Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Early voting for the 2022 WV primary election begins today and continues through Saturday, May 7

Early voting for the 2022 West Virginia primary election begins today and continues through Saturday, May 7. All 55 counties in West Virginia offer early voting and if you have never taken advantage of the opportunity, this may be the year to try it out. Early voting is a good way to assure your vote will count if your polling place has changed because of this year’s redistricting, or if you have had other changes, such as a street address or name change. Poll workers can help you update your status during the early voting period, a service which isn’t available on election day.

You may find that you are in a different state senate district, house district, or voting precinct this year. Every 10 years district lines are redrawn based on the results of the United States census. Districts must have close to equal populations and can’t discriminate based on race or ethnicity. Since districts were redrawn to account for population losses and shifts, your polling place may be an entirely different place than it was in the past.

The good news is that early voting not only allows you to avoid the potential waiting in line you might find on election day, but many counties have several convenient early voting polling places.

When you early vote, the procedure is the same as voting on election day. You go to the early voting polling place, tell the poll worker your name, and show valid, non-expired identification. It doesn’t necessarily have to have your picture on it. Many forms of ID are acceptable including your voter registration card, Medicare or Medicaid card, birth certificate, hunting or fishing license, bank card, and of course driver’s license, passport, or military ID. There are also exemptions to the requirement for identification, one of which is that the poll worker has known the voter for at least 6 months.

If you are registered as unaffiliated (an Independant) instead of a member of the Democrat, Libertarian, Mountain, or Republican party, then you must ask for the party’s ballot of your choice. Otherwise, you will be limited to voting for non-partisan issues such as different kinds of bonds or levies, and non-partisan offices like judge and board of education. It is important to remember when you identify yourself as unaffilliated/Independent, you have to say that you want a Democrat, Republican, Mountain, or Libertarian ballot. The poll worker is NOT supposed to say anything to you to help you remember this.

Information on the status of your individual voter’s registration, on the voting districts for the primary election, polling places, early voting locations (and times they are open), sample ballots, voter identification information, and more is available online at GoVoteWV.com or follow this link: https://sos.wv.gov/elections/Pages/GoVoteWV.aspx. If you can’t or don’t want to use the online tools, then you may also call your county clerk to ask for this information.

Monday, April 25, 2022

National Crime Victims' Rights Week

This week is National Crime Victims' Rights Week. If you have been the victim of a crime, you deserve justice. You can talk to a lawyer for free about your rights at WV Senior Legal Aid if you are a senior West Virginian age 60+. If you know a senior West Virginian who you think may have been victimized, please give them the number and encourage them to call for advice. WV Senior Legal Aid 1-800-229-5068.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

West Virginia Elections: Primary May 10, 2022, voter registration deadline April 19, 22

We have a primary election coming up Tuesday, May 10, 2022. Since we had a substantial redistricting in our state legislature many registered West Virginia voters may find their state delegate and senate district lines have changed.

The House of Delegates now has only single-member districts, so any district that previously had multiple delegates has been changed so you will only be able to vote for and elect a single delegate this year. You can find out about your new district information using the address tool on the WV Secretary of State's website govotewv.com.

You have only until April 19, 2022 to register to vote in this primary or to change your voter registration for this primary. You can make changes to your voter registration, including your party affiliation, also through that same website govotewv.com.

There are a few ways you can register to vote. 1. You can apply online at that website. You'll need your WV drivers license or state-issued ID number. 2. You can mail in a paper application to your county clerk. You can download the application on that website or contact your county clerk for a copy. 3. You can register in person at a variety of places including your county clerk's office, the DMV, and disability services organizations.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Celebrating Women's History Month

In observance of Women’s History Month, West Virginia Senior Legal Aid salutes a vital historic preservation effort to commemorate feminist activist endeavors that have changed our world.

Focusing on West Virginia’s feminist activists is the purpose of a new collection of information, documents and artifacts that is growing ever larger at WVU‘s West Virginia Regional & History Center. See why it’s important at https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/collections/west-virginia-feminist-activist-collection

“Don’t Throw It Out” was an online session held in March 2021 to explain the purpose of the West Virginia Feminist Activist Collection. It will chronicle the Mountain State’s participants in the women’s rights movement and establish a searchable online base for oral histories, appropriate records, and items relating to the ground-breaking efforts on economic justice, social justice, health issues, professional development and other areas of concern.

Whether a person organized a rally, set up issue development sessions, marched in a protest or was a female pioneer in her professional field, that information can become a part of the collection. Feminist activism took many forms, and all were needed.

Event posters, handwritten documents, newspaper clippings, photos, mailings, and any other items that relate to the women’s movement as it played out in West Virginia are welcome. Some examples are shown on this website: https://wvrhc-feminist-archives-a-curated-selection.webnode.com/.

For those who can recommend a person to be profiled for the archives or have documents and items that could be added to it, please contact Lori Hostuttler at 304-293-1116 or lori.hostuttler@mail.wvu.edu. This is history that should not be forgotten!

Monday, February 14, 2022

Valentines Day Romance Scam Reminder

Senior West Virginians are targets for romance scams. The scammers are so good at convincing you that their love is real, even when it is really just a relationship designed to get you to give them your money, or unknowingly participate in a money mule scheme.

There are a few clues that can help identify when your true love on the internet is not true at all.

  • They are far far away. Never close enough for a visit, and when they do plan a visit there is always a last minute excuse they can't make it.
  • It happened so fast. Real relationships take time, but scammers make you believe it is love at first internet sight, they'll instantly say you are soulmates and use lots of honey and babe terms of endearment fast.
  • They just need a little money for something sudden and important. Usually they want it a very specific payment method, like through a gift card or Western Union. Then the demands get bigger and switch, like to a money mule scam.
  • True love is not jealous. If your far away sweetheart starts getting upset with you and jealous because you talk to other people including your friends and family, that is a big red flag something is not right. Don't ignore it. Being hot and cold with you and making you worried you'll upset them is called gaslighting. It is designed to push you to do things you wouldn't do if you if you were feeling calm and had time to think.
  • Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from romance scams:

  • Don't ever give your online/telephone sweetheart your bank information, social security number, or other personal details like your mom's maiden name, the street you grew up on, your first car model, etc.
  • Be ready to say NO to requests for money, no matter how urgent or reasonable it sounds.
  • Stop. Hang up. Walk away for a minute. Think. Don't feel pressured to do anything in a rush, urgency is a classic tactic of scammers.
  • Tell someone you trust as soon as you get a feeling something is not right. This can be very hard. It can be embarrassing. But someone you really know you can trust can be the lifeline that saves you from making a small loss into a huge loss.
  • If you are at least 60 years old and a West Virginian you can call and talk to a lawyer for free about scams, financial exploitation, or any civil legal problem or question. 1.800.229.5068.

    Saturday, February 12, 2022

    Black history is West Virginia history

    In observance of Black History Month, West Virginia Senior Legal Aid remembers those brave people who decided to challenge the many inhumanities of slavery in America.

    Virginia’s population before the Civil War included the largest number of enslaved people in the country at that time. Slavery was legal in 15 states before the Civil War.

    The mountainous areas that would become West Virginia also included slave-owning people. Abolitionists lived within Virginia’s borders as well. They and African Americans were committed to helping enslaved people on their torturous and dangerous journey to freedom.

    The Underground Railroad had, by necessity, to be a very secret organization. Operating from the 1830s through the end of the Civil War around the country, no formal records were kept or photos taken of the people or process.

    Those making this perilous journey to freedom were not given maps or provisions. If they were fortunate enough to find a road leading north, northeast or northwest and could appreciate that was the best direction to go, they stood a better chance.

    Should they try to hitch a ride on a wagon? Even if it were driven by a black man, what if the driver turned them in? How would they know where they were safe from capture? How would they get enough food to keep on traveling? Nighttime was their friend for moving around, but their lack of familiarity with an area would be a great danger to them.

    the Ramsdell House in Ceredo WV
    For those who escaped from whatever plantation or farm and were able to reach the small town of Ceredo along the Ohio River, there was aid. Built by Zopher Ramsdell in 1858, his two-story brick house contained a place to hide before crossing into Ohio, a free state. A trap door in the floor of the home led to a crawlspace and cellar for shelter.

    Oral histories have confirmed that the home was a last stop on the Underground Railroad before freedom.

    Ramsdell and a number of others had moved from New England to Ceredo for the purpose of participating in the Underground Railroad. The anti-slavery group established the town in 1857. A shoemaker by trade, he built a shoe and boot factory in the area. Ramsdell House is now a museum open for free tours.

    “Aunt Jenny” was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Between Parkersburg and Belpre, Ohio during the 1840s, she aided runaway slaves fleeing through the area by notifying agents across the river of their presence and gathering information about slave catchers who would earn a bounty for each captured slave.

    Historians believe that Aunt Jenny was a Black woman named Edna Sutton. Her brave efforts have been commemorated on a historic marker in Point Park in Parkersburg.

    On WV Rt. 18 near New Milton in Doddridge County is the two-story brick home of Deborah and Jepthah Fitz Randolph. Members of the Seventh Day Baptist religious denomination, the Fitz Randolphs were abolitionists and were known for opening their home, built in the late 1840s, as a temporary stop for runaway slaves.

    The home is in private hands today and still stands as a testament to the will of those who risked their own lives and freedom to help, at any time of the day or night, those who were desperate to live as free people.

    All of those mentioned here lived to see the end of slavery and West Virginia becoming the nation’s 35th state, a free state, in 1863.

    This article is contributed by Deb Miller

    Tuesday, January 11, 2022

    QR code and cryptocurrency scamming

    New year, new scam spins. The FTC is warning that there are some fresh ways that scammers are separating you from your money this year and they are using QR codes and cryptocurrency.

    First, you get a call or a message from maybe a government agency (an imposter, of course), or perhaps a romantic interest you met online. They convince you to send money for some urgent purpose. They stay on the phone with you directing you to a local crypto ATM machine.

    Then after you buy some crypto currency at the machine they send you a QR code. You scan the QR code with your phone and the crypto goes straight to their address.

    And your money is gone. Fast.

    Remember, no government agency will demand payment in a call. No government agency will request payment in crypto. You haven't won any prize, and your online love interest is not who they say they are if they are asking you for money.

    Recognize the warning signs, talk about them with your friends so we all know what is out there, and before you give your money to anyone STOP, hang up, and take just a minute to calmly think about it.

    If you are a West Virginia resident age 60 or over you can talk to a lawyer in private for free about scams, money, planning, or any other legal issue at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid 1.800.229.5068.

    Monday, January 03, 2022

    Fraud Alert: Don't click on texts about vaccine status and drivers license validation

    From the WV Department of Health and Human Resources:
    "1/1/2022

    The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) has received reports of individuals receiving spam text messages asking them to validate their driver’s license through the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    No such message has been generated by DHHR and should be immediately deleted. Do not click on the link provided in the text message.

    The spam text message reads: “West Virginia Covid-19 Vaccine Driver License Waiver Validation. Validate your details below” (with a clickable link). It then states, “Department of Health l State of West Virginia. Text “STOP” to stop msg.”

    An additional spam message reads: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in partnership with the West Virginia State DMV requires an immediate validation of your Covid-19 status. This is a waiver validation update and a compulsory one-time validation for all West Virginia residents.”

    DHHR will never ask for personal information via text message."

    Don't click on any of it, don't reply to any of it, and delete the text messages if you get them. Tell your friends about this scam so they recognize it before they get scammed by it.

    If you are at least 60 years old and a West Virginia resident with concerns about this scam or any other legal question or problem you can talk to a lawyer for free at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid 1-800-229-5068. Have a safe new year!

    Wednesday, November 10, 2021

    Thank you senior West Virginia veterans! WV Senior Legal Aid is open on Veterans Day to serve.

    West Virginia Senior Legal Aid will be open on Veterans Day 11/11/21. We thank our senior veterans for their service and are here to serve your legal needs. 1.800.229.5068 http://seniorlegalaid.org

    Tuesday, October 19, 2021

    Heads Up: Medicare Annual Enrollment now through December 7, 2021

    >Over 439,000 West Virginians are Medicare beneficiaries. There is a lot to know about Medicare. Here are a few tips for figuring what you need to do during this annual enrollment period:

    1. If you didn't enroll in Medicare when you were first eligible your opportunity to enroll is now.
    2. If you want to make changes or switch plans for Part D prescription drug coverage your opportunity is now.
    3. If you want to leave original Medicare provided by the government and go to a Medicare Advantage Plan provided by a private insurance company, or switch back from an advantage plan to original Medicare, the time is now.
    4. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what you should do now, and there is a lot to know. You can get assistance from trained Medicare counselors through the West Virginia SHIP program (877) 987-3646. 
    Be careful not to enroll in something that you don't understand or aren't confident is right for you. Recognize that if you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan you are leaving original Medicare. For some beneficiaries this makes sense and for some it does not, so get good advice from a neutral trained counselor. It's not wise to rely only on the advice offered by a sales agent from an insurance company.

    One important difference between original Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans: your preferred doctor and your preferred hospital both accept original Medicare, but advantage plans only cover doctors and hospitals within their plan networks.

    Be aware of the source of the information you are using, and consider the motives and biases of the source. Old tv and sports stars are not doing commercials for the government, they work for private insurance companies selling products.

    Last tip: don't wait until the last minute to seek help during this Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. If you get good quality advice in time to think about your options you are more likely to make the best choice for yourself and get properly enrolled in what you need.


    Friday, July 16, 2021

    Are conservatorships really that Toxic? Britney Spears is using her voice to show what a Circus it has been for her.

    The news about Britney Spears in court trying to take back control of her life and money has raised questions about guardianship, conservatorship, legal rights to make your own choices, and how you can take back control.

    Q: What is #FreeBritney?

    A: #FreeBritney is a hashtag that has been used to garner attention regarding Britney Spears and the conservatorship she is under. This movement has been going on for quite some time, but has gained much more popularity in recent months as Spears has expressed to the court that she wants to regain control of her own life.

    Q: What is a conservatorship?

    A: Guardianships and conservatorships are governed by state law, so the definitions can vary by state. In West Virginia, a guardian is a person appointed by the Circuit Court who is responsible for the personal and medical decisions of a “protected person” (someone who doesn’t have the capacity to take care of themselves). A conservator is a person appointed by the court who is responsible for managing the financial affairs of a protected person. The same person can fill both roles or the court can assign the roles to two different individuals. Sometimes only one or the other is necessary to be appointed. Read the entire state statute here.

    Q: Why is Spears under a conservatorship?

    A: Beginning in 2007, Britney experienced erratic behavior in public that resulted in her mental stability to be questioned, not only by those close to her, but by her fans and the general public. In 2008, Britney’s father, James Spears, successfully petitioned a California court to appoint him as her conservator, which under California law meant Britney no longer had the legal right to make her own personal, medical, and financial decisions. Because the court granted his petition, James Spears controlled Britney’s personal and medical decisions (who she had contact with, where she lived, when she visited her children, and, most infamously, decisions about her birth control) while he shared control of her finances with a court appointed co-conservator, attorney Andrew Wallet. In 2018 the conservatorship was modified, and from that time until the present, James Spears shares control of Britney’s finances with Bessemer Trust, an estate management firm, while a court appointed professional, Jodi Montgomery, controls her personal and medical decisions.

    Q: Will the conservatorship last forever?

    A: Conservatorships in most states are usually ordered to be permanent, though the protected person or another individual can later petition for termination or change if the circumstances that led to the conservatorship have changed. Only a court can determine the answer to this. Beginning in 2007, Britney experienced erratic behavior in public that resulted in her mental stability to be questioned, not only by those close to her, but by her fans and the general public. In 2008, Britney’s father, James Spears, successfully petitioned a California court to appoint him as her conservator, which under California law meant Britney no longer had the legal right to make her own personal, medical, and financial decisions. Because the court granted his petition, James Spears controlled Britney’s personal and medical decisions (who she had contact with, where she lived, when she visited her children, and, most infamously, decisions about her birth control) while he shared control of her finances with a court appointed co-conservator, attorney Andrew Wallet. In 2018 the conservatorship was modified, and from that time until the present, James Spears shares control of Britney’s finances with Bessemer Trust, an estate management firm, while a court appointed professional, Jodi Montgomery, controls her personal and medical decisions. uested a hearing regarding her conservatorship. During a California probate court hearing in June, Spears was able to directly address the judge via telephone. Spears told Los Angeles probate judge Brenda Penny she is “not happy” and “traumatized.” (Full transcript here). In July, the court ruled Spears has the right to hire her own attorney in the case. Depending on what the court decides, it could go on Until the World Ends. But it sounds like Spears will seek an attorney to help achieve her goal of ending the conservatorship.

    Q: Are guardianships/conservatorships always a bad thing?

    A: No. For an adult who is not capable of managing money, medical, or personal decisions well enough to maintain a safe life a good guardian or a conservator can provide that help. But a guardianship or conservatorship should be the last resort imposed by a court only if lesser restrictive options cannot adequately protect the person. Sometimes an informal team of friends, family, and others is all that is needed to help a person maintain independence safely. Supported decision making can avoid the need for guardianship and conservatorship for many people.

    If you are at least 60 yrs old and a West Virginia resident and have questions, you can talk to an attorney for free at WV Senior Legal Aid, 1.800.229.5068.

    contributed by Alexis Schneider, Public Interest Law Fellow at WVSLA

    Wednesday, June 16, 2021

    Juneteenth: You are not free until you know you are free

    Many of us never learned in school about Juneteenth. We may have learned about General Lee's surrender at Appomattox or President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation as the end of slavery in America, but for many African Americans it would actually be two and half years that they were freed.

    In Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865 federal troops arrived to take over Texas and impose General Gordon Granger's order No. 3 that all slaves were free and had equal rights.

    This day has been celebrated as Jubilee Day or Freedome Day in various places since then, but now nationwide we celebrate it as Juneteenth.

    No matter what the law says, if you don't know you have rights you don't really have rights.

    West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has enacted a proclamation making Juneteenth a paid holiday for state workers, to be celebrated this year on Friday, June 18. https://governor.wv.gov/Documents/2021%20Proclamations/Juneteenth-%2006-17-21.pdf

    At West Virginia Senior Legal Aid we celebrate liberty and justice on Juneteenth, and everyday we strive to continue the fight for racial equity in our state and across the country and the world.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2021

    Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

    According to the World Health Organization at least 1 in 6 people age 60 or older experienced abuse in the past year.

    Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical violence, neglect, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, or psychological abuse.

    If we truly respect our elders we cannot allow this to continue. Today is a day dedicated to raising awareness about elder abuse so we can stand up and take action to protect every older person from any form of abuse.

    You can learn about elder abuse here. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse

    A small action that you can take to prevent elder abuse is to talk about it and help raise awareness. You can check on an older neighbor and let him or her know you are available to help and can be trusted. You can tell your legislators that elder abuse is an important concern in our commmunity.

    Monday, June 14, 2021

    Mountaineers Aging with Pride series: LGBTQ+ and Planning for Aging

    Planning for aging as an LGBTQ+ senior. According to SAGE and the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, LGBT older people are 2x as likely to be single and live alone as well as 4x less likely to have children. While this is not a bad thing, it does pose some unique considerations for LGBT persons as they age. Some of these considerations include deciding who you would like to allow in a hospital or care facility with you, who can assist you in making financial decisions, and what will happen to your assets when you die. Laws frequently assume biological families will be there for the aging process, but the laws are not necessarily built for families of choice. By doing some legal planning in preparation for the aging process, you can help ensure you have the people you want by your side.

    All of these issues are particularly true in West Virginia, especially in our more rural communities. It can be harder to rely on support built through social networks in more isolated areas, making planning that much more important. There are various planning steps you can take depending on your unique wants and needs. Advanced medical directives, Transfer on Death Deeds, and supported decision making clauses in Powers of Attorney are just a few of the potential tools for helping you plan for aging. WVSLA can help with these and more! WVSLA celebrates LGBTQ+ senior West Virginians, and seeks to serve your legal needs. If you are at least 60 years old and a West Virginian you can talk to an attorney for free by calling 1.800.229.5068

    contributed by Alexis Schneider, Public Interest Law Fellow at WVSLA

    Thursday, June 03, 2021

    Mountaineers Aging with Pride series: Landmark US Supreme Court decision protects rights of LGBTQ employees

    Bostock v. Clayton County Who went to court and what happened?
    What does it mean for WV?

    Landmark Supreme Court decision protects rights of LGBTQ employees. On June 15th, 2020, The Supreme Court of the United States made a landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County Board of Commissioners.The Court heard a combination of three cases regarding employees being fired; two for their sexual orientation and one for their gender identity. The Court ruled that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees were protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Act prohibits employers from “discriminat[ing] against any individual . . . because of because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin . . . .” It was decided that although gender and sexual orientation are not equivalent to sex, discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation cannot be done without a reliance on sex-based discrimination. Sexual orientation and gender identity do not have to be the only reason an employee is fired, they need only be part of the employer’s decision in order for the employer to have violated Title VII.

    What does this mean for West Virginians? This decision may have wide ranging impacts for LGBTQ+ people, including those who call the Mountain State home. This particular provision applies to more than just firing employees. It prevents discrimination in hiring, compenation, terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Now, employers with over 15 employees can be sued for discriminating against applicants and employees because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity. LGBTQ+ employees in West Virginia are protected from discrimination based on their gender and sexual orientation in cases where Title VII applies. So while our state human rights code does not explicitly list sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, these are now considered federally protected classes in employment.

    contributed by Alexis Schneider, Public Interest Law Fellow at WVSLA

    Thursday, April 29, 2021

    Federal Emergency Broadband Benefit coming soon! enrollment opens 5/15/21

    We'll post more info about this soon, but in the meantime you can learn more about this benefit from the FCC website here https://getemergencybroadband.org/

    Wednesday, April 14, 2021

    Federal funeral assistance benefit from FEMA for COVID-19 deaths

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced a program offering funeral assistance for COVID-19 deaths in the United States since January 20, 2020.

    Who is eligible to apply?

    Those who paid for funeral expenses since January 20, 2020 for an individual whose death in the United States was caused by or likely caused by COVID-19.

    If someone else helped you pay for funeral expenses can they also apply for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance?

    FEMA will generally only provide COVID-19 Funeral Assistance to one applicant per deceased individual.

    How do you apply?

    Unfortunately there is no paper application or online application available. The only way to apply at this time is by calling FEMA's COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line Number,
    1-844-684-6333
    TTY: 1-800-462-7585 Monday through Friday between 9am and 9pm Eastern Time. Callers will be asked questions to get registered for the rest of the application process. You'll probably get a busy signal many times so you might have to keep on trying to get through.

    What information will you need to give when you call to apply/register?

    The applicant responsible for COVID-19 funeral expenses will need to provide the following information below when they call FEMA to register for assistance. We recommend gathering this information now as we prepare to open the application process.

    • Social Security number for the applicant and the deceased individual
    • Date of birth for the applicant and the deceased individual
    • Current mailing address for the applicant
    • Current telephone number for the applicant
    • Location or address where the deceased individual passed away
    • Information about burial or funeral insurance policies
    • Information about other funeral assistance received, such as donations
    • CARES Act grants and assistance from voluntary organizations
    • Routing and account number of the applicant’s checking or savings account (for direct deposit, if requested)

    After your registration call you will have to submit documentation which can be done online or by mail.

    What documentation is required to submit after registration?

    You must provide

    • a copy of the death certificate,
    • proof of funeral expenses incurred, and
    • proof of assistance received from any other source.

    The death certificate must indicate the death was caused by, “may have been caused by” or “was likely a result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms. Similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of COVID-19 are considered sufficient attribution. Documentation for expenses (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) must include the applicant’s name as the person responsible for the expense, the deceased individual’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and that funeral expenses were incurred after January 20, 2020.

    The applicant must also provide FEMA with proof of funds received from other sources specifically used for funeral costs. COVID-19 Funeral Assistance may not duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance or financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government programs or agencies, or other sources. COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will be reduced by the amount of other assistance the applicant received for the same expenses.

    What if you received life insurance benefits or expect you might receive life insurance benefits?

    Funeral expenses that were paid for with pre-paid funeral insurance are considered to be a duplication. So are funeral expenses that have already been paid for with burial or funeral insurance. But life insurance proceeds are not generally considered a duplication of benefits.

    What funeral expenses are covered?

    COVID-19 Funeral Assistance will assist with expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation. Any receipts received for expenses that are not related to funeral services will not be determined eligible expenses. Expenses for funeral services and interment or cremation typically include, but are not limited to:

    • Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual
    • Transfer of remains
    • Casket or urn
    • Burial plot or cremation niche
    • Marker or headstone
    • Clergy or officiant services
    • Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
    • Use of funeral home equipment or staff
    • Cremation or interment costs
    • Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
    • Additional expenses mandated by any applicable local or state government laws or ordinances

    For more information about this new FEMA benefit see www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance/faq

    If you personally are at least 60 years old and a West Virginia resident with questions about this or other legal issues, you can talk to an attorney for free at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid 1-800-229-5068.

    Monday, April 12, 2021

    Receiving strange tax documents might mean identity theft

    You may have been a victim of unemployment benefits fraud and not even known about it. Until you get a 1099-g in the mail you know nothing about.

    If you get any suspicious tax documents in the mail that don't make sense to you, or if you tried to file your tax return and it got rejected by the IRS because they say your taxes have already been filed, you might be a victim of identity theft.

    Ignoring it won't make it go away, and eventually it might cause you a problem. It is likely to be easier to resolve the quicker you start to take action.

    West Virginia seniors age 60 and over can talk to a lawyer for free about these and other legal problems by calling West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at 1-800-229-5068.

    Tuesday, April 06, 2021

    3rd stimulus payments for many SS, SSI, SSDI starting tomorrow!

    If you receive Social Security, SSI, or Social Security Disability income by direct deposit or Direct Express card and don't file federal tax returns you may receive your 3rd stimulus payment as early as tomorrow.

    The Social Security Administration sent updated beneficiary contact and bank account information to the IRS in late March, and we have been waiting for the IRS to publish information about when and how the third stimulus payments would be received. The IRS online Get My Payment tool has been showing Status Unavailable for so many folks trying to find out when they should expect their payments.

    However you receive your monthly benefits from Social Security Administration is how you should expect to receive this payment from the IRS, which for most folks is either by direct deposit or Direct Express card.

    The income limit to be eligible for the full payment of $1400 is $75,000/yr. If you have qualifying dependents you may be eligible to receive $1400 payments for each of them, too, including dependents who are over the age of 17. If you receive your stimulus payment, but you have a qualifying dependent that should make you eligible for additional money, you may have to file a tax return next year for 2021 to get a tax credit for the amount you were eligible for but did not receive.

    This third stimulus payment is not generally subject to government debt garnishment, so if you owe child support or back taxes you should still be able to receive this payment.

    If you are a West Virginian age 60 or over and have questions or concerns about your stimulus payments, or other legal questions or problems you can call WV Senior Legal Aid and talk to an attorney for free at 1-800-229-5068.

    Tuesday, March 30, 2021

    Low-income Social Security, SSI, SSDI recipients: When am I getting my 3rd stimulus payment?

    We still don't know. According to a statement from Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Andrew Saul published Friday, March 26, the SSA has turned over updated contact and bank account information for SS, SSDI, and SSI beneficiaries to the IRS for the purpose of getting payments to beneficiaries who did not file 2019 or 2020 federal tax returns. The IRS actually issues the payments. Of course, many low-income beneficiaries do not normally file federal tax returns because they aren't required to. Many of these low-income folks really need this stimulus money as soon as possible, and the delays and uncertainty are a burden for them.

    The American Rescue Plan (ARP), the federal legislation that authorized the 3rd stimulus payments, has different criteria and limits than the first two stimulus payments. Generally eligible individuals should receive $1400 each, and payments at the full $1400 for each of their dependents of any age, as well.

    Low-income seniors and people with disabilities make up the pool of people still waiting for payments and answers. Many are grandparents raising grandchildren or senior caregivers with adult dependents who can really use this money and would likely spend it back into the economy quickly.

    For beneficiaries who have not filed taxes we still don't know if the IRS will provide a way to report your dependents so you get the correct amount of stimulus payment. For the first 2 rounds of stimulus payments the IRS had an online tool available to do that, especially helpful for folks who do not otherwise need to file taxes. The IRS has not announced whether that tool, or something like it, will be available for this third round. If these low-income beneficiaries with dependents have to file taxes it will require a huge amount of resources to make tax assistance to all these people quickly, and many will miss out on the additional dependent payments.

    As soon as the IRS announces more information how and when low-income SS, SSDI, and SSI beneficiaries can get their 3rd stimulus payments we will publish it here. Every American needs to know with certainty from credible sources when and how to expect the stimulus payments so they can protect themselves financial exploitation and scams.

    Any West Virginia senior age 60 or over with a legal problem or question can contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid to talk to a lawyer for free at 1-800-229-5068.