare prior to 2016, whose premium is taken out of their monthly Social Security benefit
$121.80/month – for those beneficiaries not collecting Social Security benefits, those who will enroll in Part B for the first time in 2016, and those who have their Part B premiums paid by Medicaid
Most covered Part B services 20%

Monday, November 02, 2015

2015 Free Veterans Day Meals for Veterans

2015 Free Veterans Day Meals. The list below is just those that are likely found in WV. See the entire list according to

Applebee’s – free meal, Nov. 11, 2015: 7 entrées, beverage & tip not included. Military ID or proof of service needed.

Bob Evans, Nov. 11, 2015. Free All you can eat hotcakes.

Bonanza Steakhouse, Nov. 11, 2015. Free Veterans Day buffet.

Carraba’s Nov. 9 – Nov. 15, 2015 Free appetizer. Need proof of service

Chili’s – Free meal, Nov. 11 2015.Any lunch combo, or your choice of dinner meal from select menu, including any full-size flatbread. Dine-in from limited menu; beverages and gratuity not included.

Denny’s, 11/11/15 5am-noon.Free Grand Slam

Einstein Bros Bagels, Nov. 11, 2015. Free coffee.

Famous Dave’s, Nov. 11, 2015. meat, side, corn muffin

Golden Corral – Free meal, Nov. 11, 2015 (5pm – 9pm)

Hooters 11/11/15. free meal, up to $10.99 w/drink purchase

Hoss’s Family Steak & Sea House, Nov. 11, 2015. Free meal from the American Values Menu, 11am – 9pm. Dine-in only.

IHOP 11/11/15 7a-7p Free Red, White & Blue pancakes or combo plate

Krispy Kreme – Free donut & small coffee, Nov. 11, 2015.

Little Caesars 11/11/15. Free pizza or $5 HOT-N-READY Lunch Combo 11am-2pm

Lone Star Steakhouse, Nov. 11, 2015 a free Starter.

LongHorn Steakhouse 11/11/15 Texas Tonion& drink.

Max & Erma’s,.Free Best Cheeseburger Combo,

Olive Garden, Free entrée, Nov. 11, 2015.

Outback Steakhouse, Nov. 11, 2015.Free Bloomin’ Onion and a non-alcoholic beverage. 15% off your purchase 11/12-12/31/2015

Ponderosa Steakhouse, Nov. 11, 2015. Free Veterans Day buffet

Primanti Bros, Nov. 11, 2015.. Free Sandwich from 4pm to close.

Red Lobster 11/9-11/12 Free Appetizer or Dessert.

Red Robin, 11/11. Free Red’s Tavern Double & Steak Fries

Ruby Tuesday’s, Nov. 11, 2014. Free appetizer.

Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza & Grill, 11/11. Free garlic cheese bread or hummus w/ grilled herb flatbread Dine-in only at participating locations

Sheetz, Nov. 11, 2015. Free lunch & car wash at participating locations.

Shoney’s, Nov. 11, 2015. Free All-American Burger 15% everyday hometown heroes discount (military, fire, Police, EMT).

Sizzler 11/11. Free lunch until 4pm. Not valid for salad bar

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill, Nov. 11, 2015. Free meal special menu

Spaghetti Warehouse 11/9-11/11. Buy 1 entrée, get 1 free. Coupon Required: available on their website and FaceBook page 11/3

StarBucks, 11/11/15. Free tall brewed coffee for vets & their spouses

Tap House Grill, Nov. 11, 2015. Free meal. Dine-in only.

Texas Corral – 11/11/15. Free entrée (dine-in only).

Texas Roadhouse, Nov. 11, 2015. Choose from one of 10 free meals, plus sides and a soft drink, coffee, or tea. Dine-in only. T.G.I. Friday’s, Nov. 11, 2015. Free lunch 11am – 2pm

Tim Hortons, Nov. 11, 2015–free donut. No purchase necessary.

Travel Centers of America 11/11. Free meal for CDL holder veterans.

Uno Chicago Grill 11/11. Free individual pizza or entrée with the purchase of a pizza or entrée. No coupon necessary.

Monday, October 05, 2015

October is Long-term Care Resident Rights Month

The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law requires each nursing home to care for its residents in a manner that promotes and enhances the quality of life of each resident, ensuring dignity, choice, and self-determination.

Nursing home and other residential healthcare facility residents are entitled to rights including the right to be informed, the right to complain, the right to participate in their own care and planning, rights of privacy and confidentiality, and rights to dignity, respect, and freedom.

Any one of us could become a resident of a long-term care facility. Wouldn't you want to preserve your self-determination if you needed to live in a nursing home or assisted living home? Making sure residents know their rights and have access to support for exercising them is important to the whole community.

Friday, October 02, 2015

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

West Virginia Senior Legal Aid supports full inclusion in the workplace for people with disabilities. We celebrate the contributions of Americans with disabilities in the workplace, past, present, and future.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Homecare Workers Entitled to Minimum Wage and Overtime, Appeals Court Says

Today a The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a challenge filed by the Home Care Association of America and others to the US Department of Labor regulation that homecare workers are entitled to the protections of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Home Care Association of America v. Weil U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, No. 15-5018.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in all 50 States

Today, June 16, 2015, the US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. This means the 14 states that did not recognize gay/same-sex marriage (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas) now must allow same-sex couples to wed. The US Supreme Court also stated that all states must recognize same-sex marriages that are performed in other states. This ruling takes effect immediately and invalidates any laws that restrict same-sex couples from getting married. For further information click one of the following links: (The opinion in full) (Services and Advocacy for GBLT Elders)

Here is some important info for older same-sex couples, this brought to you by the good folks at Justice in Aging:



Seniors may be eligible for Social Security, Medicare, and/or Medicaid benefits based on the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage rights. These clients should make the relevant applications ASAP, and preferably by this month, to begin eligibility at the earliest possible date.

Immediate impact of the Obergefell Marriage Rights Decision: Some married persons may be eligible immediately for previously inaccessible Social Security, Medicare, and/or Medicaid benefits. Please read the following to see if it applies to you:

Why should I apply now? If you are married but your marriage was not recognized prior to the Supreme Court decision, you may have had reduced eligibility for Social Security, Medicare, and/or Medicaid, because these programs have treated you as unmarried. You and your spouse now may have the right to have your marriage considered in eligibility determinations.

Why is June 30 important? The beginning date of benefits generally is based on the month of application. A delay from June 30 to July 1 or from July 31 to August 1 might mean loss of a month of benefits, or a month of health coverage. Don’t wait. Apply now even if you are not sure if and when you qualify.

What kind of benefits are now available? Status as a married person is relevant for determining eligibility for benefits such as the following:
-Enhanced Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s or deceased spouse’s earnings
-Premium-free Medicare Part A benefits
-Medicaid coverage of nursing home expenses, or expenses of other long-term services and supports
-Social Security survivor benefits (if your spouse has died)

Here are some situations in which status as a married person might be particularly important for determination of benefits:
My spouse has earned more. If you are married to someone with a significantly higher income, you may be eligible for a higher Social Security benefit.
I do not have enough work history for Medicare Part A. If your spouse receives Medicare but you do not have enough work history, you may be entitled to Medicare Part A based on your spouse’s work history. I am paying for Medicare Part A. If you are paying for Medicare Part A because you do not have enough work history, but your spouse receives Medicare, you should be eligible for Medicare based on your spouse.
My spouse or I live in a nursing home or receive other types of long-term services and supports. The Medicaid program covers nursing home care and other types of long-term services and supports. Medicaid’s eligibility calculations allow the sick person’s spouse to receive a significant allocation of the sick person’s savings or income, before Medicaid determines what the sick person might have to contribute to his or her own health care.
My spouse passed away nine months after we were married. If your spouse has died, you may be entitled to Social Security survivor benefits.

What do I need to do? For Social Security and Medicare, contact Social Security ASAP and preferably by Tuesday, June 30:
By Phone: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778)
In person: Find an office:
On line:
Medicaid eligibility is handled by local Medicaid offices. Contact your county or your state Medicaid agency for additional information. Again, application should be made ASAP, and preferably by June 30.

BOTTOM LINE: Get this process started. Contact Social Security and/or Medicaid to apply for benefits.

Be sure to get a confirmation number or other confirmation to show when your application was filed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act

On June 8, 2015 a new law will take effect in West Virginia that supports family caregivers when their loved ones are admitted into a hospital. AARP West Virginia promoted the bill (House Bill 2100 that passed unanimously in the West Virginia House of Delegates and in the West Virginia Senate. Governor Tomblin signed the CARE Act into law on March 27, 2015. After June 8, 2015 health care facilities will be required to: Record the name of family caregivers on the medical record of a loved one; Inform the family caregiver when their loved one is to be discharged back home; and, Give the family caregiver education and instruction on the medical tasks, such as medication management, injections, wound care and transfers, they will need to perform at home.

The text of the West Virginia House Bill 2100 can be accessed here:

The CARE Act became law in Oklahoma and New Jersey in 2014. In 2015 West Virginia, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Virginia enacted the CARE Act.

AARP created the model CARE Act legislation to help family caregivers. Almost half of the 42 million family caregivers in America have performed medical or nursing tasks for their loved ones. These tasks include: managing multiple medications providing wound care managing special diets operating monitors or other specialized medical equipment

To find tools and support and to connect with other caregivers visit the AARP Caregiver Resource Center: f

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Looking for info on the new state budget?

Here's a link to the memo from Governor Tomblin about the revisions he proposes to the House's budget bill HB 2016.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Eligibility charts for QMB, SLMB, LIS

Thank you NCOA for these easy-to-use charts of eligibility criteria for programs for low-income Medicare beneficiaries. In particular, here are the numbers updated to reflect the 2015 poverty guidelines for Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), Specified Low-Income Beneficiary (SLMB), which help pay some Medicare Part B beneficiary costs, and Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) which help pay some beneficiary costs for Part D drug plans.

Chart for QMB/SLMB

Chart for LIS

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Scam Alert: bogus calls claiming to be IRS

Senior West Virginians, be on the alert. It's tax time, and a scam that has appeared cyclically over the years is rearing its ugly head again lately. A caller claims to be an Officer with the IRS and says that you owe taxes. It may or may not be preceded by a letter that appears to be from the IRS, too. The caller may be aggressive and make try to make you feel urgency to pay a reduced amount to prevent a lawsuit.

No government agency will ever call you to tell you that you owe money. If you actually owe any debt to the government you will only ever be notified by mail, and your legal rights to dispute the matter will be at least briefly explained in the letter.

Like any other caller, you should never give any personal or identifying information over the phone. Any legitimate creditor, whether a government agency, a utility company, a credit card company, or other, will respect your request to communicate with you in writing only.

Please consider reporting to the IRS if you receive a call like this impersonating an IRS agent. If If you are not sure and want to verify with the IRS whether or not you owe any taxes you can call them at 800-829-1040.
Please also consider sharing this information with people you know. Talk to other seniors, families, and people who work with seniors about how this scam works. You may be able to help prevent a senior from being victimized by spreading the word so she is alert to the possibility from the very beginning of such a call.

For more information from the IRS about these scams see

Friday, January 30, 2015

Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2015

The following figures are the 2015 HHS poverty guidelines which were published in the Federal Register on January 22, 2015.

Family Size

Gross Yearly Income

Gross Monthly Income



$ 981

























For more information about the guildelines see

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Regular WV Legislative Session begins 1/14/15

Our state legislature meets annually for a regular 60 day session. This year's session begins 1/14/15. Here below are important dates from this session. You can print the legislature's schedule at

First Day - January 14, 2015: First day of session. (WV Const. Art. VI, §18)

Twentieth Day - February 2, 2015: Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review bills due. (WV Code §29A-3-12)

Forty-first Day - February 23, 2015: Last day to introduce bills in the Senate and the House. (Senate Rule 14), (House Rule 91a) Does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills. Does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.

Forty-seventh Day - March 1, 2015: Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.

Fiftieth Day - March 4, 2015: Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin. Does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills. (Joint Rule 5b)

Sixtieth Day - March 14, 2015: Adjournment at Midnight. (WV Const. Art. VI, §22)

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Monroe County jury verdict for damages including punitives for 98 yr old financial exploitation victim

Three cheers for attorney John Bryan for winning a civil jury verdict for $325,000 in damages including $175,000 in punitives for fraud, conversion, unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary duty by Betty B. Brown, a former bank executive.
The victim, 98 year old Isadora Beavers, had given power of attorney to Brown, a trusted financial professional, who then abused it and deeded Beavers' real estate to herself among other breaches of her fiduciary duty.
What is remarkable about this case is that it got pursued to verdict, not that the abuse occurred. Sadly older West Virginians are exploited financially by people in positions of trust frequently. And it can be very difficult for the victim to get her money and property back. Often the trusted perpetrator is a beloved family member, a friend from church, a helpful neighbor, or as in this case a professional who is presumed by all including the victim to be trustworthy. It may take a long time for the victim to even recognize she has been exploited by a clever perpetrator. The victim may not be believed when she tries to get help. The case may be complicated to pursue. The assets may already by gone. The victim may be dependent for various kinds of help or companionship from the perpetrator. Like domestic violence, the exploitation is likely to have been a gradual incremental kind of abuse that started almost unnoticeably small.
Financial exploitation is both a crime and a violation of civil law. Often it takes multiple entities working together to make the abuse stop, get justice, get remedy, and hlep the senior get back her independence. These can include civil legal services, law enforcement and proscutor, adult protective services, community senior services, homecare and other disability services, benefits providers, bank personnel, Postal inspectors, Medicaid fraud investgators, healthcare providers, long-term care ombudsmen, and others. Did I leave you out?
For more information about this case please see this article from the Beckley Register Herald

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

LIEAP Low Income Energy Assistance Program 2015 Info Sheet

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources LlEAP FACT SHEET FY 2015

The FY 2015 Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LiEAP) is administered by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Children and Families, Office of Children and Family Policy, Division of Family Assistance. The program provides assistance to lowincome households in meeting the costs of home heating. Funding for the program is made available through a federal block grant, and use of the funds is subject to federal regulations.

Program Duration
The opening and closing of the Regular LlEAP component will be announced as appropriate. The Emergency LlEAP component will open following the close of Regular LlEAP and will continue until remaining funds are exhausted. The program is subject to closure without advance notice. This assistance is offered only during the heating season.

Eligibility Requirements
In order to be eligible for LlEAP, a household must be responsible for the cost of home heating, and the total gross monthly income of the household must fall within certain eligibility guidelines. (Some types of income may be excluded for LlEAP).
The maximum allowable gross income levels for LlEAP FY 2015 are listed below:
1 Person Household$1 ,265
2 Person Household$1,705
3 Person Household$2,144
4 Person Household$2,584
5 Person Household$3,024
6 Person Household$3,464
7 Person Household$3,904
8 Person Household$4,344
9 Person Household$4,784
10 Person Household$5,224
For each additional person, add $440.

Applications from ineligible households will be denied. Individuals who are denied may reapply, providing the program is still open, or may request a fair hearing. Once the program closes, applications will no longer be accepted, and those received by mail after closure will be denied. All applications will be processed within 30 days after receipt by DHHR or one of the agencies authorized to accept LlEAP applications, or after the date the program opens, whichever is later. Approved payments will be made directly to a vendor where appropriate.

Where to Apply
Application forms may be obtained from local DHHR offices, Community Action agencies, or senior centers after the program opens. Targeted households will receive an automatic payment or an application by mail prior to the opening date of the program. The application form will also be available on the DHHR website at /i nroads/. Applications may be mailed to or dropped off at a local DHHR office or made in person at any of the above locations after the program opens. LlEAP forms must not be mailed to home heating providers, as this will delay the application process. DHHR will make the final decision regarding eligibility.

Application Procedures
The following items are required to process LlEAP applications and must be included with or attached to any application mailed to DHHR:
1. Name, Social Security Number, and birth date (not age) of each household member (anyone living in the home at the time of application).
2. Proof of all household income (earned and unearned) when any household member is employed (check stubs, award letters, employer statements, etc.). If no one is employed, the amount of any unearned income must be entered on the application.
3. A recent heating bill, showing the account number, or bulk fuel receipt, as appropriate. If a bill or receipt is not available, other documentation of the monthly heating cost must be provided. This may include receipts from last winter, providing there has been no change in address or heating source, or a note from the landlord or utility provider.
4. If the household claims zero income, applicants may be asked to provide statements that document how living expenses have been met at least 30 days prior to the date of application, and that home heating costs are not being paid by someone not in the home.
5. A telephone number where the applicant can be reached or can receive a message. If any additional information is required to process the application andlor determine eligibility for LlEAP, applicants will be contacted and allowed at least (10) business days from the date of the request to obtain and return the requested information. Individuals applying in person are asked to bring the verifications to the interview.

Emergency L1EAP
Application for Emergency LlEAP must be made in person at a DHHR office when a household receives a termination notice from the home heating vendor or runs out of, or is nearly out of, bulk fuel. Applicants must verify that this is a true home heating emergency as defined by DHHR policy. Any additional information required to determine eligibility must be provided within five (5) business days from the date of application. Failure to provide requested verification will result in denial of the Emergency LlEAP application. Households may be referred for energy conservation andlor money management counseling when available.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

West Virginians, do you have input about the future of senior services?

The WV Bureau of Senior Services is planning for the future and interested in your input. Survey here

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

UPDATED 12/1/14 Silver Alert issued for Belington woman

UPDATE: On 12/1/14 Valerie Kay Robinson's body was found and has been sent to the State Medical Examiner's office.
The Barbour County Sheriff's Department has issued a silver alert for a Belington woman.
Valerie Kay Robinson, 57, of Belington was last seen at 5:30 p.m. at her residences on Centre Street in Belington. Robinson suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Robinson is 5'2”, 140 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a white sweater, black dress pants, a Native American style headband, and was carrying a green purse.
If you have any information on Robinson's whereabouts, please contact the Barbour County Sheriff's Department 304-457-5167.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Public hearings on 17% rate increases for WV electric customers

West Virginians served by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, American Electric Power’s (AEP) operating electric utility providers in the Mountain State can attend a series of upcoming public hearings, as the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (WV PSC) considers approval of a proposed 17 percent rate hike that will impact approximately 476,000 customers in 23 West Virginia counties.

Earlier this year, AEP filed a request with the WV PSC for a $226 million increase in current rates and charges for their West Virginia customers. The filing also includes a requested revision of AEP’s depreciation rates.

The WV PSC will host a series of public hearings on this rate case (WV PSC Cases #14-1152-E-42T and #14-1151-E-D) in five communities:
Bradshaw: Wednesday, Nov. 5
1 p.m. & 6 p.m., Bradshaw Community Center.

Princeton: Thursday, Nov. 6
1 p.m. & 6 p.m., Mercer County Courthouse, 1501 Main St.

Huntington: Thursday, Nov. 13
1 p.m. & 6 p.m., Cabell County Courthouse, 750 5th Ave.

Wheeling: Thursday, Nov. 20
1 p.m. & 6 p.m., Ohio County Courthouse, City-County Complex, 1500 Chapline St.

Charleston: Monday, Jan. 12, 2015
1 p.m. & 6 p.m., Public Service Commission of WV, 201 Brooks St.

The WV PSC will hold evidentiary hearings on the case January 13 – 16, 2015 in Charleston. Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power customers may submit comments online at by selecting the “Submit A Comment” link, or mail public comment to the West Virginia Public Service Commission, 201 Brooks Street, PO Box 812, Charleston, WV 25323. (Reference PSC Case Number #14-1152-E-42T and #14-1151-E-D).

- See more at:

- Thank you AARP WV for putting together this information for publication

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Training: Improving Services to LGBT Older Adults

The WVU School of Social Work in partnership with the WV Bureau of Senior Services and SAGE Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders is offering a day-long training:

Improving the Quality of Services and Supports Offered to LGBT Older Adults by Aging Network Providers

November 7, 2014
Monongalia General Hospital Conference Center, Mylan Room, Morgantown, WV
Approved for 8 Social Work hours,7.5 LPC hours,9 Nursing hours, and 8 Gerontology Practitioner Certificate hours (4 hours Social Policy and Aging and 4 hours Psychosocial Processes and Mental Health)

Cost: $85 (early bird rate of $76.50 by October 10, 2014)

Kathi Boyle, Coordinator of Older Adult Services at PERSAD Center in Pittsburgh, PA will be the trainer for the workshop. Ms. Boyle is a certified trainer through the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging
*Participants will understand the culture, specific health risks, and health disparities impacting the elderly Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) population.
*Participants will learn how to expand and change current policy and practice areas to ensure safety, quality and inclusiveness of services for this population
*Completion of the training includes agency listing in a searchableonline database for LGBT consumers at

For more information or to register, go to and click on the Registration Form link. You'll need to fill in the information about this particular workshop, the form is generic for all the workshops offered this year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WVU Festival of Ideas present 97 yr old photojournalist John G. Morris

October 8, 2014
7:30 p.m.
The Erickson Alumni Center

John Godfrey Morris is the most influential photo editor of his generation. His work with Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, among many other influential photojournalists, can be seen in the iconic images from Life, Ladies’ Home Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and National Geographic that define the visual memory of the 20th century. At 97 years old, he hasn’t slowed down, spending his time as a freelance writer and editor working for peace.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Senior Legal Aid's Greatest Hits

We've served over 12,000 senior West Virginians over the past 15+ years. We've gotten questions about a broad variety of civil legal issues: consumer, healthcare, landlord/tenant, home ownership, family law, planning for incapacity, disability rights, elder abuse, nursing home, Social Security and other benefits, even paternity. From soup to nuts. I don't think we've ever gotten exactly the same question or problem twice.

But there are a few answers and advice that keep coming back, at least to prevent future problems if not solve the current one. Here are a few of those old chestnuts:

  1. Don't sign anything you don't understand or haven't read carefully. It might seem obvious but people do it and call us with the regrets. If you don't feel comfortable reading it yourself, get somebody your trust to read it for you. If you're being pressured to sign without carefully reviewing, it's probably a bad idea, don't do it.
  2. Neither the credit card company nor their collection agents can garnish your Social Security. So there's not likely any reason to keep talking to them when they call after you've already told them you can't afford to pay the bill. There's nothing you can say that will change that situation. The debt won't go away merely because you can't pay it, but they won't get paid if what little you get each month and have is protected by law from collections.
  3. When filing a complaint focus more on the solution than the problem. The more specific you can be about what you want to have happen now the more likely you are to get it. Rather than rehashing what already happened, what they did that wasn't right, trying to figure out why people do things you don't like, try making it easy for somebody to say "Yes, let's do that, that's a reasonable solution."
  4. Don't pay people up front for work, pay after the work is satisfactorily completed. Reputable contractors have credit they can use for materials. Disreputable ones don't. The lowest bidder on the job is not likely to do the best work.
  5. Get it in writing. Not only will it help prove your case if a problem arises, it prevents a lot of problems. When you each see the specific terms of an agreement you might realize, that's not what I thought you meant, or I didn't realize there would be these other costs, too.
  6. The law can't make a bad _________________ (landlord, boss, neighbor, etc.) into a good ____________________ (landlord, boss, neighbor, etc.). The law is mostly designed to get you compensated if somebody harms you, and you can prove it, and they have resources to pay. The law does not prevent people from lying, being mean, doing stupid things, violating your rights, or all the other bad things people do to each other. Only the Magic 8 Ball knows why people act the say they do. "They can't do that, can they?" Apparently they did, so yes, they can. The question I can answer better is how can you exercise your right to make it stop and try to get them to pay you for the damage.

Oh, there are so many more of these, maybe it merits a Part Two post sometime. Til then, here's hoping your neighbors, bosses, landlords, in-laws, merchants, banks, and spouses treat you with the kindness and respect you deserve!