Archive for October, 2019

Helping Veterans age well after military service

Published in Military Times by Sherman Gillums Jr. and Andrew Greene

When you think of hearing aids, canes, knee pain, memory issues, and heart problems, you might envision a grandparent or elderly person. But these indicators of aging may also describe a military veteran in their late 30s or early 40s who served on numerous deployments, worked on a flight line, or parachuted from aircraft for a living.

While new military inductees are typically some of the healthiest people in our society, many find themselves anything but healthy by the time they end their careers. In fact, many find themselves coping with an accelerated aging process that combines natural aging with the service-related wear and tear on their bodies and minds.

There has always been a national interest in ensuring that veterans receive retirement benefits for serving their country. What hasn’t been emphasized are the specific challenges veterans face as they age. A 2019 study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that Persian Gulf War veterans suffered chronic conditions — such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes, stroke, and arthritis — about 10 years sooner than non-veterans the same age. This results in lower quality of life, higher mortality rates, and shorter life expectancies, especially for women veterans.

Compared to the overall population, veterans are more likely to be male, older, retired, widowed, educated, and living in the South, according to a report prepared by the LTSS Center in Boston. They also are more likely to report fair or poor health, limitations with activities of daily living, obesity, depression, and chronic conditions. This is despite the fact that there are not stark differences in financial wealth, and veterans pay less out-of-pocket for health care than civilians.

This raises the question: What is the best way to serve aging veterans who report a higher number of health and daily living issues during a greater portion of their lives than civilians?

To answer this, American Veterans (AMVETS) and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) are partnering to understand the specific needs of the nation’s 12.4 million veterans aged 65-plus and ensure that those who served have as fair a shot at aging well as those they defended. The partnership builds on two successful efforts: AMVETS’s HEAL Program and NCOA’s Aging Mastery Program® (AMP).
HEAL — which stands for healthcare, evaluation, advocacy, and legislation — encompasses all necessary steps to intervene directly on behalf of veterans, service members, families, and caregivers to reduce veteran unemployment, homelessness, and hopelessness, particularly for those who are at the highest risk of suicide.

The suicide rate among middle-aged and older veterans remains high, with approximately 65 percent of all veterans who died by suicide being aged 50-plus. Currently, the program has assisted over 600 veterans and families in crisis, with zero suicides following intervention, primarily by coordinating access to care and assisting with VA benefits. AMP helps older adults build their own playbook for aging well. Nearly 25,000 people have taken part either through classes in their community or by using the at-home Aging Mastery Starter Kit. Participants in AMP classes have achieved meaningful, measurable, and enduring changes in their health, finances, life enrichment, and advance care planning. The classes also serve as a gateway to encourage and lead older adults to participate in other community offerings.

An understanding of the aging process — both as a matter of acceleration among younger veterans and ways to make aging more of a comfort than a hardship — is essential to promoting good quality of life for those who served. The AMVETS and NCOA partnership will promote timely access to care and benefits for veterans with unique needs, along with customizable programs that support positive aging.
In addition to active support with obtaining VA benefits, veterans will have access to educational materials through Aging Mastery Starter Kits if they don’t live near an in-person class, are physically or socially isolated, or are caregivers. And with accredited representation and support from AMVETS, AMP will add a session on helping veterans coordinate their veterans benefits with Medicare.
From the time we’re born, we are educated and trained for the next phase of life. There is elementary school, high school, college, and military training. But there is no boot camp for aging. Veterans’ needs are unique, and the AMVETS-NCOA partnership provides a model for helping them age well.

Sherman Gillums Jr., chief advocacy officer, AMVETS, and Andrew Greene, managing director, Aging Mastery Program, National Council on Aging.

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Asset Expert Explains What Long-Term Insurance Covers

Published in SmartAsset by Ashley Chorpenning

While Medicare and Medicaid both help aging adults afford some of their medical expenses, they may not cover the cost of an extended illness or disability. That’s where long-term care insurance comes into play. Long-term care insurance helps policyholders pay for their long-term care needs such as nursing home care. We’ll explain what long-term care insurance covers and whether or not such coverage is something you or your loved ones should consider.

Long-Term Care Insurance Explained
Long-term care insurance helps individuals pay for a variety of services. Most of these services do not include medical care. Coverage may include the cost of staying in a nursing home or assisted living facility, adult day care or in-home care. This includes nursing care, physical, occupational or speech therapy and help with day to day activities.

A long-term care insurance policy pays for the cost of care due to a chronic illness, a disability, or injury. It also provides an individual with the assistance they may require as a result of the general effects of aging. Primarily, though, long-term care insurance is designed to help pay for the costs of custodial and personal care, versus strictly medical care.

When You Should Consider Long-Term Care Insurance
During the financial planning process, it’s important to consider long-term care costs. This is important if you are close to retirement age. Unfortunately, if you wait too long to purchase coverage, it may be too late. Many applicants may not qualify if they already have a chronic illness or disability.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an adult turning 65 has a 70% chance of needing some form of long-term care. While only one-third of retirees may never need long-term care coverage, 20% may need it for five years or longer. With a private nursing home room averaging about $7,698 per month, long-term care could end up being a huge financial burden for you and your family.
Most health insurance policies won’t cover long-term care costs. Additionally, if you’re counting on Medicare to assist you with these extra expenses, you may be out of luck. Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care or custodial care. Most nursing homes classify under the custodial care category. This classification of care includes the supervision of your daily tasks.

So, if you don’t have long-term care insurance, you’re on the hook for these expenses.
However, it’s possible to get help through Medicaid for low income families. But keep in mind, you may only receive coverage after you deplete your life savings. Just know that Medicare may cover short-term nursing care or hospice care, but little of the long-term care in between.

What Does Long Term Care Insurance Cover
So what does long term care insurance cover, Well, since the majority of long-term care policies are comprehensive policies, they may cover at-home care, adult day care, assisted living facilities (resident care or alternative care), and nursing home care. At home, long-term care may cover the cost of professional nursing care, occupational therapy, or rehabilitation. This may also include assistance with daily tasks, including bathing or brushing teeth.

Additionally, long-term care coverage can cover short-term hospice care for individuals who are terminally ill. The objective of hospice care is to help with pain management and provide emotional and physical support for all parties involved. Most policies allow beneficiaries to obtain care at a hospice facility, nursing home, or in the comfort of their own home. However, most hospice care is not considered long-term care and may receive coverage through Medicare.

Also, long-term care insurance can help cover the costs of respite care or temporary care. These policy extensions provide time off to those who care for an individual on a regular basis. Usually, respite care provides compensation to caregivers for 14 to 21 days a year. This care can take place at a nursing home, adult daytime care facility, or at home

What Long-Term Care Doesn’t Cover
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you may not be eligible for long-term care during the exclusion period. The exclusion period can last for several months after your initial purchase of the policy. Also, if a family member provides in-home care, your policy may not pay them for their services.
Keep in mind, long-term care coverage won’t cover medical care costs. Many of your medical costs will fall under your coverage plan if you’re eligible for Medicare.

Long-Term Care Insurance Costs
Some of the following factors may affect the cost of your long-term care policy:

1. The age of the policyholder.
2. The maximum amount the policy will pay per year.
3. The maximum number of days the policy will pay.
4. The lifetime maximum amount that the policy will pay
5. Any additional options or benefits you choose.

If you’re in poor health or you’re currently receiving long-term care, you may not qualify for a plan. However, it’s possible to qualify for a limited amount of coverage with a higher premium rate. Some group policies don’t even require underwriting.
According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), a couple in their mid-50s can purchase a new long-term care policy for around $3,000 a year. The combined benefit of this plan would be roughly $770,000. Keep in mind, some policies limit your payout period. These payout limitations may be two to five years, while other policies may offer a lifetime benefit. This is an important consideration when finding the right policy.

Bottom Line
While it’s highly likely that you may need some form of long-term care, it’s wise to consider how you will pay for this additional cost as you age. While a long-term care policy is a viable option, there are alternatives you can consider.

One viable choice would be to boost your retirement savings to help compensate for long-term care costs. Ultimately, it comes down to what level of risk you’re comfortable with and how well a long-term care policy fits into your bigger financial picture.

Retirement Tips
If you’re unsure what long-term care might mean to your retirement plans, consider consulting a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

The looming costs of long-term care may have you thinking about how much money you’ll need for retirement. If you aren’t sure how much your 401(k) or Social Security will factor into the equation, SmartAsset’s retirement guide can help you sort out the details.

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