May 2019 Savvy Senior Columns

Savvy Senior – May Columns

  1. 2020 Census Offers Temporary Jobs Ideally Suited for Retirees
  2. The Long-Term Care Benefit Many Veterans Are Missing Out On
  3. Understanding Medicare’s Enrollment Periods
  4. Adaptive Gardening: Tips and Tools for Older Gardeners

2020 Census Offers Temporary Jobs Ideally Suited for Retirees

Dear Savvy Senior,
The U.S. Census Bureau is in the process of recruiting thousands of workers for temporary jobs to help collect valuable data for the 2020 Census, and retirees are ideal candidates. Can you write a column to get the word out? Thanks for your help!
Census Recruiter                                                                                 

Dear Recruiter,
I’m happy to oblige, and I agree. This once-a-decade job opportunity is a great fit for retirees that have some free time on their hands who wouldn’t mind earning some extra income while helping the community.

Attention Retirees!
The United States Census Bureau is currently in the process of recruiting over 500,000 temporary workers to help carry out the upcoming 2020 Census national head count of every person living in the U.S.

The U.S Census helps determines each state’s representation in Congress, how funds are spent for schools, hospitals, roads, and provides information to guide many decisions made by government agencies, private businesses and institutions.

Jobs within the census vary from working in the field canvassing, updating maps, doing follow up interviews with citizens in your community, or working in the office as a clerk doing administrative tasks or office operation supervisor, who oversees the field staff.

Some jobs will begin this summer, but the majority of positions will begin in late April 2020 and last a month or two.

These temporary part-time positions are located in every county throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Some positions require evening and/or weekend shifts because you must be available to interview members of the public when they’re at home. And all positions require several days of online and classroom training. The pay ranges between $13.50 and $30 per hour depending on position and location. To find the pay rates in your area, see 2020census.gov/en/jobs/locations.html.

Job Qualifications
To be able to work for the 2020 census you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a valid Social Security number.
  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Have a valid email address.
  • Complete an application and answer assessment questions.
  • Be registered with the Selective Service System or have a qualifying exemption, if you are a male born after Dec. 31, 1959.
  • Pass a Census-performed criminal background check and a review of criminal records, including fingerprinting.
  • Commit to completing training.
  • Be available to work flexible hours, which can include days, evenings, and/or weekends.

In addition, most census jobs require employees to have access to a vehicle and a valid driver’s license, unless public transportation is readily available. And have access to a computer with internet and an email account to complete training.

How to Apply
The first step is to complete the online job application at 2020census.gov/en/jobs. The process takes about 30 minutes and will include some assessment questions about your education, work, and other experience.

If you’re a veteran who would like to claim veterans’ preference, which provides preference over nonveteran applicants, you’ll need supporting documentation.

For more information on the 2020 Census, or if you have questions or problems with the application process call 855-562-2020.

After you apply, an interviewer will reach out to potential hires to conduct a phone interview, but not all applicants will be interviewed. Job offers are made verbally, but candidates will also receive a letter by email.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of The Savvy Senior book.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

The Long-Term Care Benefit Many Veterans Are Missing Out On

Dear Savvy Senior,
I have heard that the VA has a benefit that can help veterans and spouses with long-term care costs. We recently had to move my 86-year-old father – who served in the army nearly 60 years ago – into an assisted living facility, and my mom isn’t far behind. Can the VA help?
Seeking Aid                                                                              

Dear Seeking,
The Veterans Administration does indeed have a little-known, underutilized benefit that can help wartime veterans and their surviving spouses pay for a variety of long-term care costs.

This benefit, called “Aid and Attendance,” is a special pension that’s paid in addition to a basic pension. It pays a maximum of $2,230 a month to married veterans; $1,881 a month to single veterans; or $1,209 a month to a surviving spouse. The money is tax free, and can be used to pay for in-home care, assisted living and nursing home care.

Today, only around 230,000 veterans and survivors receiving Aid and Attendance, but millions more are eligible and either don’t know about it, or don’t think they can qualify for it.

Eligibility Requirements
To qualify, your dad must have served at least 90 days of active military service with at least one day of service during a period of war, and not have been discharged dishonorably. Single surviving spouses of wartime vets are eligible if their marriage ended due to death.

In addition, your dad will also have to meet certain thresholds for medical and financial need to be eligible.

To qualify medically he must be either disabled, or over the age of 65 and need help with basic everyday living tasks such as eating, dressing, bathing or going to the bathroom. Being blind or in a nursing home or assisted living facility due to mental disability also qualifies him. Single surviving spouses have no age restrictions, but they must require help with basic everyday living tasks to be eligible.

To qualify financially, your parents must have limited assets, under $127,061, excluding their home, vehicle and personal belongings. And their annual income (minus medical and long-term care expenses) cannot exceed the Maximum Allowable Pension Rate (MAPR), which in 2019 is $26,766 for a veteran and their spouse; $22,577 for a single veteran; and $14,509 for a surviving spouse.

To calculate your parent’s income qualifications, add up their income over the past year (including Social Security, pensions, interest income from investments, annuities, etc.), minus any out-of-pocket medical expenses, prescription drugs, insurance premiums and long-term care costs over that same period of time. If the final tally is under the MAPR, and he meets the other requirements, he should be eligible for aid.

How to Apply
To learn more, or to apply for Aid and Attendance, contact your regional VA benefit office (see Benefits.va.gov/benefits/offices.asp or call 800–827–1000) where you can apply in person. You can also apply by writing the Pension Management Center for your state (see Benefits.va.gov/pension/resources-contact.asp). You’ll need to include evidence, like VA Form 21-2680 (VA.gov/vaforms) which your dad’s doctor can fill out that shows his need for Aid and Attendance.

If you need some help, you can appoint a Veteran Service Officer (VSO), a VA-accredited attorney or claims agent to represent your dad. See www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/vso-search to locate someone.

If your dad is eligible, it will take between six and 12 months for his application to be processed, so be patient.

You should also know that if your dad’s Aid and Attendance application is approved, the VA will send a lump sum retroactive payment covering the time from the day you filed the application until the day it was approved. Then your dad receives monthly payments going forward.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of The Savvy Senior book.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Understanding Medicare’s Enrollment Periods

Dear Savvy Senior,
What can you tell me about the different enrollment periods for Medicare? I’m planning to work past age 65 and understand Medicare offers Initial, Special and General periods in which I can enroll. How does this work?
Medicare Illiterate

Dear Medicare,
The rules for signing up for Medicare can be quite confusing, especially if you plan to work past age 65. But it’s critical to understand the ins and outs of enrolling because the consequences of missing a deadline can be costly and last a lifetime. Here’s what you should know about Medicare’s three different enrollment periods.

Initial Enrollment Period
At age 65, the Initial Enrollment Period is the first opportunity that most people are eligible to enroll in Medicare.

If you’re already claiming Social Security benefits at least 4 months before age 65, you are automatically enrolled in Medicare, with coverage starting the first day of month you turn 65. If you’re not receiving Social Security benefits, it’s up to you to enroll in Medicare either online at SSA.gov/Medicare, over the phone at 800-772-1213 or through your local Social Security office.

You can enroll any time during the Initial Enrollment Period, which is a seven-month period that includes the three months before, the month of, and the three months after your 65th birthday.

It’s best to enroll three months before your birth month to ensure your coverage starts when you turn 65.

However, if you plan to keep working and have health coverage from your employer, or from a spouse’s employer, you may want to delay Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient services, and Part D, which covers prescription drugs. But first check with the human resources department to see how your employer insurance works with Medicare.

Typically, if your employer has fewer than 20 employees, Medicare will be your primary insurer and you should enroll. But if you work for a company that has 20 or more employees, your employer’s group health plan will be your primary insurer as long as you remain an active employee. If this is the case, you don’t need to enroll in Part B or Part D when you turn 65 if you’re satisfied with the coverage you are getting through your job.

But in most cases, unless you’re contributing to a Health Savings Account, you should at least sign-up for Medicare Part A, which is free and covers hospital services.

Special Enrollment Period
If you delay Part B and Part D past age 65, you can sign up for Medicare during the Special Enrollment Period. Once you (or your spouse) stop working and you no longer have group health coverage, you have eight months to enroll in Part B. But if you miss that deadline, you’ll pay a late-enrollment penalty for the rest of your life. The penalty increases your premiums by 10 percent for each 12-month period that you don’t have coverage.

The window for Part D is shorter. You must sign up for Part D within two months of losing drug coverage. If you go 63 days or more without drug coverage, you’ll pay a lifetime late-enrollment penalty that equals 1 percent of the monthly base premium (about $33 in 2019) times the number of months you don’t have Part D of other creditable coverage.

General Enrollment Period
If you miss either of these first two enrollment periods, you’ll have to wait until the General Enrollment Period, which is January 1 through March 31 of each year, but your Part B and Part D coverage will not begin until July 1. And you’ll be subject to late-enrollment penalties.

There is, however, no penalty for late enrollment for Part A. You can sign up anytime with coverage beginning the first day of the following month.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Adaptive Gardening: Tips and Tools for Older Gardeners

Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend some good tools and tips for senior gardeners? My 77-year-old mother loves to work in the garden but over the past few years has been plagued by injuries.
Concerned Daughter

Dear Concerned,
Aches, pains and injuries are not uncommon among older gardeners. Because gardening is such a physical activity that often requires a lot of bending and stooping, squatting and kneeling, gripping and lifting, it can be extremely taxing on an aging body.

Back pain and knee injuries are most common among older gardeners, along with carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. To help keep your mom injury-free this summer, here are some tips and gardening equipment ideas that can make gardening a little easier.

Warm Up
With gardening, good form is very important as well as not overdoing any one activity. A common problem is that gardeners often kneel or squat, putting extra pressure on their knees. Then, to spare their knees, they might stand and bend over for long stretches to weed, dig and plant, straining their back and spine.

To help your mom protect her body, she needs to warm up before beginning. Start by stretching, focusing on the legs and lower back. And keep changing positions and activities. Don’t spend hours weeding a flowerbed. After 15 minutes of weeding, she should stand up, stretch, and switch to another activity like pruning the bushes or just take a break.

It’s also important that she recognizes her physical limitations and doesn’t try to do too much all at once. And, when lifting heaver objects, she needs to remember to use her legs to preserve her back. She can do this by keeping the item close to her body and squatting to keep her back as vertical as possible.

Labor-saving Tools
The right gardening equipment can help too. Kneeling pads can protect knees, and garden seats or stools are both back and knee savers. Lightweight garden carts can make hauling bags of mulch, dirt, plants or other heavy objects much easier. And long-handled gardening tools can help ease the strain on the back by keeping your mom in a standing upright position versus bent over.

There are also ergonomic gardening tools with fatter handles and other design features that can make lawn and garden activities a little easier.

Easier Watering
The chore of carrying water or handling a heavy, awkward hose can also be difficult for older gardeners. Some helpful options include lightweight fabric hoses instead of heavy rubber hoses; soaker or drip hoses that can be snaked throughout the garden; thin coil hoses that can be used on the patio or small areas; a hose caddy and reel for easier hose transport around the yard; and a self-winding hose chest that puts the hose up automatically.

There are also a variety of ergonomic watering wands that are lightweight, easy to grip, and reach those hard to-get-to plants.

To find ergonomic gardening tools and the recommended watering aids, check with local retail stores that sell lawn and garden supplies or try online retailers like Gardeners.com or RadiusGarden.com.

Container Gardening
If your mom’s backyard garden has become too much for her to handle, she should consider elevated garden beds or container gardening – using big pots, window boxes, hanging baskets, barrels or tub planters. This is a much easier way to garden because it eliminates much of the bend and strain of gardening but still gives her the pleasure of making things grow.

Trellises are another nice option that would allow her to garden vertically instead of horizontally.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Leave a Comment