Elder Abuse

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The downside of Veterans Annuities the salesperson won't tell you about


Florida Certified Elder Law Specialist
Nationally Certified Elder Law Attorney
Florida and New Yokr Bar
The pitches are everywhere in Florida: So-called Veterans Benefits experts offer free seminars to condo associations. They advertise on radio and in newspapers. The companies they represent have patriotic-sounding names. They distribute glossy brochures stuffed with red, white and blue.
So what are these folks selling? Veterans Annuities. The pitch is this: If you are an otherwise eligible veteran who cannot get Aid and Attendance benefits because of excess assets, all you need to do is buy one of these annuities with the excess assets, and voila: instant access to benefits to help you pay the costs of long-term care nursing home, assisted living or home care. It is true enough that the V.A. does not "look back" at asset transfers, but there's a lot more to this issue that you need to consider before taking the leap. 
First, tying up money in an annuity is almost never a good idea for an elderly person. If you ever need the money, you'll incur substantial penalties when you withdraw it.
Second, people need more intensive help as they age, not less. So if you're a veteran or surviving spouse in need of Aid and Attendance benefits, somewhere down the line you may want to apply for Florida Medicaid benefits for long-term care to help you with your more extensive needs. In Florida, if the veteran purchases an annuity and then has to apply for Medicaid for long-term care, the state of Florida MUST be designated as a beneficiary of that annuity for Medicaid expenses. That's the part that the annuity salesperson doesn't tell you, and may not know himself. One thing is for sure: the commission to the salesperson on these products is quite handsome.

Iif you are a veteran or a veteran's surviving spouse and need help, DO NOT purchase an annuity without consulting with a Florida Bar Certified Elder Law Attorney who is also accredited by the V.A. to give benefits advice. Your attorney will help you fully understand the pros and the cons  and explain alternatives  to buying an annuity. All the attorneys of The Karp Law Firm are V.A. accredited.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Did You Know June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day?

By Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho


Last Friday I attended a meeting sponsored by the “Justice Alliance for Vulnerable Adults”.  The focus of the meeting was to examine abuse and financial exploitation cases from a health care, legal, and social services perspective. The summit brought together national and Idaho experts to discuss the issues with professionals working with vulnerable adults. The primary spotlight was on seniors.  The distressing part of the meeting was to learn how many seniors are abused.  

Let’s start with a basic truth.  Taking assets of an elder or vulnerable adult is a CRIME.

Common victim characteristics include:  the victim is a man who is grieving the loss of a spouse or close friend, and they are lonely and isolated.  Experts state only one in every 23 events is reported.  Only a handful of cases of elder abuse are prosecuted in Idaho each year.  The support agencies and legal system in Idaho are not coordinated in a way to effectively protect seniors from caregivers, family and other predators.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. In addition, elders throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation, funds that could have been used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care. Unfortunately, no one is immune to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It occurs in every demographic, and can happen to anyone--a family member, a neighbor, even you.  ??World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of WEAAD is to provide a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

How Can You Be Involved?  An easy first step is to call or visit an isolated senior.


Source:  International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

                Idaho Commission on Aging Website: aging.idaho.gov

Friday, June 1, 2012

Financial Crimes Against the Elderly


By Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho

There must have been a secret mark on the front of my father-in-law’s house only visible to scam artists.   He lived alone and one day bought a freezer full of fish.  A month later, the same sales person sold him another freezer load of fish along with a second freezer to hold it.   Then there was the man who knocked on the front door and offered to paint his peeling front steps.  That person used his tools and paint, was paid and stole all of the tools from Dad’s garage. 

My neighbor’s wife died and he decided to continue to hire the caregiver who helped during the last months of his wife’s illness.  He did not need the help, but he felt sorry for her because she told him she needed the work to pay her bills, so he hired her for two days a week.  Later she was sad one day.  He asked why and she said she was behind in her rent, so he hired her an additional day, that he did not need.

My client, Betty, was in her 70s and lived alone.  Her grandson, George, had a drug habit and came over frequently, giving her a sad story of how he was short of money.  When her son, Bruce, noticed  $5,000 disappeared from her bank account in one month, he asked Betty where it went.  She made up a story, because she was embarrassed to admit she gave it to George.   The only way to stop this was for Bruce to be appointed by the court as Betty’s Guardian and Conservator.

Undue influence of elder persons is becoming an increasingly severe problem.  Through fraud, duress, threat, intimidation, emotional manipulation, isolation and other techniques that foster helplessness and dependency, unscrupulous perpetrators cheat vulnerable older persons out of their life savings.  This trend is increasing because those older than age 50 now control at least 70% of the nation’s household net worth.  Wealthy, and even middle class, older persons have become frequent targets for criminals, including family members and care givers, who want to divest them of their assets.

Legally, the concept of undue influence, particularly when it occurs to the competent elderly, is a difficult issue.  It should be suspected when significant others or caretakers develop trusting relationships that isolate the victim, foster a siege mentality, induce dependence, promote a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, or powerlessness, and manipulate the elderly person’s fears or instill new fears and vulnerabilities. 

We really are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and need to watch out for our seniors.  Early intervention and reporting can prevent devastating emotional and financial losses for older persons who have worked their entire lives to become financially independent.



Exploitation of the Elderly:  Undue Influence as a Form of Elder Abuse, by Ryan C. W. Hall, MD, Richard C. W. Hall, MC and Marcia J. Chapman.  Clinical Geriatrics, Vol. 13(2), 28-36; 2005


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