Showing posts with label Complaining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Complaining. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

PAYEE! at the Disco

Note: This post is a part of a series detailing my family's fight with dementia and elder abuse.

Navigating the patchwork of pensions and benefits systems available to my grandfather is a challenge, but it’s necessary to help him live comfortably now that he’s safe. If a relation or friend of yours needs help managing their finances, you may be able to help them with most financial transactions through a Power of Attorney, but the US Social Security Administration does not recognize such documents.  Instead, SSA has a separate process for helping someone administer their benefits by being named as a representative payee. It is fairly straightforward for something that feels like it was designed in 1940, but it can take time and be hard to navigate.  Your experience may be more or less complicated depending on the nature of your relationship and who the payee is, but the process to get started should be the same.

When someone you care for needs help with their benefits, you need to be named by SSA as their representative payee.  You can become a payee for a partner, spouse, child, parent, or close friend, and the only power you have is to help this person administer their Social Security Benefits. This means the money is sent to you, but you are merely an administrator for it. You spend it on behalf of the recipient, and it must be used for their care and upkeep. Everyone with a Social Security Number can pick a designated representative payee by logging on to their Social Security Account at and naming them. This might ease the process should something go wrong that prevents you from administrating your own benefits, but the person you name will still have to go through the verification steps that follow.

The payee appointment process starts with an interview (in-person or over the phone, depending on the current pandemic threat level) with the SSA itself.  Your local office should be able to help you directly. At the appointment, they ask you questions about your eligibility, relationship with the beneficiary, and try to tease out if you are taking advantage of the person you want to represent.  Be honest, and if it comes out during the interview that you may not be the best person to take care of them, you and the SSA rep will know. The SSA rep will ask for documentation (sent via fax or mail, blech) of why this person needs a payee due to their disability or incapacitation.  Afterwards, the rep may solicit more documentation from doctors or care facility staff about your relationship with the person receiving benefits.  They will ensure this person is being taken care of now, and that you, as the payee, are working with skilled providers in the patient’s best interest.  The collection/submittal period for this documentation has a strict deadline of 30 days.  You will need to start all over again with another interview if something goes awry.  In my case, the payee appointment coincided with the beginning of the pandemic. Doctors were slow to respond, and the first attempt expired with no decision, so stay on top of it!  If you have any doubts, reach out to the SSA rep that interviewed you.

After a nerve-wracking 30 days, you should receive paperwork in the mail from the SSA that you have been appointed as as representative payee.  It should also explain how much the benefits are, how they will be paid, and where they will be sent. The booklet that comes with this details your responsibilities, so read it, memorize it, and prepare to follow its guidance. It is also possible that you will receive a letter after appointment but before the payment has been sorted out.  It may say something panic-inducing like, "We have chosen you to be NNN's representative payee. However, we cannot pay you benefits at this time." After calling around and finding some threads after the fact, this letter is nothing to panic about.  It is automatically generated by the system, and it indicates that you, personally, are not receiving benefits, even if your payee will be.  This thread helped a lot to assuage my fears. The benefit information pertaining to the person for which you are responsible will be in the letter about your appointment as a payee.

If your are the payee for a relative or friend (not a spouse, child, or institutional relation), the next step is to create a separate bank account for the payee.  This will make managing the flow of money as easy as possible without mingling your funds with theirs. It also gives you is an account for direct deposit so you don’t need to handle paper checks..  Talk to your bank or credit union. Most will understand what you mean when you say you want to open up a "payee account", and the guidebook on payees includes specific language for titling the account.  Talk with your banker to ensure you have chosen an account type with no fees. Having direct deposit means you can usually get one for free, so shop around, and don’t be afraid to take your business elsewhere if the big banks want to charge you a monthly fee. I was able to set up an account and direct deposit the same day. You will need to call the SSA National Line at (800)772-1213 once you have the routing and account numbers. Once this is set up, another letter with a panic-inducing first sentence may arrive.  It may say, "We cannot pay you NNN's regular monthly benefit at this time..." followed by the fact that they are instead sending them to a financial institution.  This is just to warn you that you will no longer be getting paper checks. At this point, the benefits should be flowing securely and with minimal overhead for you.

Your main paperwork duty is the annual Representative Payee Report detailing that funds were spent in the interests of the person receiving the benefits.  Start keeping receipts in a central place, write expenses down in a log book, make copies, and familiarize yourself with the forms ahead of time.  You don't want to panic at the last minute and have to assemble documentation from scraps or jeopardize your appointment as payee. While I haven't had to do the yearly accounting just yet, I have had to do similar steps for trustee paperwork. I'll be sure to update this once I have gone through the process.

Having the payee designation allows me a lot more peace of mind when interacting with SSA on my grandfather's behalf. It's parallel to a Power of Attorney process, and its procedures are a little arcane. I hope this brought you some clarity when doing it for your own loved ones.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Reducing Oregon Tax Liability for Washington Residents that Work From Home


I am not a CPA, tax specialist, tax attorney, or other skilled professional in the tax space.  I'm just a schmuck with personal experience with the system.  If there is any doubt as to the applicability of my experience to your situation, consult a tax specialist near you.  Throwing a few hundred that them, just in case, could save you thousands in the long-run in audits, refund delays, and headaches.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

AWS Libraries in C# - Hard to Spot Typo in AWS Credentials File

I encountered an error when trying to run a C# command-line utility with `dotnet run`.  The AWS package kept throwing an error, and nothing I did to try to fix it made it work.  Here's the error: 

Unhandled exception. System.TypeInitializationException: The type initializer for 'Amazon.Runtime.Internal.FallbackInternalConfigurationFactory' threw an exception.

 ---> System.IO.InvalidDataException: Line 14:<arn:aws:iam::{{AWS Acct ID}}:role/{{Role Name}}

> in file C:\Users\{{User Name}}\.aws\credentials does not contain a section, property or comment.

After digging into the environment vars on my Windows box, trying to set things in PowerShell, and unsetting whatever I could, a co-worker helped me take a second look at the error.  My credentials file itself had a typo on line 14.  I had chopped off the 'role_arn=' from in front of my developer creds at some time in the past, and this util was the first to try to load it.  Once I fixed up the creds, it ran like a champ.

Preserving this here because googling that exact error didn't help me.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

DIY Evictions in Nevada

Note: This post is a part of a series detailing my family's fight with dementia and elder abuse.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I do not even claim that anything in this story is accurate, legal or illegal. If you are attempting a DIY eviction, start with the legal self-help office. Most courts in larger systems have them. They can help you double-check your forms and make sure you're talking to the right people. If you have the means, consider hiring a company to do the eviction for you. The time spent waiting in line alone can be worth it, and any missteps are covered by the agreement.

If your grandfather has elected, in his dementia, to allow people of questionable character to live at his house, and, through a process of cajoling, begging, and pleading, they have refused to leave, it may be possible to avail yourself of the tortuous eviction process in your locale to unseat them from the house provided a) your grandfather agrees to sign the paperwork if you do not have Power of Attorney or b) you are able to obtain Power of Attorney and sign it yourself, but you would certainly be advised to avoid sparring with the legal eagle sovereign citizen types inhabiting the house and asking a third party professional to do it because they won't miss some minutia that cause months of delay, and, if you attempt the eviction on your own anyway, doing all the paperwork yourself, then it is possible to evict someone with the help of your local constable, nor should you be surprised, should your grandfather let them back onto the property in his dementia because he is being both stubborn and suggestable, to have to do the exact same process all over again (maybe twice if you screw up the paperwork in some small but easy to miss way again) to unseat them finally once you've been able to get him extricated from their influence and off the property.

By the summer of 2017, my brother and I had trespassed people from our family home only to have it reoccupied by those same strangers.  The triumph in 2015 was turned around only a few months afterwards as they were invited back in and established themselves even more firmly.  My grandfather provided various explanations (short-term charity, a favor to an old coworker, or a companion to help him from getting bored), but we could not influence him to send them away again.  None of it made sense to us, and we were left to wonder if he was sick, in debt, being blackmailed, involved in prostitution, a drug addict, etc.  His memory and recall were growing worse, but we didn't have any inkling of what dementia was nor who we should turn to.  Our arguments about his safety grew more frequent, and on occasion he was able to be reasoned with.  

The thing that shook him loose were discoveries that he had been the victim of check fraud multiple times, and he had finally become financially unstable.  Some names that appeared on fraud notices, forged checks not in his handwriting, and ETFs on his bank account for utilities at other addresses include Quasheen Laster, Zakeyaha Amacker, S Jones, Zanay Pruitt, Tangela Reliford, Zaysia Chess, and others.  We prevailed upon him to start eviction proceedings early in the summer of 2017.

Evictions are a touchy subject.  Tenants say Landlords use them to terrorize tenants with short notice and for facile reasons. Tenants fear the black mark on their credit or being tossed out into the summer heat, and the process evokes images of your belongings piled on the side of the road.  Stories about squatters in Vegas that abuse hearings and appeals, dragging their occupancy for months, circulate in media and parlor conversation.  But what do you do if your grandfather casually invites people to stay with him in his dementia?  What recourse do you have to make a suggestable man carry through with a month-long process that is a struggle at the best of times?  Who are these people that won't leave your family home anyway?  Can you trust the law to act, and how will these people respond to having a case brought against them?  This uncertainty weighed on us as we started researching the process.

We chose an eviction as opposed to another trespass because we wanted to be sure the people taking advantage of my grandfather could be removed from the property without recourse.  They were living at the house for months.  They had taken control of the upstairs, the closets, the kitchen, and every other surface of the house.  Any question that they had been living there for an extended period of time would be met with the law stonewalling us.  A trespass could become he said/she said, and there was no guarantee that officers could be prevailed upon to enforce it again.  Even though they were not ejected immediately, the eviction could be weilded by us should they return.