The best time to claim your Social Security benefit depends on your individual situation but for the majority of Americans, waiting until normal retirement age is a smart move. According to a recent NPR story, avoiding the temptation to start collecting Social Security benefits before normal retirement age makes sense for most seniors. If you take your Social Security benefit at age 62 instead of age 66, you will take a 25% cut for the rest of your life. For married couples, it may be advantageous for the highest earner to delay taking benefits to lock in the largest possible survivor benefit. You may be able to claim benefits on an ex-spouse if you were married to the spouse for at least 10 years. For more information, read the article here.
The Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies released a report on the The National Economic Security Standard Index. According to the report, in no state does the average Social Security benefit cover basic expenses for elders. Housing costs are the greatest expense for most elders, followed by health care expenses. Poverty rates for women (11%) are higher than those for men (7%). 65% of households with incomes below the poverty level are headed by an older widowed or non-married woman. Poverty rates are higher for Blacks (18%), Hispanics (19%), and Asians (13%) than they are for non-Hispanic whites (7%). Read the report here.
Insurance companies and financial institutions are targeting seniors in an effort to sell annuities. Annuities promise guaranteed payouts but seniors should be cautious of the fees and obligations involved. According to a recent NPR story, Annuities Explained: The Choices And Red Flags, seniors should watch out for surrender fees (fees one pays to cancel an annuity contract or withdraw funds early), buybacks and “free lunch” seminars. Read more here. If you have an employer-based annuity, contact the Western States Pension Assistance Project for free legal assistance.
According to recent studies by Child Trends, the national number of children living in a grandparent’s household rose from 4.6 million in 2005-2007, to 5.2 million in 2008-2010. Among all grandparent caregivers, the rate of poverty in 2008-2010 was twice that for all adults 35 and older. In California, between 2008 and 2010, 1,057,000 grandparents lived with grandchildren and 303,000 were primarily responsible for the care of these grandchildren. During this time period, grandparents served as the primary caregiver for 301,000 California children (3.2% of children in California). This is an increase from the 274,000 children cared for by grandparents between 2005-2007 (2.9%). Between 2008 and 2010, California grandparents with primary responsibility for their grandchildren were 49% more likely to live in poverty than adults age 35 and older (15.5% vs. 10.4%). 1 in 8 of these primary caregivers spoke English less than “very well.” The studies can be found here and here.
According to a study released by the John A. Hartford Foundation, “Silver and Blue – The Unfinished Business of Mental Health Care for Older Adults,” most older adults receive ineffective depression care and are not aware of the health risks associated with depression. The December 2012 study, which surveyed 1,138 Americans age 65 and older, found that only 1 in 5 seniors knew that depression could double an individual’s risk of developing dementia and only 1 in 3 knew it could double the risk of heart disease. 27% of the seniors surveyed believed depression was a natural part of the aging process. Mental health problems affect nearly one in five older adults. Click here for more information.
Effective December 1, 2012, 35 additional conditions were added to the Social Security Administration’s list of Compassionate Allowances. Bringing the total number of conditions to 200, these additions include Sinonasal Cancer, Fatal Familial Insomnia, Aplastic Anemia, Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Adult Onset Huntington Disease. According to the Social Security Administration, the Compassionate Allowances conditions are “a way to expedite the processing of SSDI and SSI disability claims for applicants whose medical conditions are so severe that their conditions obviously meet Social Security’s definition of disability.” Individuals with these conditions may receive a decision in a matter of weeks instead of months or years. For more information, click here.
According to a recent report, Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being, cited by NPR, the number of seniors living below the poverty level has decreased from 35% in 1959 to 9% in 2010.
In 2010, senior women (11%) are more likely to live in poverty than senior men (7%). Black, Hispanic and Asian senior men (14%) are more likely to live in poverty than White senior men (5%). Black and Hispanic senior women (21%) are more likely to live in poverty than Asian senior women (15%) and White senior women (8%).
In 1959, seniors had the highest rate of poverty (35%) followed by children (27%). In 2010, senior poverty levels had decreased to 9%, children poverty levels had decreased to 22%.
According to a recent Health Affairs report, only 5.2% of beneficiaries choose the cheapest plan that meets their medication needs. Using 2009 Part D data, the report found that beneficiaries spend on average $368 more a year than they would spend had they purchased a cheaper plan. More than 20% of beneficiaries overspend by $500 a year.
A new bill expands existing laws that protect domestic violence survivors to survivors of elder abuse. Existing law prohibits a landlord from evicting a tenant based upon an act of domestic violence. The bill expands that protection to survivors of elder abuse and dependent adult abuse.
The bill also allows survivors of elder abuse to terminate a tenancy prematurely, a protection already available to survivors of domestic violence. Existing law requires survivors to provide evidence by means of a restraining order or police report but the bill adds protective orders to the list of documents that may be used as evidence of the underlying abuse.
Read more here.
The Veterans Benefits Administration released a new fact sheet that provides eligibility criteria for the different types of veteran pension benefits. Many veterans are not aware of the benefits that they may be eligible for. According to a recent New York Times article, of the 1.7 million World War II veterans living in 2011, only 38,076 veterans and 38,685 surviving spouses were receiving Aid and Attendance benefits.
The fact sheet is available here.