How will a potential government shutdown impact Americans?

Could Americans Feel Impact of Shutdown in Their Wallets?

Checks Likely to be Unaffected, but a Shutdown Could Shake Stock Markets, Consumer Confidence

Feb. 28, 2011

How would a government shutdown impact Americans far removed from the partisan wrangling in the nation’s capital?

Most Americans are unlikely to feel a direct impact — seniors will likely continue to get their Medicare and Social Security checks, as will veterans. But a government shutdown could hurt consumer confidence and further roil already volatile financial markets. Some experts say it could even set back economic recovery, especially if prolonged.

Democrats, Republicans and President Obama have until Friday to hash out a plan to keep federal government agencies — everything from the military to the Department of Agriculture — funded until October.

If the two sides aren’t able to reach consensus, only “essential” staff at federal agencies would continue to work but “non-essential” federal employees will be furloughed. A federal employee is considered “essential” when they are “necessary to protect life and property” and are needed to perform an “orderly shutdown of emergency operations.”

As for what Americans can expect, museums and national parks will shut down, the national zoo will close, government services such as toxic waste cleanup will cease, the release of census data may be jeopardized, passport applications will be delayed and federal services in general will slow.

However, the U.S. postal service will continue to operate as normal since that agency is self-funded. So will the military and critical security agencies such as the Transport Security Administration and Coast Guard.

Seniors can rest assured that they will likely continue to receive their Social Security and Medicare checks. Agencies can still disburse funds through past appropriations — think savings account — and maintain employees to process the payments.

But the White House has warned there could be possible delays, and if the last shutdown in 1996 is any indication — seniors should be ready for them.

“Some recipients, new retirees, new applications might not receive their checks. If retirees have questions about their checks, if they didn’t get their check in the mail, if they have a change of address, all those things could prevent them from getting their check,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday.

In 1996, the Social Security Administration, unable to keep employees because of lack of funding, had to delay processing and payment of new entitlement claims. There was no one to answer phones at Social Security offices and the agency had to eventually request money to bring back some of the furloughed employees.

Read the full article at ABC News’s website.

65 Is The New 55: Prominent Baby Boomers at Stanford Alumni Weekend discuss impacts on society of aging and longevity.

This article is a MUST READ! It is SO refreshing to hear new ideas for the Baby Boomer generation from the Baby Boomer generation! This is a certainly though provoking conversation, so I’ll post the whole article and the link! -SP

An all-star lineup of Baby Boomers, including Tom Brokaw and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, explored Saturday how matters of death, education, disease and family intersect with the aging of their generation.

The panel of leaders—from academia, business and law—said at a Maples Pavilion Stanford Roundtable that the confluence of these factors could lead to a crisis in our society.

The former Stanford students in the audience, here for Alumni Weekend, resonated with the questions posed by moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC News and the responses from the panel of six experts in “Generation Ageless: Longevity and the Boomers.”

With France in the news for legislating a controversial increase in the minimum retirement age, it was natural for Brokaw to bring up the issue of raising the age for initiation of Social Security benefits in the United States.

Barry Rand, CEO of AARP, pointed out that Social Security is self-funded, so it’s not a deficit issue. But, he said, “The issue is solvency. Seniors care about their children and grandchildren.” He and other panelists agreed that if we want to raise the minimum age for eligibility, we need to create jobs for seniors.

O’Connor said that at age 80, she is fully capable and eager to work, but she resigned from the high court to spend more time at home with her husband of 57 years, who suffers with Alzheimer’s Disease. She strongly urged a national campaign to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, just as we have done for polio and TB.

Stanford President John Hennessey commented that in addition to more research on Alzheimer’s, we need to think about the multi-generational problems associated with obesity and diabetes. Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford professor who focuses on stress, neuronal degeneration and aging, asked, “Why is it that when people are unhappy they eat more starch?”

Laura Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, received a healthy round of applause for saying, “The only stage in life that’s gotten longer is old age. Why can’t we stretch out adolescence?” She said, “We need a world where people arrive at old age mentally sharp, physically fit and financially secure.”

The way to accomplish that, she said, is through education. “High school dropouts decline from age 30. We need to change to allow everyone to have access to education.”

Carstensen pointed out that there are now families with as many as five, sometimes even six, living generations.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said that as we grow older, it’s more and more important to connect with others, especially with people of other generations than our own. She credits her parents with being role models to talk with and hopes that her own young children will call her when they get older.

“The best people around are your family,” she said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Brokaw asked the panelists if there were any societies that could be regarded as role models for dealing with their aging populations. Rand said that AARP with its international focus has found no role model to follow.

Carstensen agreed, and Sapolsky stated that most societies have undergone shifts that result in their not valuing aged people. China will have problems stemming from their one-child-per-family policy and their gender bias for boys, he said.

Brokaw’s closing question was, “How shall we think about death?” Stanford’s Sapolsky told of a palliative care specialist he knows who once told him, “I had three good deaths this week.” What he meant by “good” was that the patients were referred to hospice early and died peacefully.

Original article here at the Palo Alto Patch website.

Understanding Social Security Disability: Does Your Loved One Qualify?

These next two weeks, we’re posting some great articles recently published by the National Family Caregiver Association. If you have never heard of them, I strongly urge you to check out their website at:

Any family caregiver who has tried to navigate the Social Security Disability Insurance maze knows how confusing and frustrating the process can be. Some may not even realize that their loved ones are eligible to receive Society Security Disability Insurance. In an effort to take a little bit of the mystery out of this government program, NFCA posed some general questions to the folks at Allsup, a nationwide, private Social Security disability claims services company and an NFCA founding partner.

What Is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program. SSDI was established in 1954 to provide people with income if they are unable to work due to a disability, and guarantees income if their condition does not improve. Once retirement age is met — 65 or older — recipients move from SSDI to Social Security retirement income.

Regardless of your age, 24 months after your date of entitlement to SSDI, you are eligible for Medicare benefits.

How do I know if my family member/friend qualifies for Social Security disability benefits?

To help determine whether your loved one is eligible for SSDI, answer these three questions:

1. Does my loved one have enough work credits?

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn up to a maximum of four “credits” for each year. The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years. In other words, you must have worked for five of the last 10 years. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

SSA rules state:

Before age 24 — You may qualify if you have six credits earned in the three-year period ending when your disability starts.
Age 24 to 31 — You may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for three years of work (12 credits) out of the past six years (between ages 21 and 27)
Age 31 or older — In general, unless you are blind, you must have earned at least 20 of the credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.
2. Could my care recipient meet the SSA’s definition of disabled?

People are generally considered disabled if:

• They cannot do the type of work that they did previously.

• It is determined that they cannot adjust to other work because of their medical and/or psychological condition(s). These conditions can include the effects of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease; physical trauma such as stroke, brain injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder; mental health disorders; or any combination of illness and symptoms that make it impossible for an individual to work. The disability must meet or equal an SSA medical listing (see sidebar).

• Their disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death.

3. Is my loved one under full retirement age?

To be eligible for SSDI, individuals must have been disabled before reaching full retirement age (65-67).

If you answered yes to all three questions, your loved one may be eligible for SSDI.

Read the full article here at the NFCA website.

Social Security Adds Early-Onset Alzheimer’s to “Compassionate Allowance” Program

There are currently an estimated 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease. Although the majority of Alzheimer cases are individuals age 65 and older, a significant number of people under age 65 are also affected by this disease, and have few financial options other than the Social Security disability program.

Early-Onset Alzheimer’s womanIn its effort to improve and expedite the disability determination process, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that it will add early-onset Alzheimer’s disease to its Compassionate Allowances Initiative. The initiative identifies debilitating diseases and medical conditions that meet the SSA’s disability standards for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Inclusion in the initiative allows for faster payment of Social Security benefits to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association has commended the SSA for understanding that the cognitive impairment caused by Alzheimer’s disease leaves individuals unable to maintain gainful employment, and that they are deserving of an expedited disability determination.

The Alzheimer’s Association worked closely with the SSA to seek the inclusion of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Says Harry Johns, President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, “Now, individuals who are dealing with the enormous challenges of Alzheimer’s won’t also have to endure the financial and emotional toll of a long disability decision process.”

Read more at the Right at Home website.

Breaking News: Major Victory for Alzheimer Advocates

From the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has added early-onset/younger onset Alzheimer’s to the list of conditions under its Compassionate Allowance Initiative, giving those with the disease expedited access to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Alzheimer’s Association, a longtime advocate for those with early-onset Alzheimer’s, has played an integral role in this movement to reduce the length of disability decision process.

Sign AA’s Thank You Card to SSA by clicking here.

Read more here.

One-Time Payment of $250 for Social Security and SSI Recipients

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides for a one-time payment of $250 to individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security benefits. Eligible beneficiaries should receive this payment no later than the first week of June 2009. The one-time payment will be a separate payment that will not be included in the regular monthly benefit payment.

From CNN: Social Security, SSI recipients to receive $250 check in May

WASHINGTON (CNN) — An estimated 50 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will receive their one-time $250 economic stimulus check starting in early May — several weeks ahead of schedule, Vice President Joe Biden announced Thursday. Vice President Biden says the checks will “make a big difference” for older Americans and those with disabilities.

Vice President Biden says the checks will make a big difference for older Americans and those with disabilities.
Vice President Biden says the checks will "make a big difference" for older Americans and those with disabilities.

Vice President Biden says the checks will “make a big difference” for older Americans and those with disabilities.

Biden also announced the distribution of $3.2 billion in new funding for state and local energy efficiency programs from the Department of Energy.

The $250 checks “will make a big difference in the lives of older Americans and people with disabilities — many of whom have been hit especially hard by the economic crisis that has swept across the country,” Biden said in a written statement.

The energy efficiency funds will come in the form of “formula grants for projects that reduce total energy use and fossil fuel emissions,” according to a separate White House statement.

“Local leaders will have the flexibility in how they put these (energy efficiency) resources to work, but we will hold them accountable for making the investments quickly and wisely to spur the local economy and cut energy use,” Biden said.

Biden, who made the announcement at a meeting with several Cabinet and other senior White House officials, is the administration’s point man in overseeing the distribution of the $787 billion stimulus plan.

He is being assisted by former Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney, who has been tapped to head a new Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board.