Posts Tagged ‘programs’

Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits

David Vinokurov, District Manager, Trenton, NJ, Social Security Administration

With tax season upon us, many of you have asked about Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefits. Some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return) in addition to your benefits.

Note: No one pays federal income tax on more than 85 percent of his or her Social Security benefits based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. If you:

  • file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your combined income* is
  • between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
  • more than $34,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • file a joint return, and you and your spouse have a combined income* that is
  • between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits
  • more than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • are married and file a separate tax return, you probably will pay taxes on your benefits.

 

How can I get a form SSA-1099/1042S, Social Security Benefit Statement?

An SSA-1099 is a tax form we mail each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of benefits you received from Social Security in the previous year so you know how much Social Security income to report to IRS on your tax return.

If you are a noncitizen who lives outside of the United States and you received or repaid Social Security benefits last year, we will send you form SSA-1042S instead.

Note: The forms SSA-1099 and SSA-1042S are not available for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you currently live in the United States and you need a replacement form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, we have a new way for you to get an instant replacement quickly and easily beginning February 1st by:

Withholding Income Tax From Your Social Security Benefits

 

You can ask us to withhold federal taxes from your Social Security when you apply for benefits.

If you are already receiving benefits or if you want to change or stop your withholding, you’ll need a form W-4V from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

You can download the form, or call the IRS toll-free number 1-800-829-3676 and ask for Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the IRS TTY number, 1-800-829-4059.)

When you complete the form, you will need to select the percentage of your monthly benefit amount you want withheld. You can have 7%, 10%, 15% or 25% of your monthly benefit withheld for taxes.

Note: Only these percentages can be withheld. Flat dollar amounts are not accepted.

 

Sign the form and return it to your local Social Security office by mail or in person.

If you need more information

If you need more information about tax withholding, read IRS Publication 554, Tax Guide for Seniors, and Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.

If you have questions about your tax liability or want to request a Form W-4V, you can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 (TTY 1-800-829-4059).

 

 

Medicare Coverage

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Medicare coverage

What does Medicare cover? It’s a common, but also complex question. Medicare has 2 basic parts, Part A, which is known as hospital insurance (we’ll define that in a minute) and Part B, which covers services, such as lab tests, doctor visits, etc. Part A and Part B together are known as Original Medicare.

Medicare recipients also have the choice to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Part C) which is delivered by an HMO. This coverage differs from Original Medicare not only in the delivery of benefits but also what is covered. There are many different plan options under Medicare Advantage and you can learn more at medicare.gov

When it comes to Original Medicare, coverage works like this:

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care. To sum it up, Part A covers:

  • Hospital care
  • Skilled nursing facility care or Nursing home care (as long as custodial care isn’t the only care you need)*
  • Hospice (provided by a Medicare approved program, either at home or an inpatient setting)**
  • Home health services

**Keep a look out for a blog post on Medicare Coverage of Hospice Services coming soon.

*This is where some of the complexity of Medicare comes in. When a patient is sent to a nursing home/rehab facility for rehabilitation, Medicare covers your stay on a short term basis. Medicare does not pay for “long term care” or “custodial care”. If needed, Medicare will cover your rehab stay for 20 days at 100%, on day 21 (should you still need to be there) you will be responsible for a 20% copay. The maximum amount of rehab time Medicare will pay for is 100 days, so from day 21 to day 100 you would pay 20% of the cost. If you or a loved one are in a situation where you have to be in a rehab facility for more than 20 days, you should definitely be thinking about your options and what your plan for long term care is. At that point you should have already had a meeting with the discharge planner if not an interdisciplinary team at the facility.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services. Part B covers 2 types of services:

  • Medically necessary services: Services or supplies that are needed to diagnose or treat your medical condition and that meet accepted standards of medical practice.
  • Preventive services: Health care to prevent illness (like the flu) or detect it at an early stage, when treatment is most likely to work best.

Preventive services include screenings such as, mammograms, colonoscopies, bone mass measurements, and other cancer screenings, if your doctor thinks you are at risk. You also get a Welcome to Medicare visit within your first 12 months of enrollment, during this visit you can talk to your doctor about screenings and review your medical history. In addition to the Welcome to Medicare visit, you are entitled to an Annual Wellness visit. You pay nothing for most preventive services if you get the services from a health care provider who accepts assignment.

Part B covers things like:

  • Ambulance services
  • Durable medical equipment (DME)
  • Mental health
    • Inpatient
    • Outpatient
    • Partial hospitalization
  • Getting a second opinion before surgery
  • Limited outpatient prescription drugs

The fourth part of Medicare is Part D, which is prescription drug coverage. With Original Medicare prescriptions are not paid for, therefore you should obtain a separate Medicare Part D plan.

To learn more about all the parts of Medicare and to explore your options, such as, Original Medicare (Part A & B), Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D) visit https://www.medicare.gov/ or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

You can also contact your local SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) through you County- find their contact information at: http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/sashipsite.html or call the SHIP Information Center at 1-800-792-8820.

 

medicare

Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Today (Oct. 15th)

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Today (Oct. 15th)

Open Enrollment is happening now. From October 15th to December 7th you can make changes to your Medicare coverage.

What changes can you make?

If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan with or without drug coverage. These plans are private companies that are approved by Medicare and give you the services of Original Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you do not need to have a supplement plan (also known as a Medigap policy) and if your Medicare Advantage plan has drug coverage, you will not need a Part D plan.

If you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or drop your Medicare Advantage Plan. If you decide to drop a plan and not switch to another plan, you will be enrolled in Original Medicare.   You should then consider enrolling in a supplement plan to cover the costs that Original Medicare does not pay for and enroll in a Part D plan for drug coverage.

If you are in Original Medicare with a Part D plan, you can stay in Original Medicare and switch your Part D plan.

If you are in Original Medicare and do not have a Part D plan, you can enroll in a Part D plan.

Why You Should Review Your Coverage

It’s important to review your coverage before making a decision. And remember just because your doctor and medications are covered in your Medicare Advantage plan, supplemental plan or drug plan this year doesn’t automatically mean they will be covered in the coming year. Research studies show that Medicare recipients can save money if they review their Part D coverage. Make sure to confirm cost, copays, coinsurance, covered providers, and prescription drugs. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Has your health changed in the last year?
  • Is your current plan still meeting all of your health needs?
  • How much have you paid out-of-pocket in the last year—and for what?
  • How is your plan changing for the coming year? How will that affect your out-of-pocket        costs?
  • Are there better options available to you now?

There are many ways you can get assistance with this process. You can contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE or at www.medicare.gov

You can also contact your County SHIP (State Health Insurance Program) by calling 1-800-792-8820 or visit http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/services/ship/

NCOA (National Council on Aging) also has some useful information and tools. Like Medicare Quick Check, where you can answer some questions and you’ll get advice on choosing a new plan. Find it at https://medicarequickcheck.benefitscheckup.org/medicare-quick-check/?SID=543e7baa3cc91

In November, tune into Aging Insights to hear from the Senior Medicare Patrol of NJ, including Open Enrollment.

News-Open-enrollment-Oct-15th

Property Tax Reimbursement Program Deadline Extended

Friday, August 8th, 2014

 Property Tax Reimbursement Program Deadline Extended

More seniors can benefit from tax relief

Access to tax relief is still available for New Jersey residents. The filing deadline for applications to the Senior Freeze (Property Tax Reimbursement Program) has  been extended to September 15, 2014. The original deadline was June 2, 2014.

The NJ Elder Index indicates that 184,320 persons over age 65 who own their home in NJ have incomes below $48,204, which is well below the eligibility threshold for the Property Tax Reimbursement program which hovers around $80,000.  These are seniors who struggle each day to maintain their quality of life by trying to cover their basic needs. The Property Tax Reimbursement is a huge help to these seniors.

In order to be eligible for the reimbursement in 2014 these homeowners must have paid their property taxes by June 2013. The Division mailed reimbursement checks to eligible seniors and disabled residents who filed their 2013 applications by the original June 2 deadline in mid-July. Checks for eligible applicants who file 2013 applications after June 2 will be processed and delivered as quickly as possible thereafter.

For more information and details on how to apply visit: http://www.nj.gov/treasury/taxation/ptr/index.shtml or call 1-800-882-6597

Heat and Eat Programs are Vital for our most Vulnerable Residents

Monday, June 9th, 2014

                                                                                               

Heat and Eat Programs are Vital for our most Vulnerable Residents    

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) works with a variety of partners to highlight the essential safety net programs for low income seniors. These programs make the difference when seniors are faced with the daily challenge of paying the rent or buying food, paying for utilities or needed prescriptions.  SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- formerly Food Stamps) and LIHEAP (a subsidy program for utility assistance) are two such programs. 

The NJ Elder Index and related data presents the basic costs of living for single elder and elder couple households in NJ. The NJ Foundation for Aging developed this report in partnership with the national organization Wider Opportunities for Women. The NJ data indicates that 43 percent of NJ single elders and elder couples living the community do not have sufficient income or assets to cover their basic living expenses. The average statewide costs for a single elder renter living in a one bedroom apartment are nearly $28,000 annually but the average Social Security benefit for a woman in NJ is around $14,800 and slightly higher for a man at around 19,000.

However, many seniors actually receive significantly less than the average. This point was clearly illustrated in a recent letter to our office from a single 84 year old elder whose sole income is $761 a month from Social Security.  After her rent she only has $104 to cover her monthly expenses.  Her monthly SNAP benefit is crucial to her quality of life and wellness. Many NJ seniors who have worked and saved find they face a similar challenge with the widening gap between their costs and income. SNAP and LIHEAP benefits make the difference for thousands of our neighbors across NJ.

Cuts for both of these programs are now in place which will disproportionately hurt seniors and persons with disabilities. As advocates, we need to raise our voices to urge the restoration of these cuts by considering administrative changes for the LIHEAP, along with budgetary resolutions to assure that $3.2 million is available so that food stamps are available for about 177,000 families. It is also important to note that while these programs help low income seniors and low income families they also dramatically impact the local economy since it is estimated that every one SNAP dollar actually results in $1.70 that is actually spent locally.

These are essential programs for New Jersey’s low income residents and our economy.

 

Vulnerable Groups Linked by Need for Affordable Housing

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Vulnerable Groups Linked by Need for Affordable Housing

The NJ Foundation for Aging (NJFA) recognizes that aging friendly and age sensitive issues are in reality ageless. In this spirit NJFA works with many partners including the Anti Poverty Network (APN).  This organization represents a wide array of groups and concerns. The intersection or cross tracking of concerns creates a dynamic profile impacting people of all ages. Across the board access to nutrition & health services, employment and affordable housing are essential quality of life ingredients.

Among the vulnerable populations whose lives are deeply impacted by these intersecting concerns are our state’s elders. A simple examination of income data makes this reality painfully clear. The NJ Foundation for Aging’s NJ Elder Index and Data Report indicates that 25 % of all seniors living in NJ rely on their Social Security benefit as their sole source of their annual income. The average annual cost of living for a single elder renting a one bedroom apartment reported in the index is slightly below $28,000 and the cost of living is even higher in Bergen and Passaic counties. This level is a significant challenge when we know the average Social Security for a woman in NJ is $14,848 (and this is the average meaning many women receive significantly less). More than 252,000 single elders and elder couples face the daily crisis of covering their basic expenses with inadequate income.

Public benefits can improve the quality of life for the elder receiving the average SS benefit of $14,848 (as their sole source of income) as well as those with even lower incomes. This elder would be eligible for SNAP, for congregate meal programs, for Farmers market coupons, for energy and utility assistance, for PAAD, and a low income subsidy for their Medicare premium. Even with all of these existing programs, however, they would still fall short in the ability to cover their basic costs.

Here is where the needs and the solutions collide. Affordable housing is the only benefit that helps this elder really narrow the gap between their costs and their income. As declared by the headline for a recent NJ Spotlight article, “Affordable housing remains out of reach for a majority of NJ Renters”. This is not new news, but the article cites data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual “Out of Reach” report. The NJ Foundation for Aging recognizes that affordable housing is needed for people of all ages so people do not age into poverty. Housing policy across NJ is sorely lacking and we need to offer a full portrait of those who would benefit from this important resource: children, low income families, adults, health care workers, seniors, and residents with special needs. Let’s make housing for all a priority.

 

How to get your Credit Report

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

We’ve all seen those funny commercials for credit reports and have probably read articles in magazines urging us to get our yearly free credit report. However, have you ever wondered why you need it? Or how to go about getting it? And how to avoid scams posing as free credit report services? Well, let’s try to answer some of those questions.

Knowing your credit score can help guard against identity theft. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job. Since your credit report has information that affects whether you can get a loan — and how much you will have to pay to borrow money, you should check it annually to make sure it is accurate

The Federal Trade Commission enforces The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home. You can see why it is important to receive your credit report to monitor these things yourself before applying for a loan, credit card, mortgage or even a new job.

To order your free credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.

Here’s an important piece to remember– The law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time.

Okay, so here is the part to make a note of to protect yourself from scams. Use only annualcreditreport.com to order your free credit report. That is the only site under the law- FCRA that is mandated to provide your credit report for free. Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.

Some “imposter” sites use terms like “free report” in their names; others have URLs that purposely misspell annualcreditreport.com in the hope that you will mistype the name of the official site. Some of these “imposter” sites direct you to other sites that try to sell you something or collect your personal information. So make sure you type the url correctly and don’t enter your credit card information, exit the site if they ask for this information and then attempt to connect with annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.

The only information that you’ll be asked for to process your credit report is your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.

While your credit report helps determine your credit score, these reports will not give you your credit score. For more information about your credit score visit- http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0152-how-credit-scores-affect-price-credit-and-insurance#credit

For more details and to learn what steps to take if you do find inaccurate information on your credit report, please visit the Federal Trade Commission and read the article on Free Credit Reports http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)

 

Medicare Open Enrollment ends December 7th

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Medicare Open Enrollment ends December 7th

Open Enrollment is coming to a close soon. Every year Medicare gives you the opportunity to review your coverage and make changes. This year the Open Enrollment period is October 15 to December 7.

This is when people with Medicare can change their Medicare health plan and prescription drug coverage for 2014. Information on 2014 plans has been available since the beginning of October. People with Medicare can call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov for plan information. If a person is satisfied that their current plan will meet their needs for next year, they don’t need to do anything.

What can you do during Open Enrollment?

From October 15 to December 7 you can

  • Join or switch a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
  • Join or switch a Medicare Advantage Plan

During this period you should take time to review health and drug plan choices and choose the plan that fits your needs. Coverage begins on January 1, 2014.

Each year, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Drug Plans can change costs and coverage. Plans will mail an Evidence of Coverage/Annual Notice of Change to you. This notice gives details about plan coverage, costs, etc for the next year. Some plans may choose to leave Medicare and no longer offer the plan you have, meaning you’ll have to find a new plan during Open Enrollment. If this is the case your plan would have mailed you a notice of non-renewal.

To learn more about available plans visit- Medicare Plan Finder on Medicare.gov

You can also:

  • Visit your plan’s website
  • Refer to the Medicare & You handbook
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
  • Or contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)  at 1-800-792-8820 or http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/sashipsite.html

 

More Money Tips

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

More Money Tips

Fraud and Abuse

If you have not done so already, adding yourself to the Do Not Call Registry can limit the number of mail and phone calls you receive from marketers. Contact the Do Not Call Registry at 1-888-382-1222 or visit www.donotcall.gov

For more information on stopping unwanted mail and phone calls visit the Federal Trade Commission online at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0260-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email

You’ve seen many ads and articles stating that a Reverse Mortgage can help you, and for some people it is a wise choice. NJFA’s Renaissance magazine has published articles outlining what you should know when considering a Reverse mortgage. You must be 62 or over to qualify and a counseling session is required.  A reverse mortgage is borrowing against the equity of your home. You must stay current with your property taxes while you live in the home and the money will have to be paid back when you or your heirs sell the home. More information can be found at www.fdic.gov/

Always be on the lookout for fraud. Here are some warning signs to be aware of:

  • An unsolicited phone call, email or other request that you pay a large amount of money before receiving goods and services.
  • An unexpected email or call requesting your bank account number, perhaps one asking you for the information printed at the bottom of your checks.
  • An offer that seems too good to be true, like an investment, “guaranteeing” a return that’s way above the competition.
  • Pressure to send funds quickly by wire transfer.

Protecting your important documents is important. Keeping them in a safe place should also include protecting them from water damage by keeping them in an airtight and waterproof container.

The NJ Division of Consumer Affairs provides valuable information and resources to protect you. Their website features information about cyber fraud, how to determine if an investment opportunity is real and also a way to check if a charity is legitimate and other consumer warnings. Visit them online at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov or call them at 1-800-242-5846.

 

Money saving tips

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Money saving tips

Here are some great tips for saving money. We gathered these from various sources, to learn more about each follow the links provided or contact a trusted financial advisor. 

Find your pension

To see if you or someone you know has an unclaimed pension-Search.pbgc.gov

Free credit monitoring

Creditsesame.com

Catch-up

If you are 50 or over you can contribute an extra $5,500 to your 401K plan as a catch up contribution in 2013

 Family ties

If adult children or grandchildren live with you it may mean special tax breaks. Ask your tax preparer about claiming dependents for family members you support.

Save on stamps

Paying bills online means not buying stamps

Free credit report

Don’t pay for credit reports. Get a free copy once a year from three companies- Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Visit annualcreditreport.com

Selling your home?

The best day of the week to list your home for sale is Friday and the worst is Sunday. according to an analysis by a major real-estate brokerage firm. Listings on Fridays sell faster and for more money.

Save money on medications

Ask your doctor for free samples. Drug company reps drop them off all the time.

Skip the ER

If you have a non-life-threatening medical issue, like fevers, cuts, minor burns or headaches. Urgent care centers with walk-in features are more affordable and usually are open 7 days a week.

Grow it

If you put the stub of romaine lettuce in a glass of water and place it in a sunny spot it will grow back, the same is true of celery, spring onions and cabbage.

Weigh your options

If you need only a few vegetables or fruits for a recipe or meal, buying a small amount from the salad bar at your supermarket may be cheaper than buying a bag of precut vegetables.

Check it out

Instead of buying a book, why not visit your local library and borrow it.

Service advisory

If you get your car serviced at the dealer, ask to check for any service advisories. You might save on a repair that is covered.

Compare 401 (k) fees

Financial information company, BrightScope features free 401 (K) ratings directory that compares fees among plans. Check it out at brightscope.com/ratings