Senior Connection

Jan 29, 2010

"The Era Of Deficit Denial In Washington Is Over"

Social Security Cuts Are Part Of Deficit Plan By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Andrew Taylor, Associated Press WASHINGTON – Divisions remain within President Barack Obama's deficit commission on politically explosive budget cuts and slashes in Social Security benefits, even as the panel's co-chairmen go public with a revised plan to tame the runaway national debt. The new plan by co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, to be unveiled Wednesday, faces an uphill slog. Resistance is certain, not only because of the idea of raising the Social Security retirement age, but also because of proposed cuts to Medicare, curtailment of tax breaks and a doubling of the federal tax on a gallon of gasoline. Though the plan appears unlikely to win enough bipartisan support from the panel to be approved for a vote in Congress this year or next, Bowles has already declared victory, saying he and Simpson have at least succeeded in initiating an "adult conversation" in the country about the pain it will take to cut the deficit. The plan faces opposition from many commission members. House Republicans appear uniformly against tax increases, while liberal Democrats like Jan Schakowsky of Illinois appear unlikely to be able to accept big cuts in federal programs for seniors. Obama named the commission in hopes of bringing a deficit-fighting plan up for a vote in Congress this year, but it appears to be falling well short of the 14-vote bipartisan supermajority needed. A new version of the plan, obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, makes mostly minor changes to a draft that whipped up enormous controversy when unveiled earlier this month. Some domestic spending cuts are modestly higher than previously proposed, and health care savings from overhauling the medical malpractice system would reap less than proposed earlier this month. Unlike their original proposal, Bowles and Simpson stop short of calling for caps on medical malpractice awards. Instead they recommend changes in how awards are made. But other proposals remain the same. Among them are a gradual increase in the Social Security retirement age to 68 by 2050 and 69 by 2075, using a less generous cost-of-living adjustment for the programs and increasing the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes. The plan also retains a 15-cent-a-gallon increase on gasoline, a three-year freeze on federal worker pay and the elimination of 200,000 workers from the federal payroll through attrition. The proposal obtained by the AP was a draft that was still undergoing changes Tuesday evening. Other recommendations: • Eliminate congressional pet spending projects known as "earmarks." • Reduce the corporate income tax rate to 28 percent from 35 percent and stop taxing the overseas profits of U.S.-based multinational corporations. • Overhaul individual income taxes and corporate taxes, giving Congress the choice of reducing the top rate to as low as 23 percent and no higher than 29 percent. The lower the rate, the fewer the tax credits and deductions that would be available to taxpayers. Under one scenario proposed by Bowles and Simpson, taxpayers would face three tax brackets of 12 percent, 21 percent and 28 percent. Taxpayers would still be able to claim an earned income tax credit and child tax credit as well as all standard deductions and exemptions. Capital gains and dividends would be taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Taxpayers could claim a mortgage interest deduction up to $500,000, but only on their primary residence. If Congress does not undertake a comprehensive overhaul of the tax system by 2013, the plan calls for a "fail-safe" provision that would trigger across-the-board reductions in tax breaks, designed to raise revenue by $80 billion in 2015 and $180 billion in 2020. Bowles was White House chief of staff when former President Bill Clinton negotiated a balanced budget plan in 1997; Simpson is a former GOP senator from Wyoming. Only Bowles and Simpson are guaranteed to support the plan when the panel votes. None of the 12 House members and senators named by Obama have committed to the proposals, though Bowles and Simpson could pick up support from nonelected deficit hawks like Democrat Alice Rivlin and Honeywell International's chief executive, David Cote, a Republican, who won't have to defend themselves to voters. Republican senators seem more likely to vote for the plan than their rigidly anti-tax increase House counterparts. "I don't know if we're going to get two votes or five votes or 10 votes or 14 votes," Bowles told reporters. "There are enough reasons to vote 'no' in this plan for anybody to vote 'no.'" A supermajority of 14 of the 18 panel members would have to approve recommendations for a possible vote in the lame-duck session of Congress. That seems out of reach, but Bowles says it's just as important to have jump-started a national debate on what it'll really take to bring the deficit under control. "Our goal in this whole process has been really simple," Bowles said. "It's basically been to start an adult conversation here in Washington about the dangers of this debt and the deficits we are running." He added, "The era of deficit denial in Washington is over."

Jan 27, 2010

Older Americans Act Reauthorization Input Opportunities

Since 1965, the Older Americans Act (OAA) has gained recognition as a unique and highly regarded statute that has stimulated the development of a comprehensive and coordinated service system. This system has contributed greatly to enhancing the lives of older individuals, family caregivers, and persons with disabilities. In 2011 Congress will consider reauthorization and amendments to the Act effective in FY 2012. In anticipation of this process, the Administration on Aging (AoA) is soliciting input concerning the reauthorization through three mechanisms: (1) AoA-Convened Listening Forums; (2) OAA Reauthorization Input Events; and (3) Direct Input via the AoA Website.

For more information or to register, please click here:

Jan 26, 2010

New Credit Card Regulations Take Effect in February

The Credit Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act
is a comprehensive credit card reform bill that was signed into law by President Obama in May 2009. The Act will become effective on February 22, 2010, and provides new protections for consumers, including:

Enhanced disclosures of credit card terms require:

  • Cardholders to be given 45 days notice of any interest rate increase
  • Issuers to provide disclosures upon card renewal when the card terms have changed
  • Issuers to disclose the period of time and total interest it will take to pay off the card balance if only minimum monthly payments are made
  • Full disclosure of payment due dates and applicable late payment penalties.

Elimination of Universal Default - credit card issuers can no longer increase the interest rate on one card if a customer missed a payment on another card.

Restrictions on Interest Rate Hikes - no interest rate increases during the first year or on existing balances.

Penalty Payments - card issuers must wait until payments are 60 days late before charging penalty interest rates.

No Fees for Payment by Phone or Online

Bills Must Be Mailed 21 days Before Due Date - no weekend or early morning deadlines.

No More Two-Cycle or Double Billing - cardholders can’t average your balances for the last two statements and charge you interest on that number.

Application of payments - credit card companies must apply any payment above the minimum to the highest interest rate balance.

Over-the-Limit Fees - these fees can only be applied if the consumer consents to over-the-limit transactions.

Age Requirements - applicants under the age of 21 must obtain a co-signer OR show they have sufficient income.

Jan 25, 2010

Early Good News for OAA III B and Caregiver Funding

Early Indicators of President’s FY 2011 Budget Begin to Appear

On a fittingly spring-like day in Washington, some excellent news sprouted up from news reports of the President’s State of the Union address, which is set for this Wednesday evening. As part of a larger set of initiatives designed to help middle-class Americans, the White House will champion increases in existing programs that help older adults and their family caregivers.

While this will not be official until the President’s FY 2011 budget is released the first week in February, n4a believes that the budget will contain a total of $102.5 million in increases for three critical federal programs: $50 million for Title III-B, Supportive Services, of the Older Americans Act (OAA) and $52.5 million for OAA Title III-E, the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP), and the Lifespan Respite program, currently administered by the Administration on Aging. It is not yet clear how the funds for NFCSP and Lifespan Respite will be divided. These increases would represent a major increase for NFCSP and a 13.5 percent increase for III-B over FY 2010 funding levels. It is also a major victory for n4a’s advocates who have been pressing for OAA increases, most particularly Title III-B, for years.

References to this caregiving/aging initiative may be included in the President’s State of the Union address on January 27, so stay tuned.

To read the White House’s press release:
To read the White House fact sheet, which provides more detail on the proposed initiatives:

Jan 21, 2010

Worcester Senior Center Seeks Canes, Wheelchairs for Haiti Victums

WORCESTER — A volunteer group at the Worcester Senior Center is seeking donations of gently used wheelchairs, walkers, canes and crutches to send to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

The Retired Senior Volunteer Program’s Worcester Area Volunteers are organizing the donation drive. The items will be shipped by the International Medical Equipment Collaborative in North Andover to the Dominican Republic. The items will then be driven to Port-au-Prince, at the epicenter of the disaster.

Items may be dropped off at the Worcester Senior Center, 128 Providence St., starting Tuesday. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. RSVP health and safety coordinator Rita Sullivan said donations will be kept at the senior center until Feb. 12, when they will be picked up and sent on their way to Haiti. For more information, call Ms. Sullivan at (508) 791-7787.

Governor Patrick Has Done It Again!

He's done it again--for the third year in a row.
From: Al Norman, Mass Home Care

Governor Patrick once again has failed to articulate any vision for an elderly agenda for the Commonwealth in his annual State of the State speech.

In 2009, the Governor said we should "check on your elderly neighbor when its cold to make sure the heat is on." That was the only  reference to seniors.

In 2008, the Governor said: "Too many young families and seniors are still being pushed out of their homes by escalating property taxes."

And this evening's State of the State kept alive the absence of any elderly themes. The closest he came to a senior issue was one anecdote about a "grandmother" in Lynn who had to take in her children's family into her home---and then lost her job.

Nothing about how the state has driven down the use on institutions by 25% since 2000.

Nothing about the aspirations of seniors to live out the days at home.

Nothing about his frustrations to implement a plan that gives senior citizens a right to care in the least restrictive setting.

What could he say?

    There are 2,300 seniors waiting to get into home care.

    I impounded $2.5 million meant to help guide seniors to their alternatives to nursing homes.

    I cut $1 million from the elder abuse protection program.

    I failed to submit an 1115 waiver that we spent two years negotiating with the federal government.

    I shut down virtually all of my "Community First" agenda.

This is the State of the State, and for this reason, there seemed to  be very little for the Governor to talk about.

Jan 20, 2010

Thank you, Senator Harriette Chandler!

On the occasion of CMAA’s 35th Anniversary, Senator Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) offered a Special Citation on behalf of the Massachusetts Senate. It was delivered to the offices in West Boylston after the recent event was cancelled due to weather.

In his letter of thanks sent to Sen. Chandler, Executive Director Robert P. Dwyer expressed the gratitude of CMAA’s Board and staff. He wrote:

...I would also like to recognize the help that you have offered to CMAA over these last several years. You have been a good friend to this Agency, certainly as an expression of your care and concern for your constituents who are elders and caregivers of elders. Your appreciation for our mission and work has always been felt.

Senator Chandler has been a friend of CMAA for many years. Our best wishes to her in the coming year!

Jan 9, 2010

Drug Benefit adds 1 million more Seniors!!!!

The Extra Help Program from Social Security will now be available to more than 1 Million seniors who were previously not eligible. As of January 1, 2010, The Social Security administration will no longer count life insurance as an asset in calculating you eligibility for this valuable program. Also they will no longer count assistance from family members in calculating your income for the program. It is estimated that these changes will make 1 million more seniors eligible for this program nationwide. Income limits continue to be $16,245 for singles and $21,855 for married couples living together. Assets such as stocks, bonds and bank accounts must be limited to $12,510 for singles and $25,010 for married couples. The value of homes and automobiles are excluded.

Social Security Administrator Michael J. Asture has urged seniors who were rejected for the program in the past to reapply. This could save you as much as $4,000 in costs for you prescriptions on your Medicare Part D Program. If you feel you are qualified you can apply for the program online at or by calling 1-800-772-1213. Seniors can also apply at their local Social Security office.

Jan 8, 2010

Certified SHINE (Medicare) Counselors Needed

The SHINE program helps seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare to understand the many and increasingly complex insurance options available to them. The need for trained volunteers to educate and provide unbiased information has never been greater.

Through an intensive training program, SHINE (Serving Health Information Need of Elders) Counselors become certified to explain health insurance options. They work one-on-one with Medicare beneficiaries to educate, answer questions, solve problems, and screen for low-income health programs. SHINE Counselors also attend monthly meetings where they receive on-going training, support, and opportunities to share their experiences and concerns with other counselors. SHINE Counselors are expected to work an average of 5-6 hours per week meeting with clients and doing necessary follow-up work. They generally counsel in Senior Centers or other public settings that have a private meeting space. Some computer experience is required.

SHINE Counselors are intelligent and dedicated individuals, who are truly making a difference in many people’s lives. This is a unique and wonderful volunteer opportunity for the right person. Please consider joining our dedicated team. Training will be held this spring and will be held two days a week over a six week period. For more information about becoming a SHINE Counselor call Ed Roth, Central Region SHINE Director, at 508-422-9931. Bilingual, bicultural and minority individuals are encouraged to apply.

Jan 3, 2010

One Man’s Trash as Another Man’s Treasure

What is Hoarding?

1. Hoarders have an obsessive need to acquire and save many objects, and tremendous anxiety about discarding them, because of a perceived need for the objects for their apparent value. Sometimes an excessive emotional attachment to them develops. A compulsive hoarder will have thoughts like “I will need this later on” or “this should not be wasted” but the frequency and the importance attached to them are clearly excessive in compulsive hoarders. If they have any doubt at all as to the value of an object, compulsive hoarders will keep it.

2. Living spaces sufficiently cluttered so as to prevent activities for which those spaces were originally designed. It becomes impossible to use many areas of the house for their original purpose.

3. Significant distress or impairment in functioning is caused by the hoarding. An excessive amount of time may be spent "churning,” or moving items from one pile to another but never actually discarding any item nor establishing any consistent organizational system. Many compulsive hoarders have limited social interactions since hoarding may make them socially isolated. Sometimes they are too embarrassed by their clutter to have people come to their home, sometimes for many years.

To read the entire article on Hoarding, please visit our site Connection For Caregivers


To Enhance The Quality Of Life For Area Seniors And Their Caregivers, The Central Massachusetts Agency On Aging Will Provide Leadership, Information And Resources, Coordination Of Services And Advocacy.