Lange Trucking Inc., a California company, employs 515 truck drivers under a federal U.S. Postal Service contract. Under the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act, federal contractors must pay their service workers at least the prevailing rate for benefits in the company’s locality. In violation of the federal act, Lange Trucking Inc. failed to fully fund its truck drivers’ 401(k) plan. A DOL investigation resulted in the restoration of $1,979,779 in 401(k) pensions to 515 truck drivers. The company is prohibited from entering into a federal service contract with any U.S. agency for the next three years. To read more about the investigation, click here. For pension and 401(k) help, click here.
DOL Investigation results in restoration of $2 million in pension benefits to 515 California truck drivers
CFPB orders health care credit card company to refund up to $34.1 million for unfair and deceptive enrollment tactics
According to the CFPB, more than 175,000 medical offices are beginning to offer deferred interest credit cards. Seniors facing large health care bills are turning to these credit cards to help make ends meet but seniors are not receiving accurate information about how the cards work. Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions engaging in unfair and deceptive practices. In December, the CFPB brought an enforcement action against one company, GE CareCredit, to prevent its deceptive and unfair credit card enrollment tactics. Click here to learn more about the case and click here for CFPB’s four facts on health care credit cards.
On December 16, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an ERISA plan’s statute of limitations period that began to run before a worker received her final denial. Workers and retirees in plans covered by ERISA must exhaust the pension plan’s administrative remedies before filing an ERISA Section 502(a)(1)(B) claim in federal court. Generally, the window of time a worker or retiree has to file a lawsuit begins to run after the pension plan issues a final denial. In Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., a Wal-Mart employee diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia filed a disability claim under her Wal-Mart disability plan. A few months later, Wal-Mart requested additional proof. Wal-Mart then denied her claim and her subsequent mandatory administrative appeals. After her final denial, she filed in federal court. Upholding Wal-Mart’s plan provision, the Court held her case was time-barred because Wal-Mart’s three year statute of limitations began to run a few months after she filed her initial claim when Wal-Mart requested additional proof, not after Wal-Mart issued its final decision. Read the decision here.
Effective January 1, 2014, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will no longer accept the former Request For Social Security Earnings Information Form SSA-7050. SSA will begin charging a standard fee to process each request: $32.00 for certified yearly earnings totals and $102.00 for a non-certified detailed (itemized) earnings statement. Non-certified, yearly earnings are available on SSA’s website free of charge but do not show any employer information. According to Finding a Lost Pension, a booklet by the Pension Action Center and the Pension Rights Guarantee Corporation, detailed (itemized) earnings statements from SSA help workers and retirees track down lost pensions. Detailed (itemized) earnings statements provide employer identification numbers and show how much a worker received each calendar year by employer. To read the SSA notice, click here. Click here for a copy of Finding a Lost Pension.
On December 12, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California rejected church plan status for Dignity Health, the first decision among five class-action lawsuits challenging sponsors of church plans. Holding that ERISA “was designed to ensure that employees actually receive the benefits they are promised,” the Court concluded that “Dignity’s effort to expand the scope of the church plan exemption to any organization maintained by a church-associated organization stretches the statutory text beyond its logical ends.” ERISA and the IRS Code define “church plan.” Church plans are generally exempt from the worker and retiree protections of ERISA and the IRS Code, including funding requirements, widow pension protections, and insurance protection. Despite an IRS private letter ruling confirming church plan status, the Court held Dignity Health is not a church and not exempt from ERISA’s retiree protections. Read Rollins v. Dignity Health here.
According to a Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System report, 23% of seniors surveyed in a 2012 study had a power of attorney. 50% had never planned for someone else to make decisions for them. 12% had considered issuing a power of attorney but had not taken steps to accomplish it. Of those with a power of attorney, 58% name a spouse and 37% name a family member or friend.
On October 29, the CFPB released four easy-to-understand booklets to help financial caregivers and protect seniors against financial abuse. The Managing Someone Else’s Money guides are for agents under powers of attorney, court-appointed guardians, trustees, and government fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries). Click here to download the free guides.
The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has set up a new toll-free hotline to help seniors who have been victims of investment scams, identity theft, bogus sweepstakes and lottery schemes, Medicare and Social Security fraud, and a variety of other senior exploitation issues. The hotline investigators will directly examine complaints and, if appropriate, refer them to the proper authorities. This year, the Committee has held hearings examining Jamaican lottery scams, tax-related identity theft, Social Security fraud and payday loans impact on seniors. Find out more here or call the toll-free fraud hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
According to a California Health Advocates release, scams are targeting the elderly under the guise of the new health care reform law. Imposters are calling Medicare beneficiaries requesting beneficiaries’ Medicare information, credit information and financial information to send the beneficiaries new health care cards. While the new law guarantees people without insurance the right to buy health insurance, neither the federal government nor Covered California will contact anyone to enroll and people with Medicare are not affected by these changes. Learn more about how the new law affects people with Medicare here. Scams can be reported to the California Senior Medicare Patrol or a complaint can be filed with the Federal Trade Commission. Read the press release here.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new data showing that nursing homes are using less antipsychotics and pursuing more patient-centered treatment for dementia and other behavioral health care. In 2010, more than 17% of nursing home patients had daily doses exceeding recommended levels. CMS launched the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care to reduce antipsychotic drug use by 15%. New data shows that at least 11 states have reduced drug usage by 15%. California is not one of them. Read the CMS Press Release here. According to CANHR, 25,000 California nursing home residents are given antipsychotic drugs that greatly increase their risk of death, read more here.
According to a July 2013 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 88% of households receiving rental assistance in 2010 were elderly, disabled, or working (or had recently worked). Despite the 2010 unemployment rate of 9.6%, nearly 75% of the non-elderly, non-disabled recipients worked or participated in a program with a work requirement. Of the remaining non-working, non-elderly, non-disabled recipients, half cared for a pre-school age child or an individual with a disability. Read the report here.