Military Retiree State Tax | SC ► Tax Deduction Bill 2 JUN Deadline The South Carolina General Assembly is considering a bill that would offer state income tax deductions for military retirees. The plan would offer military retirees with at least 20 years of service a deduction of $17,500 a year for those under 65 or $30,000 a year for those 65 or older. A caveat is that the military retirees under 65 must embark on a second job in the state with an annual salary of at least $17,500. The bill unanimously passed the House in 2015 and was carried over to the Senate this year. It has passed the Senate Finance Committee twice, but has been held up mainly by state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington.
Malloy has logged an objection to the bill, which means his presence is necessary before it can be debated and voted upon by the entire Senate. He was out of town 23 MAY and said by text that the issue warranted further discussion, but didn’t elaborate. The legislative session ends 2 JUN. If senators don’t vote on the bill by then, it will have to be reintroduced next year. About 58,000 military retirees live in South Carolina, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The bill would cost the state about $18 million a year, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue. But the bill’s backers — including the S.C. Military Base Task Force, which is charged with keeping military bases open and retaining and creating military jobs in the Palmetto State — said the benefits outweigh the cost.
The tax break would retain disciplined, skilled workers, said task force chairman Bill Bethea of Bluffton, who was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley. The cost would be offset by taxes on the retirees’ new jobs and those of their spouses. “We’re very fortunate to have Boeing and Volvo and BMW and all these tire companies in South Carolina,” said Bethea, an 8-year veteran of the Marine Corps who fought in Vietnam. “They require good, dependable, reliable workers. Someone who has been in the military for 30 years makes an ideal employee. “Keeping those people here strengthens our workforce,” he said. “It also brings in a replacement stream of income that exceeds their retirement income.” The bill’s passage would also help cement South Carolina as one of the most military friendly states in the nation. That’s a distinction which will bolster the state’s standing with the Pentagon when new rounds of base closings and realignment, called BRAC, kicks in, perhaps in 2019.
Currently, the Military Officers Association of American rates South Carolina yellow — or average — when it comes to military issues. The rating is not green — the highest — primarily because of the income tax issue. Red is the lowest rating. Currently, 26 states have no state income tax at all or exempt military retires from paying state income taxes, according to the S.C. Department of Commerce. “Every retiree looks at that when they are making their decision to retire,” said Tom Robillard, who is a state vice president of the national officers association. “And that extends to enlisted retirees as well as officers. This legislation benefits all retirees.”
Boosters said another benefit of the bill is that it would say “thank you” to retirees for their lengthy service, which often includes combat. “These are people who for 20 or 30 years moved every two years, lived like gypsies, put their lives on the line and weren’t able to put down roots,” Bethea said. “We feel this is a way that South Carolinians can give back to those veterans for the sacrifices they made for our freedom.” [Source: The State | Jeff Wilkinson | May 23, 2016 ++]
Life Insurance Update 02 ►PTSD Impact onEligibility An Army veteran and his wife said they were “shocked and saddened” when they learned he was denied life insurance because of his history of post-traumatic stress and depression. “There have to be a lot of veterans with this diagnosis,” said the wife, who asked to remain anonymous as they continue the process of getting insurance through another company that specializes in life insurance for service members and veterans. The denial letter they received from USAA cited his history of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and asthma. The Army veteran said a USAA representative emphasized his PTSD and the depression in explaining the denial. Insurers don’t talk about a particular individual’s situation for privacy reasons, but they do offer general information about how they make their decisions. And comparing companies' policies is often like comparing apples and oranges. The veteran said one difference is that he was applying for an individual term policy with USAA. The policy he has been approved for with another company is a group term policy. In group term policies, the risk is spread over a broader category of people and the underwriting requirements aren't as strict. He also applied for a lesser amount of coverage initially.
Can you qualify for commercial life insurance if you have PTSD?It depends on each individual’s circumstances, as well as the insurance company’s policies, according to officials at four companies that are among a number that specialize in providing life insurance to the military community. “The great majority of members with histories of PTSD are offered life insurance, many at our very best price,” said Alex Gairo, a spokeswoman for USAA. “As with so many health issues ranging from diabetes to depression, it is a question of degree and duration. “The applicant’s health history is reviewed to determine the following: how severe are the symptoms, what was the date of the onset of symptoms, how necessary are the medications to achieve effective control, does the applicant need counseling/psychotherapy? All these factors weigh in on the decision of the applicant.” “Talk to us and other insurers.
All of us have different underwriting rules,” advised Mike Meese, a retired Army brigadier general who is chief operating officer at AAFMAA. At AAFMAA, “we probably, as a percentage, have more people with PTS that we underwrite and insure than any other condition,” said Meese. The company looks at each individual’s case, including the treatment, the medications, and the doctor’s diagnosis. Depending on the situation, he said, the applicant might pay a higher rate, but it’s usually cheaper than Veterans Group Life Insurance. When he left the Army in 2008, the veteran didn’t sign up for Veterans Group Life Insurance, which is available to those who have been insured under the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program. “Unfortunately he missed his window to get insurance under VGLI,” his wife said. “We were both in our 20s and were not really thinking about this. We now have two kids.” That’s changed their thinking about their family’s financial situation if something happened to her husband.
Under VGLI, service members have one year and 120 days from the date of separation from the military to apply for the insurance. If service members apply for VGLI within 240 days after separation, they will not need to answer health questions. Since being turned down for insurance, the couple has applied for coverage elsewhere and initially applied for a lesser amount of coverage. They were accepted by another company that specializes in coverage to the military community, and are now trying to increase the amount of coverage. The wife said the rate is competitive with the life insurance she has as a federal employee. Insurers also look at whether the applicant has a VA disability rating, “The decision is made based on the risk. That’s how the insurance industry works,” said Mike Reyna, a retired Air Force colonel who is president of Military Benefit Association. “A high percentage of veterans have a PTSD diagnosis,” he said. “That’s usually disclosed in the application process. But there are no automatic disqualifiers. Like other medical issues, there are levels of severity.”
Navy Mutual has insured people with PTSD, but again, it depends on the individual circumstance and the whole health picture, said Stephen Pietropaoli, a retired Navy admiral who is chief operating officer at Navy Mutual. Post-traumatic stress itself is not disqualifying, he said, but the applicant may be denied or have to pay more for insurance when the PTS is more severe and if he or she is on medication for other physical injuries, for example. Navy Mutual tries to come down on the side of approving the application. "We exist to provide life insurance for those who serve and their families," he said. But if they don't assess the risk properly, it could affect the financial strength of the company. "We have to be around for 30, 40, 50 years from now to pay the claims," he said. He and others advise applying for commercial life insurance before transition or soon after leaving the military. That gives the option of applying for VGLI when you're still eligible. And like this veteran and his wife learned, it's wise to shop around to find options. [Source: Military Times | Karen Jowers | May 23, 2016 ++]
Bargains ►50% Off – Not Really Is your favorite store trumpeting a 50 percent off sale or other price-slashing offers that seem too good to resist? Think twice before you plunk down your hard-earned cash. Most of us love bargains and feel the thrill of victory when we snare them. But what you might not realize is that the 50 percent off sales are likely not where you’ll find the “bargains.” In fact, when an item is advertised as half off, you may really be paying more than if you bought it at the “regular” price. And, some of those screaming deals you think you’re getting through online discount and coupon sites are the digital equivalent of the brick-and-mortar price deception. So, understand this and avoid being manipulated:
The fiction of the ‘list price’
JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s all have been sued for misleading bargain-hunting customers with the use of high-percentage-off deals. In some cases, the price listed as the “original” was two times the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, reported Money. That meant the 50-plus percent “discount” left a buyer with more than the original manufacturer suggested retail price. Here’s an idea of how it works,
In an example noted by Time: A Lenox ornament was seemingly discounted at Macy’s from $60 to $17.99. The problem? There was no evidence that Macy’s ever sold that ornament for the $60 price.
In an example from Stacy Johnson, founder of Money Talks News: A Samsung TV on Amazon is selling for about $600 — 20 percent, or about $150 off the “list price” of $750. Looks like a good deal, right? But with just a little research you can find the same TV on Google Shopping, with lots of places selling this TV, shipping included, for about $550. That’s $50 less than Amazon.
One of the sites that pops up on Google Shopping selling this TV for $550, B&H Photo, claims the TV really costs $947.99, and lucky you are instantly saving $400.
As you can see, retailers take a lot of liberties with “list” prices. “If you’re selling $15 pens for $7.50, but just about everybody else is also selling the pens for $7.50, then saying the list price is $15 is a lie,” David C. Vladeck, the former director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection told The New York Times.
And sadly, yes, many online “bargains” including those by Groupon and Living Social are also not true deals, reported The Wire, a division of Atlantic Media. Their reporting (based on limited data) suggested that many original prices provided by these sites were inflated and, thus, so were the savings offered. Here’s what Consumer Reports had to say on the topic:
We’ve seen similar issues with merchant references to manufacturer list prices. For example, while researching a recent story about buying prescription eyeglasses, we found several instances in which eyeglass websites gave different list prices for the exact same frames. We found other cases in 2011, including one website showing an $86 list price for Hewlett-Packett Deskjet 3000 printer with an actual MSRP of $69.99. The site’s $66.99 price, purported to be a $19 savings, was in fact a reduction of only $3 off the list price.
Don’t be blinded by the sea of “sales” signs you’ll see in some stores. And forget references to list price, MSRP, street price, retail price, or a retailer’s “regular” or “original” price. Instead, comparison shop to find the best price before buying. Use an Internet search with the exact product name and model number so you’re sure you’re comparing the same item. So, what the lesson here? Always assume the list price and savings on such “deals” are simply made up. Research is the key to make sure that you’re really getting the bargain you want. The Internet makes it easy to do!
Not sure where to start? Try http://dealnews.com, where bargain researchers keep their eyes on “millions of products” and surface the best deals. Ben’s Bargains (http://bensbargains.com ) is another one they suggest for its price history data and “Cheaper Than Amazon” feature. And then, even when you think you have a great deal in hand, do a little more research on your own. Remember, every retailer — whether you are shopping in a store or online — is trying to get the most money out of you. Only with some effort will you see whether the price they ask is fair or not. [Source: MoneyTalksNews | Nancy Dunham | May 23, 2016 ++]
Senior Discount Update 06 ►Accommodations/Activities/Entertainment ++ Keep this list and send a copy to your senior friends and relatives. Note: YOU must ASK for your discount! ACCOMMODATIONS
Best Western: 40% off (55+)
Cambria Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
Waldorf Astoria - NYC: $5,000 off nightly rate for Presidential Suite (55 +)
Clarion Motels: 20%-30% off (60+)
Comfort Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
Comfort Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
Econo Lodge: 40% off (60+)
Hampton Inns & Suites: 40% off when booked 72 hours in advance
Holiday Inn: 20-40% off depending on location (62+)
Hyatt Hotels: 25%-50% off (62+)
InterContinental Hotels Group: Various discounts at all hotels (65+)
Mainstay Suites: 10% off with Mature Traveler's Discount (50+); 20%-30% off (60+)
Marriott Hotels: 25% off (62+)
Motel 6: Stay Free Sunday nights (60+)
Myrtle Beach Resort: 30% off (55 +)
Quality Inn: 40%-50% off (60+)
Rodeway Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
Sleep Inn: 40% off (60+)
ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT
AMC Theaters: Up to 30% off (55 +)
Bally Total Fitness: $100 off memberships (62+)
Busch Gardens Tampa, FL: $13 off one-day tickets (50 +)
Carmike Cinemas: 35% off (65+)
Cinemark/Century Theaters: Up to 35% off
Massage Envy - NYC: 20% off all "Happy Endings" (62 +)
U.S. National Parks: $10 lifetime pass; 50% off additional services including camping (62+)
Regal Cinemas: 50% off Ripley's Believe it or Not: @ off one-day ticket (55 +)
AT&T: Special Senior Nation 200 Plan $19.99/month (65+)
Great Clips: $8 off haircuts (60+)
Jitterbug: $10/month cell phone service (50 +)
Supercuts: $8 off haircuts (60+)
Verizon Wireless: Verizon Nationwide 65 Plus Plan $29.99/month (65+).
SNAP Update 04 ►Are you Eligible to Receive Benefits Families with limited financial resources may be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP). It is a federally-funded program to help low-income individuals and families buy food. States and counties manage their own SNAP offices. Formerly known as "food stamps," the benefits you'll get from SNAP are loaded onto an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a credit or debit card. The card is easier, faster, and more discreet than the former food stamp system. You can use the card to purchase eligible food items at local retailers like grocery stores and at some farmer's markets. To see if you are eligible for the program:
Gather your income and asset information and use the pre-screening eligibility tool at http://www.snap-step1.usda.gov/fns. It will tell you if you're likely to qualify for food benefits and how much you may receive. This is not an application; you will still need to apply through your state's program.
Find the online application for your state at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/apply . You'll find local office addresses and phone numbers in the same place. You can also apply in person at a state or local office.
Wait to learn if you are eligible for benefits. If your state determines that you qualify for food benefits, they will send you an EBT card.
Use your EBT card to access food benefits at your local authorized SNAP retailers. You can use the card at a cash register like a credit or debit card to pay for food.
Many states have EBT websites set up for managing your benefits. Check http://www.fns.usda.gov/ebt/state-ebt-websites. If your state doesn't have an EBT management website, you can contact your state SNAP office to check your benefits at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/state-informationhotline-numbers. You may also be eligible to receive other government benefits. Visit http://www.benefits.gov to learn more. If you suspect an individual or a retailer is committing SNAP fraud, you can report it to your state online or by phone. If you suspect your SNAP application was declined because of age, sex, color, race, disability, religious creed, national origin, or political beliefs, please write to: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Civil Rights Division, 3101 Park Center Dr., Room 942, Alexandria VA 22302. [Source: CFL News & Chat | Michael Isam | May 18, 2016 ++]
Retiree States ►10 Worst to Grow Old In Where you choose to grow old is a highly personal decision, ruled by considerations like proximity to family and friends, home prices, and how you like to spend your time. But experts say you should be thinking even farther ahead, to a day when you’re less independent and will need assistance and support. For some seniors, this may mean living close to family, for others, it will entail finding a place with excellent senior living options. While the factors that make a particular state an ideal environment to grow old are highly individual, there are certain elements that make some states a better bet than others. These include the availability of quality healthcare, affordability of senior care, support for seniors and family caregivers and overall quality of life for seniors.
In research conducted by Caring.com, the following 10 states had the lowest combined rankings in these categories.
We assembled these ratings by examining data on quality of life for residents over 55, quality of healthcare, long-term care, support for seniors and family caregivers, senior care costs and more than 105,000 consumer ratings of senior care providers in each state. Sources included:
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index http://www.well-beingindex.com,
Genworth’s 2015 Cost of Care Survey https://www.genworth.com/about-us/industry-expertise/cost-of-care.html, and
The Long-term Scorecard http://www.longtermscorecard.org , a joint effort by AARP, The Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation.
-o-o-O-o-o- 10. Alabama - Alabama is the 10th worst state in which to grow old, according to our research. While it’s home to numerous historical monuments and some scenic beaches, the state ranked second to last in the nation in quality of life and health care. On the other hand, the state also has the country’s second-cheapest senior care – with the average yearly cost of a home health aide at under $38,000 and a year in an assisted living community at roughly $37,000.
8. Ohio (tied with Pennsylvania) - Although Ohio can be a great place to live for many families, boasting world-renowned museums, universities, and sports teams, it also ranks among the lowest for residents aged 55 and older. The state is tied with neighboring Pennsylvania for the eighth-worst place to grow old. Its spot on the bottom 10 list is due to its low rankings in quality of life and health care (it ranked the sixth lowest). It ranked 14th in the nation for elder care costs, with a year of assisted living services running roughly $47,000 on average, and a home health aide about $45,000.
8. Pennsylvania (tied with Ohio) - Home to the city of brotherly love, numerous historical monuments, world-renowned universities and more, Pennsylvania has a lot going for it – but it didn’t rank well in any of the categories we measured. The northeastern state is 40th on the list for quality of life and healthcare, and 31st for senior care costs, making it one of the most expensive places in the nation for assisted living ($42,660 per year on average), home health aides (about $48,000 yearly) nursing homes (about $105,000 for a semi-private room).
7. Mississippi - Similar to its neighbor to the east, Mississippi is home to a number of historical landmarks, world-class barbecue and excellent blues music. But seniors considering living here also have reason to feel the blues, due to the state’s low quality of life and healthcare ranking (the third-lowest in the nation). On the bright side, the southern state has some of the country’s most affordable senior care – with either a year in assisted living or a home health aide’s yearly fees both running about $38,000.
6. Rhode Island - It may be home to some impressive historical sights, scenic seaside towns and a world-renowned Ivy League school, but the nation’s smallest state also appears to be one of the worst bets for those looking for a place to spend their later years. While this New England state fared alright in the quality of life and healthcare ranking at 29th place, its senior care costs run far higher than the national average. A year’s worth of home health aide services runs about $57,000, while assisted living costs in the state are a whopping $64,000 on average.
5. Indiana - Also known as the “Crossroads of America,” Indiana is a great home for many residents, but this Midwestern state is a less than ideal place to grow old, our research finds. Although it placed right in the middle for affordability of senior care in the 26th spot, Indiana’s ranking was pulled down with the fifth-lowest rating for quality of life and healthcare. The state also had especially lower scores on support for seniors and family caregivers.
4. Kentucky - Home to the world-famous Kentucky Derby, vibrant cities like Louisville and the majestic Appalachian Mountains, Kentucky has plenty to offer. But when it comes to a place to spend your golden years, the southern state ranks among the lowest in the nation. It ranked 13th in the nation for affordability of senior care (a year in an assisted living community here is roughly $40,000 while a home health aide costs about $44,000 per year on average), but was dragged down by its poor quality of life and health care ranking at the fourth lowest in the nation.
3. New York - Claiming one of the most beloved, most-visited cities in the world, New York is second to none when it comes to many things – but as a place to grow old, the state is in the bottom three. New York has the third-most expensive senior care in the country. A year in an assisted living community costs about $49,000 on average and a home health aide is around $52,600, while a semi-private room in a nursing home in New York runs about $131,700 on average. And the Empire State didn’t fare much better in the healthcare or quality of life categories – ranking 36th in the nation on these criteria.
2. New Jersey - New York’s oft-mocked neighbor to the west has reason to defend itself – its seaside towns, impressive historic landmarks and world-class universities like Princeton are nothing to sneeze at. Yet, when it comes to a great mix of affordable senior care and quality of life for those 55 and over, New Jersey doesn’t deliver. The Garden State places 40th in the country for quality of life and healthcare for seniors. What’s more, it’s among the most expensive in the U.S. for senior care – with average yearly costs for a home health aide at about $48,500 and roughly $69,000 for assisted living.
1. West Virginia - The worst state to grow old is West Virginia, our research shows. Coming in at 20th place for senior care costs, long-term senior care here is relatively affordable (a year in an assisted living facility will run you $42,000 on average and a home health care aide costs about $36,600 per year). And while the Mountain State boasts plenty of natural beauty and Civil War-era landmarks, it’s sorely lacking in important quality of life and healthcare offerings for seniors, ranking dead last in this category.
[Source: Caring.com | Editor Laura Dixon| May 2016 ++]