Who Cares About April 16th?

This time of year we often are reminded of taxes, and April 15th as the “due date” for submitting our income tax returns.

But April 16th is a day worth noting too–it is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Sure, it’s not as much fun as the Fourth of July, or as warm and fuzzy as we hope Thanksgiving could  be.

But it is as good a time as any to think about advance directives, or what some might call a medical power of attorney, or selecting in Michigan at least, a patient advocate.

I can draft such documents for you, and help you think through the issues that could be involved.  I’ve blogged on this earlier and you may want to see my previous blog (Designating Someone to Help in Health Emergencies). Feel free to contact me and set up an appointment to get this done.

And as you and friends and family and neighbors and loved ones think about the issue, check out the resources too at the National Health Care Decisions Day website: http://www.nhdd.org/public-resources or at the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys website:  https://www.naela.org/

Oh, and by the way?  If you think you need more time to file your taxes, and can’t meet the April 15th deadline. you can ask for an additional six months to prepare and file a tax return. Individual taxpayers must file IRS Form 4868. The IRS extension can be filed electronically or through the mail. But an extension to file, is not an extension to pay the IRS. Taxpayers are required to pay 90 percent of their prior year tax liability by April 15th tax deadline.

But if you have a medical disaster, and are unable to communicate your health care wishes yourself, there are no extensions.  It is quite likely that without a valid advance directive in place, a trip to the probate court will be needed, and that will be more trouble and expense, usually, than simply drawing up a good designation of patient advocate document with your lawyer.

In Michigan you may note some various public events on the 16th of April, in regards to National Health Care Decisions Day.  But you don’t need to wait for the procrastinators of the world…you can start to think about it now.

Social Security Disability. Compassionate Allowances. Older Applicants. A Break for Some Applicants?

Applying for Social Security Disability can seem daunting.  The general test requires applicants to establish that they cannot do ANY gainful employment in the national economy.

Carefully making your case, and thoughtfully filling out the application and providing supportive medical information from treating health care professionals is important.  Even so, many months, even a year or more, might pass, before you are approved (or denied). The mere fact you can’t do your current or immediate past job, isn’t usually enough to qualify. This is so even if you have some medical conditions or concerns that make life more difficult than before.

But two important provisions — found in Social Security law and regulation — makes the application process easier for  certain applicants who really need Social Security disability.

One provision is the Compassionate Allowances program.  Social Security has recognized some conditions or diseases as so nasty, or debilitating or fast acting, that few would disagree that the applicant’s disease or condition  meets Social Security’s statutory standard for disability.  Almost every year Social Security adds more conditions  to the list. In effect, if you or someone you care for, has one of the conditions listed, their application will be handled on a fast-track basis.

For more, on the Compassionate Allowances program see these Social Security webpages:

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances/cal_faqs.htm

http://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm

Another provision can make applications a bit easier for older workers.  Right or wrong, one might say that Social Security acts as though old dogs can’t learn new tricks.  Naturally they don’t put it that way. But in fact, older workers applying for Social Security disability will find that Social Security does look at age as a “vocational factor”.  See more here:

http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-1563.htm

Social Security provides a general overview of the disability benefits and application process here:

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10029.pdf

Great Variety Among Older Workers and the Approach to Retirement

Lots of talk about older workers continuing on into the work force beyond age 65–but really only about 20 per cent of those more than 65 years of age continue working.

An article in today’s New York Times, provides a snapshot:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/13/business/retirementspecial/the-gray-jobs-enigma.html?hpw&rref=business

Designating someone to act for health emergencies

Most all adults make their own decisions about medical treatment on their own–their body, their choice.

In Michigan, if you are over 18 years old, and you haven’t prepared a designation of patient advocate form and/or a medical power of attorney form, all hell can break loose should you become so disabled that two doctors think you cannot effectively communicate your treatment wishes.

And this is so even though you might have loving parents or a sibling or even a spouse.  They are not allowed, under law, to automatically speak for you except under rare and unusual circumstances. So no one really directs your medical care when you cannot speak for yourself until a guardian is appointed.

This surprises most non-attorneys, who tend to assume that others could speak for them under such circumstances.

In reality, unless you have already established a valid designation of patient advocate form or valid (under Michigan law) medical power of attorney, a trip to the local probate court will likely be required. (Get a checkbook out for the filing fee, and plan to wait a day or so if an emergency petition, or a few weeks if a typical non-emergency adult guardianship petition.  And expect those around you to be frustrated and dismayed a bit, that they had to go through this at all.)

The Michigan Legislature publishes a booklet called “Planning for Your Peace of Mind” and you can find it here:

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/Publications/PeaceofMind.pdf

At a minimum, take care of that basic step yourself.

It would also be smart, really, to do more with a complete medical power of attorney drafted with your very own circumstances in mind–especially since Michigan’s specific designation of patient advocate law really only lets someone step in under pretty extreme circumstances.

But at least you’d have a start.

And of course, many fine attorneys can help you get further down the road towards careful planning and document drafting.

It would be prudent to make an appointment–while it is an appointment to create a document we never hope to need (I’m planning to die in my sleep with no medical involvement at age 100 myself–what about you? :-)) you just never know.

Don’t leave your friends and family up the creek without a paddle–plan now.

Pain? Is “Toughing It Out” a Mistake?

No one wants to be a “crybaby,” and indeed, it is not unusual to have some aches and pains that are fleeting in nature.

Some of us even expect a few more aches and pains as we age–just like some college students expect wicked hangovers if they party too much.

But ignoring pain is not always the better part of wisdom, and smart pain management is usually warranted.

Remember that medically sound pain management is available and should usually be covered by your insurance or Medicare or Medicaid too.

Check out this article on pain issues in the elderly from this week’s New York Times:
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/03/the-perils-of-toughing-it-out/?_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=elderly&_r=0

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