Wednesday, November 11, 2020

WV Senior Legal Aid is open today in honor of our veterans

 

West Virginia Senior Legal Aid appreciates all our state's seniors who have served in the armed forces. We appreciate their families, too. We are open today to provide free legal services to any senior West Virginian age 60 or over, and we encourage any veteran especially to call us at 1.800.229.5068. Thank you for your service.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Behind on utilities? Watch your mail! Short deadline to get help!


On 10/21/20 the Governor announced that West Virginians whose utilities went unpaid because of COVID-19 may be eligible for CARES Act funding to pay them.

According to the press release: "Customers of electric, natural gas, water, and sewer utility companies who have experienced economic hardship and/or uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, causing them to have unpaid utility bills from the period of March 1 – July 31 of this year, may receive financial assistance to pay those bills."

The utility companies will receive the funds, and are sending out letters to potentially eligible customers with the application for help.

Even if you're not sure you qualify, might as well apply. Even if it doesn't cover your entire arrearage, might as well apply. 

If you have unpaid utilities from this time be on the lookout for a letter from your utility company that will include the application. Your completed application must be returned by NOVEMBER 12, 2020. 

It's a very short deadline. Tell your friends about it, they may know someone who needs to know. Some folks just throw out mail from the utility company when they think it's just another bill they can't pay, so it's important for folks who need it to know this letter is coming.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Email saying $299 subscription renewal fee coming out of your bank account? It's a phishing scam.


It might say it's a renewal of your Windows Defender subscription, or some other subscription service. It might say the fee for renewal is $299 and it will be charged from your checking account. It will probably say something about 24 hours and create some urgency for you, a hallmark of scams. It will likely have a phone number that it says to call if you don't want the subscription.

DON'T CALL the number. Don't reply in any form.

This is a phishing scam, and these kinds are rampant right now.

If you've been scammed you are not alone. No one is immune from this kind of victimization, no matter how educated, how smart, or how wealthy you are. 

Hearing about the details of these scams before you get the email increases your likelihood you'll recognize and avoid when it lands in your inbox. So tell your friends! Pass it on.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Track your Absentee Ballot online


There are various news stories out there creating concern about the security of our elections. Specifically there have been concerns raised about absentee voting. One tool West Virginians can use to secure their vote is the absentee ballot tracking system you can find online at https://sites.omniballot.us/54/absentee/app/home

Any registered West Virginia voter can vote absentee in the upcoming November election. Many already have. In order to get an absentee ballot you must complete an application for absentee ballot. You can get a printable application for absentee ballot here  https://sos.wv.gov/FormSearch/Elections/Voter/Absentee%20Ballot%20Application.pdf or you can apply online at https://sites.omniballot.us/54/absentee/app/home. Though you must have a reason to vote absentee, anyone can check the first box claiming health concerns because of COVID-19 and that will be accepted by the Clerk as a valid reason to absentee vote for this election.

The last day to request an absentee ballot is October 28. After your absentee ballot application is received by your County Clerk, you will be mailed an absentee ballot.

Then once you fill out your absentee ballot you can either mail it in or hand deliver it to your County Clerk. 

The last day to mail your completed absentee ballot is election day, November 3, 2020.

You can find answers to questions about voting in this election at the WV Secretary of State's website at https://sos.wv.gov/elections/Pages/FAQs.aspx






Thursday, September 03, 2020

Census participation critical for seniors, deadline moved up to 9/30/20


The US Census Bureau has moved up the final deadline for getting counted in the 2020 census to September 30, 2020. That means you have one month less than previously announced to complete your census.

Seniors are among the most important West Virginians to get counted because so many of our programs and services for seniors are funded in part by federal dollars. Federal funding is distributed across the country through formulas that are based on these census figures.

So the more seniors who get counted in West Virginia the higher our share of federal funding for many programs for seniors like home delivered meals, transportation, and home care.

It's a crime to refuse to participate in the census, though we have never heard of anyone actually being prosecuted for it.

If you haven't completed your census yet for whatever reason, you still have time, but not much. You can submit your information online or find out how to submit it by phone or mail by going to https://my2020census.gov/

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Absentee voting, deadlines, and other election stuff



The general election is November 3, 2020, not so far away. Like in the primary election this year, you can choose to vote absentee in the general election in WV if you want to avoid the possibility of getting exposed to the coronavirus at the polls.

Unlike in the primary election, however, you will not automatically get a postcard with the application for you to complete to request an absentee ballot. This time you will have to get your own WV Absentee Ballot Application. You can either enter your request online at https://sites.omniballot.us/54/absentee/app/home or you can download at https://sos.wv.gov/FormSearch/Elections/Voter/Absentee%20Ballot%20Application.pdf  If you are at least 60 yrs old and need help downloading or printing an application for absentee ballot you can call WV Senior Legal Aid at 1.800.229.5068.

The official deadline for you to get your application for absentee ballot submitted is October 28, 2020. 

But there are practical concerns about the time it may take for your mailed application to arrive, so you risk missing that deadline if you cut it too close. According to the WV Secretary of State's office "Absentee applications received after October 28, even if postmarked, cannot be accepted by law." 

Your completed absentee ballot must be postmarked no later than November 3, 2020 to count. If you change your mind after receiving your absentee ballot and want to go vote in person, YOU SHOULD BRING YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT WITH YOU to the polls. It must be destroyed there before you vote in person, or you'll have to vote a challenge ballot. It's complicated.

Another option to avoid crowds on election day is to early-vote in person. Early voting in person can be done from October 21 through October 31, check with your county courthouse for locations and times.

Older West Virginians, your vote is important. Your need to protect yourself from infection is important, too. Contact WV Senior Legal Aid at 1.800.229.5068 if you are at least 60 yrs old and have concerns or questions about election procedures or your rights.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

WV DMV: drivers licenses expiration extended to end of 2020, but license plates extension ends 9/30/20


Because of the pandemic the WV Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) had allowed that drivers licenses and vehicle registrations that were to expire after March 1, 2020 were extended through September, 2020.

They have continued that extension for drivers licenses now through the end of the year. So if your drivers license (or drivers permit or commercial drivers license) says it expires anytime after March 1, 2020, you now have until December 31, 2020 to renew it.

The new extension, however, does not apply to vehicle registrations. So if your license plate expiration date is between March 2020 and September 2020, it must be renewed by September 30, 2020.

For more information and ways you can renew your licenses and registrations safely see the WV DMV website at https://transportation.wv.gov/DMV/News/Pages/Driver%27s-license-expiration-dates-extended-through-the-end-of-the-year.aspx

Thursday, August 13, 2020

read free online Surviving Debt: Expert Advice for Getting Out of Financial Trouble

The National Consumer Law Center, an excellent nonprofit resource on economic justice for vulnerable Americans, has made the 2020 edition of their book Surviving Debt available to read for free online during the COVID-19 crisis.

Click here to read https://library.nclc.org/sd/0102



Thursday, June 25, 2020

Contact tracer or scammer?


In order to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus our county health departments are conducting contract tracing to track down and isolate infected people, and to alert people who may have been exposed. Contact tracers do their work by contacting individuals and asking them questions designed to help determine who has been exposed and who may be infected.

This creates an opportunity for imposters to try to get our personal information for identity theft.

We have a duty to the community to cooperate with legitimate contact tracers, and our health departments have the authority to legally order us to cooperate. So if you are contacted by someone claiming to be a coronovirus contact tracer you should carefully determine if the person asking for our personal information is legitimate or an imposter.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says legitimate contact tracers may call, email, text, or visit your home to collect information. They may ask you for:

  • your name and address
  • health information
  • the names of places and people you have visited

Scammers will ask you to do more. Here are some things to do to protect yourself from fake contact tracers.

  • Don’t pay a contact tracer. Anyone who says you need to pay is a scammer, plain and simple.
  • Don’t give your Social Security number or financial information. There’s no reason for a legit contact tracer to need your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number.
  • Don’t share your immigration status. Legit contact tracers don’t need — and won’t ask for — this information.
  • Don’t click on links or download anything sent from a contact tracer. Real tracers will only send you texts or emails that say they’ll be calling you — not ask you to click or download anything.

What should you do if you think you’re dealing with a fake contact tracer? Check with your state health department to see if they have a way to make sure the person contacting you is a real contact tracer. Otherwise, hang up, close the door, or don’t respond to, click on, or download anything that may be in an email or text. Then, report it to your state and tell the FTC about it at FTC.gov/complaint.

Any West Virginia senior age 60 or over can call WV Senior Legal Aid and talk to a lawyer about contact tracing or other legal issues. 1.800.229.5068.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day



June 15 every year is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This year many older people are struggling with isolation more than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we know isolation is a big risk factor for elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

On this day we focus on preventing, intervening in, and getting justice for elder abuse around the world and in West Virginia.

You can report elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation in West Virginia by calling our state's Adult Protective Services hotline at 1-800-352-6513.

Anyone may join this free webinar today from 1p to 3p EDT to learn about elder abuse and COVID-19. 

Monday, June 08, 2020

Make your vote count! Important info about your absentee ballot.

West Virginians, we have an election tomorrow. It's a primary election for many offices, but it's the final election for non-partisan offices like judges at all levels. 

If you applied for an absentee ballot in order for your vote to count you must either: bring your completed ballot in person to your county clerk today, mail your ballot with postmark by tomorrow, or vote in person tomorrow at your polling place. 

But if you received an absentee ballot upon your request but never sent it in and prefer to vote in person at your polling place you should BRING THE ABSENTEE BALLOT WITH YOU to the polling place. You can still vote if you haven't already turned in your absentee ballot and you don't bring in the blank one to be destroyed at the polling place, however, you will have to vote a provisional ballot. That means your vote will not be counted on election night, it will be sent to the Board of Canvassers for further on a case-by-case basis. 

It is fraud a crime to vote twice, so if you voted by absentee ballot it is not legal for you to vote again in person at your polling place.

Friday, May 22, 2020

WV Courts back open for non-emergency proceedings

Several previous orders issued by the WV Supreme Court of Appeals closing the courts except for emergencies have expired and proceedings including hearings and trials will be happening again in magistrate, family, and circuit courts in our state.

Though all the courts are encouraged to use technology to allow remote attendance for proceedings, each county and court will function a little differently. 

If you have had a court proceeding that was delayed during the pandemic you should expect to get notified about scheduling soon. If you have concerns about your safety appearing in court you can call the judge or magistrate's office and talk to the clerk about how to safely make your appearance.

Here's the most recent order about how the courts will resume non-emergency operations http://www.courtswv.gov/covid19/ResumptionOfOperations-ProtocolsandMap5-6-20.pdf. If you are at least 60 years old and a West Virginian with a legal question or problem you can call WV Senior Legal Aid and talk to an attorney for free. 1.800.229.5068.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Retirement Account Changes

Significant changes relating to tax-deferred retirement account distributions have occurred in recent months.

First and foremost, for 2020, the CARES Act suspended the requirement for older account owners to make mandatory distributions from their retirement accounts during the year because of the economic downturn. Of course, voluntary distributions are still permitted.

Further, for over 30 years, those with retirement accounts knew that voluntary withdrawals, subject to federal income taxes, could begin at age 59 1/2 and that required minimum distributions, based on an age/rate chart, had to start at age 70 1/2 (with certain exceptions).

Now, because of the SECURE Act, the magic age for required withdrawals (other than during the 2020 suspension) is 72.

This federal law became effective in December 2019 and has permanently extended the starting time for future mandatory distributions from retirement accounts to age 72. In these roller coaster stock market times, being able to wait that extra time could allow the account balance to recover.

Many people earmark their retirement accounts as possible inheritance funds for their family. Delaying distributions on these tax-deferred funds as long as the law allows can mean larger future balances.

The new law also changes the after-death rules for distributions to heirs. The full account balance must be paid out within 10 years, with exceptions for spouses and certain other individuals. Previously, many heirs could stretch out distributions over their lifetimes to reduce the income taxes owed from receiving such distributions.

Charitable use of Individual Retirement Account (IRA) funds can also be a way to avoid income taxes. Starting at age 70 1/2, amounts up to $100,000 from an IRA (but not from other types of retirement accounts) can be used each year for charitable purposes and escape federal and West Virginia taxation. These charitable gifts satisfy the required minimum distribution rules, when applicable, as well.

For assistance dealing with tax and other legal issues, contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at 800-229–5068. Those age 60 and over living in the state are eligible for this free help.

Friday, May 08, 2020

TOO MANY DEBTS?

Too many debts to deal with these days?

Unfortunately, many Americans are finding that to be true as we endure the novel coronavirus pandemic and its far-reaching economic impact.

While there are programs to freeze or defer some debts and expenses temporarily, such as credit card payments and rent, that relief is just for the short term.

As many struggle to keep up with their bills in these uncertain times, the suggestion of contacting your creditors to work out terms to handle these debts probably should not be the first step taken.

Instead, looking at the big picture and listing which debts are past due, currently due, and will be owed in the near future may be the most beneficial starting point.

Of course, being able to pay for the necessities of food, shelter, utilities and transportation is at the top of the list for your budget. If one or more of those bills is past due, they are crucial to focus on immediately.

The staff attorneys at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid can help state residents, age 60 and over, review their current financial situation and work out a listing of which bills need to be given top priority, secondary priority, and so on.

The WVSLA attorneys have experience working with the laws, programs and regulations dealing with mortgages, rent, utilities, car loans, credit cards, etc. and can assist with recommending how to put your financial house in order. There is no charge for their guidance.

Remember also that some debt collectors will use predatory practices. They will attempt to persuade you to pay the debt they are trying to collect and will have no concern about any others that won’t be paid.

Finding the right combination of satisfying current living expenses and handling debt can take some thought and effort. Calling West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at 800-229-5068 can help seniors avoid painful mistakes and get going in the right direction.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

WV DMV gives automatic extensions on driver's licenses, permits, registration, and inspection

Don't panic if your WV driver's license, driver's permit, car registration expired in March 2020 or April 2020 you have a three month extension to get those renewed. Vehicle inspections that expire from April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2020 will have a 3 month grace period, and the vehicle inspection program will be suspended during this time.

WV DMV is currently closed to the public in accordance with Governor's stay-at-home order to prevent COVID-19 exposure to customers and employees.

You can still use the DMV's online services and mail-in services if you wish to do things like driver's license renewal with no changes, registration renewals, obtaining duplicate driver's licenses, registration cards, decals, and plates, obtaining driving records, request a personalized plate, etc.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Covid-19 Relief Package: Stimulus Payments to Seniors

To help alleviate some of the economic fallout from the Covid-19 crisis, the US government has issued new federal stimulus legislation, called the CARES Act. As part of this stimulus package, the government is preparing to send out direct payments to help individuals amid the pandemic. Many seniors may be wondering if they are eligible to receive a stimulus payment; if so, for how much; and what, if anything, they need to do in order to get the funds.

Who is eligible?

The legislation will give single adults with adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less on their 2019 tax returns a one-time check for $1,200. Married couples who filed jointly with incomes under $150,000 will receive $2,400. Families will get an additional $500 for each child.

For individuals with income above this amount, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000 threshold. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible for the stimulus payment.

Individuals who are collecting Social Security benefits for retirement, disability, or Supplemental Security Income are eligible for the stimulus payments.

I am not typically required to file a tax return because my income is low, so I didn't for 2018 or 2019. Can I still receive my payment?

Yes. For the many low-income seniors who are not required to file a federal tax return the CARES Act provides that the IRS to get information from the Social Security Administration about where to send your check. Folks who receive Social Security retirement benefits, Social Security Disability benefits, and/or SSI benefits will not have to take any action to receive their stimulus payment.

How Will I Receive My Payment?

The IRS will send the payments either electronically through direct deposit into people's bank accounts if that is how they receive their tax refunds or their Social Security or SSI benefits. If you receive refunds or benefits by paper check, you will receive your stimulus money by paper check. If you receive benefits on a Direct Express card it is not yet clear whether you will receive your stimulus money on the card or through a paper check.

For those who do not already have their bank account information on record with the IRS or SSA, the IRS says it is planning to develop “in the coming weeks” a web-based portal where individuals could provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail.

When will I receive the stimulus money?

Direct deposits should begin within the next few weeks, and checks will be mailed later.

I have a tax filing obligation but have not filed my tax return for 2018 or 2019. Can I still receive an economic impact payment?

Yes. The IRS urges anyone with a tax filing obligation who has not yet filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019 to file as soon as they can to receive an economic impact payment. Taxpayers should include direct deposit banking information on the return in order to receive the payment more quickly.

Will this stimulus money knock me off my other federal benefits like SNAP or Medicaid or HUD?

No. The CARES Act provides that this money is not countable income for 12 months after you receive it for any federal, state, or local programs that are funded in whole or in part with federal funds.

For the more info regarding stimulus payments visit:

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know
https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus
https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus
https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2020/coronavirus-stimulus-checks.html

Thursday, March 26, 2020

WV Judicial Emergency for COVID-19, most proceedings and deadlines delayed

Our state courts, including magistrate, family, and circuit courts, are administered by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (WVSLA). Municipal courts operate independently.
In response to the COVID_19 pandemic the WVSCA has issued 2 orders and a plan document. You can access all these and future COVID-19 related court administration documents at http://www.courtswv.gov/covid19/COVID19.html.
Pursuant to those orders all civil and criminal proceedings in our state courts, except emergency proceedings and certain criminal proceedings, are currently stayed through 4/10/2020. All deadlines that fall between 3/23/2020 and 4/10/2020 are extended to 4/11/2020. All statutes of limitation that fall within those dates are extended to 4/11/2020. Statutes of limitation that do not expire between those dates ARE NOT extended.
Emergency proceedings include:
  • domestic violence
  • child abuse and neglect where there is imminent threat
  • infant guardianship
  • custody cases involving threat to cbild
  • juvenile detention/placement in state custody
Criminal proceedings necessary to ensure the right to a speedy trial are not subject to the stays.
Proceedings should continue utilize technology to limit physical contact when possible.
Note that eviction is not on the emergency civil proceedings list, so there should be no ordinary eviction proceedings at least through 4/10/2020.
If you are at least 60 and a West Virginia resident with a civil legal question or problem, or concerns about the status of our state courts you can call WV Senior Legal Aid at 1-800-229-5068 for help.






Wednesday, March 25, 2020

WV Senior Citizens Tax Credit process

NOTE: As of March 25, 2020, West Virginia’s personal income tax filing deadline is July 15, 2020.

When it’s tax time, everybody appreciates a little help, especially when tax credits are available. Each dollar of a credit eliminates a dollar of tax.

West Virginia’s Senior Citizens Tax Credit helps certain older residents pay lower income taxes, as does the Homestead Excess Property Tax Credit.

To claim either or both credits, a person does not have to itemize expenses on their return.

Both income tax credits are tied to owning residential property. The Homestead Exemption program reduces property taxes on owner-occupied property for those age 65 and older or disabled who sign up at their county assessor’s office for the exemption.

Under the state program, the first $20,000 of the home‘s assessed value is exempt, or non-taxable, for property tax purposes.

For annual income tax purposes, those who are eligible for the Senior Citizens Tax Credit receive Form SCTC-1 in the mail from the West Virginia State Tax Department each January.

The form lists the amount of the tax credit that can be claimed when preparing the West Virginia tax return. Be sure to save it for tax return preparation purposes.

There is also a low income requirement for Senior Citizens Tax Credit eligibility that is determined when calculating the numbers for the tax return.

Further, for those receiving the Homestead Exemption on their residential property taxes, there is the Homestead Excess Property Tax Credit to reduce income taxes.

When a person’s residential property taxes exceed 4% of their income, he or she may receive a state income tax credit for the excess amount. The maximum credit is $1000.

If a person is eligible for both of these state income tax credits, the amount of the Senior Citizens Tax Credit will reduce the amount of the Homestead Excess Property Tax Credit that can be claimed.

Neither of these state tax credits affect or reduce the federal taxes owed.

More information is available on the https://tax.wv.gov/Individuals/SeniorCitizens/Pages/SeniorCitizensTaxCredit.aspx page.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Checks from the government, here come the scammers!

We hear the government is planning to send out money to everyone. The details are still being worked out, there's not much known about how.

But one thing we know for certain: scammers want your money. They will creatively try many ways to get that money from you, perhaps before you even get it.

Here are a few important things to remember as we await the details of our government cash:

1. The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.

2. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer

3. These reports of checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The 2020 census will tell us many things about the United States and its population.

Participating in the census is very important for West Virginians because of how multiple federal benefits are allocated and controlled.

Many federal programs focus on funding for those with low income or living in rural areas. Under-counting would also mean under-funding.

A George Washington University study revealed that West Virginia relies the most of any U. S. state on federal money that is guided through census results.

On both state and local government levels, federal funding is crucial, making accurate census results just as crucial.

Currently, information is being collected online, through phone calls from legitimate census takers and by mail. To expedite the process, the online process is the easiest.

The Federal Trade Commission wants everyone to be aware that fraudulent schemes to get an individual’s personal information are occurring, using the false pretense that the person is calling on behalf of the federal census.

If fraud is suspected in any contact that is census-related, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a representative at the nearest Census Bureau or go online to FTC.gov/Complaint to file a complaint.