Showing posts with label Elder Abuse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elder Abuse. Show all posts

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fake Debt & Collection Call Harassment

Every year, thousands of retirement-age Americans are contacted by debt collectors for debts that are not theirs. The elderly often fall victim to financial fraud and nearly half of the 8,700 complaints about debt collections that older people filed over a 15-month period to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) Office of Older Americans report unrelenting attempts to collect money that they do not owe. Overall, debt collectors accounted for 110,000 complaints to the CFPB from July 2013 through December 2014. The Federal Trade Commission say they receive more complaints about collectors than any other industry.

Although it is commonly threatened by unscrupulous collectors, garnishment of social security and veterans' benefits cannot be done legally for private debts only for delinquent state or federal debts such as unpaid student loans, taxes and government-backed mortgages. Unpaid alimony or child support can also be deducted from social security benefits, but supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits cannot be garnished due to any debt.

Another common complaint: repeated attempts to collect on debts allegedly owed by deceased family members.

The biggest mistake is to react under pressure. Step back and verify that the debt is yours before you pay. Many people don't and end up paying for debt that is not theirs. And some pay duly owed expired debt because they are unaware of the status of limitation generally two to 10 years, depending on your state, after which collectors cannot legally sue consumers for unpaid debt.

What You Can Do

Try these tips to avoid paying debt that is not yours

Request details about the debt and the collector's license number, company name, address and phone number. If the collector refuses to provide this information, assume it is a scam. Visit go.usa.gov/Fsge for signs of bogus collectors.

Check your credit report annually. When reviewing your credit report, look for unrecognized debts and inquiries by collectors or creditors. By law, you are entitled to a free credit report annually from the three major credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian, Transunion. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to receive your free credit report.

Write letters. Visit go.usa.gov/FsY3 for sample letters to help you get more information about the alleged debt, dispute it and stop contact with collectors. Always send letters certified mail with "return receipt" to collectors, creditors, and credit reporting agencies when disputing what is on your credit report. Send copies of the letters to the CFPB, the FTC, and your state attorney general.

For alleged credit card debt, insist on written proof that you owe it such as statements detailing the unpaid charge. For medical debt, get a statement or invoice outlining services, dates and names of doctors, and cross-check information with insurers, Medicare and providers for payment or reimbursement status; collectors may call before payments are processed.

Know your rights. Get details of your rights at go.usa.gov/FsgB

Monday, April 20, 2015

Elder Abuse & Neglect Investigations

Suspect an elderly person is being abused or neglected? Call on us to help.
 
Every day, in millions of homes across the United States, numerous home health care workers are helping to meet the basic needs of America's older adults — cooking, cleaning and assisting with activities of daily living. Nearly 10 million adults age 65 and older receive care at home or in a residential care setting other than a nursing home. That number is projected to skyrocket as the 65-plus population rises from 40 million today to over 70 million by 2030, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

While many home health care workers are first-rate, others could be your worst nightmare. Financial, physical and emotional abuse of the elderly is on the rise, indicated by the increased number of arrest warrants and abuse complaints nationwide. Research shows that 1 in 10 Americans 60 and older have experienced some form of abuse. But even as prosecutors around the country target elder abuse, many cases go unreported. Some older adults fear that if they complain, they will end up in a nursing home. Those with dementia may not be able to remember that they have been abused: Studies show that more than a third of people with dementia suffer psychological or physical abuse at the hands of people providing care. Meanwhile, their natural advocates and watchdogs — family members — often live hundreds or thousands of miles away never knowing abuse is taking place.

An Unregulated Industry

The National Center on Elder Abuse, a federally (taxpayer) funded initiative that serves as a coordinating body and clearinghouse for research and training on elder abuse and neglect reports that the intersection of a growing elderly population with a flourishing, virtually unregulated industry of home health care workers as the real culprit.

There are no federal regulations covering home-care workers, other than broad standards for care provided under Medicaid. Only about half of all states require home-care agencies to conduct any sort of training for their employees. Only 15 states require agencies to conduct periodic in-home inspections to make sure workers are doing their jobs. Most states require criminal background checks of home-care workers but do not require agencies to check records in other states.

According to a 2012 study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that less than a third of home-care agencies screened their employees for illegal drug use, and only 16 percent tested for basic knowledge about providing care in the home.

Many agencies charge $50 or more an hour, but do not invest in education, training and supervision for their employees. Personal care workers and home-health workers are the country's second and third fastest growing occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That has not led to higher pay or benefits for workers. One in four home-care workers live below the federal poverty line, and a third lack health insurance, according to the Paraprofessional Health-Care Institute, a Bronx, New York-based research and advocacy group. Long hours and low pay — the median wage is less than $10 an hour — contribute to  high turnover and inconsistent, unprofessional care.

Families remain the bedrock of home care to ailing seniors. An estimated more than 42 million family members provide care to an older adult. But there is a growing care gap, as boomers transition from giving care to needing care themselves.

Across the United States, lawmakers are beginning to recognize the need to ensure better care for homebound seniors. With money from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), six states are working to develop more rigorous standards fro training and assessing home-care workers. And several nonprofit groups have created registries to match the needs of seniors living at home with home health care workers who have specialized skills, such as working with those with dementia or Alzheimer's. The Elder Justice Act, which Congress approved as part of the ACA, provides for spending of $500 million to help state and local adult-protective services better detect and prevent elder abuse. But lawmakers have yet to authorize any money for the program.

Suspect an elderly person is being abused or neglected? We can help.

Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, Washington