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Miami

Cypen & Cypen
NEWSLETTER
for
August 9, 2018

Stephen H. Cypen, Esq., Editor

1. MORE FACTS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY:
What kind of questions do you and your friends ask about Social Security? When do my benefits arrive? What are Social Security work credits, and do they have anything to do with the way my benefits are figured? Will I be automatically enrolled in Medicare? Read on to find the answers to these questions.
 
Social Security benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they are due.
When you meet all the requirements for eligibility, the benefit check you receive is payment for the prior month’s benefits. For information on the payment of benefits, you can read our pamphlet, What You Need to Know When You Get Retirement or Survivors BenefitsTo know when checks will be paid, you can save the Schedule of Social Security Benefit Payments to your “Favorites,” or print it.
 
We do not pay benefits for the month of death.
Social Security uses the same throughout-the-month rule to determine eligibility for the benefit that is due for the month of death. You must live through the full month to be eligible for the payment. See the above pamphlet, mentioned in the section titled If a beneficiary dies, for more information about when a check is due.
 
Survivors benefits can replace a percentage of the worker’s earnings for family members.
The eligible family members of a retired or disabled beneficiary may receive a monthly payment of up to 50 percent of beneficiary’s amount. Survivors benefits usually range from about 75 percent to 100 percent of the deceased worker’s amount. Visit our Understanding the Benefits publication for an explanation of the amounts family members receive.
 
Work credits determine eligibility for benefits, but your lifetime earnings are used to calculate your monthly benefit amount.
Retired workers need 40 work credits to be eligible for benefits, but your work credits alone do not determine how much you will receive each month. When we figure your retirement benefit, we use the average of your highest 35 years of earnings. See Your Retirement Benefit: How It Is Figured for more information.

If you receive retirement benefits before you reach age 65, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare.
Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility following a hospital stay. It also pays for some home health care and hospice care. Medicare Part B (medical insurance) helps pay for services from doctors and other health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment and some preventative services. When you are already receiving retirement benefits, we automatically sign you up for Medicare Parts A and B when you turn age 65. You can then decline Part B if you choose, since it requires a monthly premium. If you are not receiving retirement benefits as you approach age 65, you should contact Social Security three months before age 65 to sign up for Medicare Part A and B. Even if you do not want to retire at 65, you should sign up for Medicare only. For more details, check out our Medicare page. Posted on July 26, 2018 by Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications.
 
2. APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS THAT USC CANNOT FORCE ERISA LAWSUITS INTO ARBITRATION:
Robert Steyer writes that a federal appeals court ruled that the University of Southern California (USC) cannot compel participants in two retirement plans to accept arbitration rather than proceed with a trial to address ERISA complaints against university fiduciaries. The decision by the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in March 2017 by a Los Angeles U.S. District Court judge, supporting the plaintiffs against the Los Angeles-based university in the case of Munro et al. vs. University of Southern California. Nine current and former employees of the university sued in August 2016, alleging assorted violations of ERISA in the management of the two university retirement plans - the University of Southern California Defined Contribution Retirement Plan and the University of Southern California Tax-Deferred Annuity Plan. Each plan had $2.5 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2016, according to the most recent Form 5500s. Although university employees were required to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, the appeals court said the argument by the university and other defendants "fall outside the scope of the arbitration clauses in individual employees' general employment contracts," the appeals court wrote. "The District Court properly denied the motion to compel arbitration." In the original suit, the plaintiffs criticized the university fiduciaries for employing four record keepers because "prudent fiduciaries of similarly sized defined contribution plans use a single record keeper rather than hiring multiple record keepers and custodians or trustees." The plaintiffs said the university should have used its plans' asset size "to provide economies of scale," enable the payment of "reasonable record-keeping fees," and avoid "duplication of services when one record keeper is used." The participants also claimed the defendants "failed to conduct a competitive bidding process for the plans' record-keeping services," adding that such a process would have led to the hiring of "a record keeper charging reasonable fees." The suit also argued that university fiduciaries did not take full advantage of lower-cost investment options, maintaining that they selected and continue to provide plan investment options with far higher costs than were and are available for the plans based on their size. USC officials declined to comment on the ruling.
 
3. CAN MY SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS BE GARNISHED?:
According to a report from Maurie Backman of the Motley Fool, millions of seniors rely on Social Security to cover the bills in retirement, and for many, it is their primary source of income. If you depend heavily on Social Security, losing even a small chunk of your monthly payments could constitute a financial shock, which is why it pays to understand when your benefits can and cannot be garnished. If you are collecting Social Security but are behind on your outstanding payments, here is some good news: Most creditors cannot touch your benefits, even if you have been delinquent for quite some time. This means that if you are carrying credit card debt, have a host of unpaid medical bills, or are behind on a personal loan, your Social Security benefits are safe. Of course, this does not mean that these creditors cannot take other legal action against you; there is nothing to stop them from attempting to access other assets of yours to recoup the money they are owed. But when it comes to Social Security, your benefits are off limits. If you owe the U.S. government money, however, it is a totally different story. The government is allowed to garnish a portion of your Social Security payments if you have an outstanding income tax bill or are behind on your federal student loan payments. Your benefits can also be garnished if you fail to keep up with child support and alimony payments, depending on the laws of your state. How much money might you lose? It depends on the nature of your debt, but generally speaking, the U.S. government can garnish 15% of your benefits to get repaid. That said, by law, you must be left with $750 per month in benefits after all is said and done. The only exception applies when you are behind on federal income taxes. In that case, the government does not need to leave you with $750; it can take whatever it wants to get the money it is owed. The best way to avoid having a portion (or all) of your Social Security income garnished is to stay current on your tax and student loan payments, and keep up with child support and alimony as required. But if you find that you are unable to manage those payments, your best bet is proactively to reach out to the appropriate agency and work out a payment plan. For example, the IRS allows you to pay outstanding tax debt over time, so if you sign up for one of its installment plans and make your payments accordingly, you will not have to worry about losing Social Security income. Another thing to keep in mind is that the government will typically reach out with a warning before it goes so far as to garnish your benefits. You will generally have 30 days to then work out an arrangement, so as long as you respond to that warning and do not ignore it, you can avoid losing a portion of your Social Security income. When you are heavily reliant on Social Security, you cannot afford to risk having even some of your benefits garnished. So do not put yourself in that position. Understand what debts allow for garnishments, and reach out to the agencies involved before subjecting yourself to a loss in income. Many of us make mistakes and fall behind on our financial obligations, and if you take steps to get ahead of the problem, you can avoid repercussions that could damage your finances irreparably.
 
4. HIV/AIDS DATABASE HAS NEW INTERACTIVE DATA MAP:
The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual update to the HIV/AIDS Surveillance Database adds new data to this interactive global resource on the prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS cases and deaths in over 200 countries and areas around the world. First developed in 1987, the latest release of the database introduces a new feature that allows users to explore the number of records for each country through a map. The HIV/AIDS Surveillance Database compiles information on HIV infection and the AIDS pandemic from medical and scientific literature, presentations at international conferences, and the press. The database focuses on low- and middle-income countries and includes all countries and areas of the world with a population of at least 5,000, with the exception of Canada, Bermuda, Greenland, the United States and U.S. territories. Users can easily search for statistical information on various population groups and print or save to a .pdf or .csv file. Release Number: CB18-SFS.36, July 23, 2018.
 
5. LASERS EDITORIALIZES LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS FOR PENSIONS:
In an era of short-term thinking at the State Capitol, one of the best ideas for long-term reform was shelved in the chaos of the 2017 legislative sessions. That was a well-thought-out proposal to support a new version of the state's basic retirement plan for rank-and-file state workers. Proposed by the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System, (LASERS), the new plan was based on data officials compiled on the workers who are investors in the pension fund and ultimately beneficiaries of their investments and those of the state. What LASERS found is that turnover was so great in state government that the majority of participants failed to stay long enough to vest in the system. As pension funds in other states have done in recent years, Louisiana's system proposed a hybrid plan that has elements of the traditional long-term benefit as well as a portable investment that a worker could take with him if leaving state service earlier. While the plan would not show a huge saving for the state over a period of decades, it would better serve workers, LASERS said - and would not affect the existing beneficiaries. Such common sense was a bit too radical for the political masters of state workers. Bills were offered by the chairmen of the Legislature's retirement committees, state Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Shreveport, and state Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell. But the bills did not move; the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) said that opposition from Gov. John Bel Edwards stalled consideration of the new plan. The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment on CABL's assertion. "This plan represents a significant reform on a major state issue and deserves a vigorous and substantive debate - not an automatic derail," CABL said. "If we ever wonder why the state cannot get out of some of the fiscal messes it gets into, this could be a prime example." While a far-reaching change for future state hires deserves study, the extensive work on the hybrid plan by the LASERS staff and outside analysts at the Public Affairs Research Council suggest it is still a good idea. Louisiana's new state treasurer, John Schroder, by law sits on the many systems' retirement boards, although typically as his predecessors have done he sends financial experts from his office to most of their routine meetings. This, though, is not a routine issue, and Schroder has been paying close attention: The treasurer recently told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that he backs the new hybrid plans and believes that the 2019 Legislature should take up the issue in earnest. It is an election year, so change may be harder politically. Still, we agree with Schroder and hope that the governor and Legislature will take another look at this attempt to give tomorrow's workers a better deal. The Advocate, July 23, 2018.
 
6. STAYING AWAY FROM NANNIES AND CAREGIVING JOB SCAMS:
The Federal Trade Commission warns that finding a new job can be a challenge. Websites can help you find work, but scammers also use these sites to find people to rip off. Do you look for work on caregiver/nanny job sites? Sometimes scammers will offer a job but say you need to buy supplies or other equipment. They pressure you to act quickly, before you have time to think. They send you a check and tell you to deposit it and transfer money to their vendor to buy the supplies. Do not do it - scammers post fake job listings for nannies and caregivers, then make up elaborate stories to get your money. The positions seem real, but they are not - it is a scam. The check will bounce. So, the money you sent is actually your own - and it is gone. Some scammers may pressure you to send money via gift card or cash reload card. Anyone that asks you to pay with such a card is scamming you.

If you are looking for work on a caregiving site:

  • Do not send money to someone who says they want to hire you. Do not deposit a check and wire money back. Do not send them a gift card or cash reload card.
  • Search online for a potential client’s name, email address, and phone number. You might find complaints by others who have been scammed and find out more about the scammer’s tricks.
  • If you sent money to a scammer posing as an employer, contact the company you used to send the money (bank, wire transfer service, gift card company or cash reload card company) and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask to have the transaction reversed if possible.
  • Report nanny and caregiver job scams to the job site and to FTC.gov/complaint.

Blog from Carol Kando-Pineda, Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education, July 23, 2018.
 
7. NEW YORK STATE COMMON DIVESTS PUBLICLY TRADED PRISON HOLDINGS:
In a recent report, Robert Steyer says that New York State Common Retirement Fund, has divested its holdings in publicly traded prison companies. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the $206.9 billion pension fund, "approved an updated restriction policy for investments in private prison companies, Jennifer Freeman, a spokeswoman for Mr. DiNapoli, wrote in an email. "The updated policy applies to all asset classes of the New York State Common Retirement Fund and will eliminate the fund's direct holdings in private prison companies." The pension fund's holdings totaled $9.6 million: $3.8 million in CoreCivic Inc. and $5.8 million in The Geo Group Inc., Ms. Freeman wrote. "Because of the limited size of these holdings, imposing these restrictions will not negatively impact the fund," she wrote. The pension fund has restricted investments in private prisons since 1999, she added. Mr. DiNapoli recently updated the list of companies subject to the restrictions. New York State and New York City prohibit private prisons. The $194 billion New York City Retirement Systems divested its private-prison holdings 13 months ago.
 
8. NEW OFFICE ADDRESS:
Please note that Cypen & Cypen has a new office address: Cypen & Cypen, 975 Arthur Godfrey Road, Suite 500, Miami Beach, Florida 33140. All other contact information remains the same.
 
9. PUN TIME:
My tailor is happy to make a new pair of pants for me, or sew it seams.
 
10. INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES:
If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves. - Thomas A. Edison
 
11. TODAY IN HISTORY:
On this day in 1974, Richard Nixon resigns as US President and VP Gerald Ford swears the oath of office to take his place as the 38th US President.
 
12. REMEMBER, YOU CAN NEVER OUTLIVE YOUR DEFINED RETIREMENT BENEFIT.
 
Copyright, 1996-2018, all rights reserved.
Items in this Newsletter may be excerpts or summaries of original or secondary source material, and may have been reorganized for clarity and brevity. This Newsletter is general in nature and is not intended to provide specific legal or other advice.

 

 

 

Copyright, 1996-2018, all rights reserved.

Items in this Newsletter may be excerpts or summaries of original or secondary source material, and may have been reorganized for clarity and brevity. This Newsletter is general in nature and is not intended to provide specific legal or other advice.


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