Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category
After you have honorably served your time in the military during a war, you want to know that you will be honored and recognized when you rotate back home. Thankfully, that is what the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is there for and there is a VA benefits application. Of course, it’s not as simple as sitting on your couch and receiving your pension; you have to get out there and do some work to show that you qualify. It may seem like common sense to you, but when dealing with a large entity like the VA you have to show everything on paper.
The benefit that we are talking about is known as the “Aid and Attendance” pension benefit. This basically means that you have to prove that you served during the appropriate time for a certain length of time. This benefit goes beyond the standard Service benefit and you can only qualify for it if you have qualified for the Service benefit as well. So in order to qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit you need the service qualification and the asset qualification. The service qualification states that you:
- Were on active duty for at least 90 days
- Served at least one day during a time of war
- Were honorably discharged from the military
The asset qualification is a little more complicated in that the standards are a little more fluid and there is some legal wrangling that you can do here to make sure you get the most out of your benefits. The baseline qualification for the asset portion is that you cannot have more than $50,000 ($80,000 for married vets) in assets, not counting your house or vehicle(s). So we’re talking retirement funds (excluding Social Security), investments, and property you don’t live in. The VA uses a complex equation called the IVAP (Income for Veteran’s Purposes) to figure this all out. Because it is so complicated, many vets get someone to help them navigate it. It’s kind of like doing your taxes; you can do them on your own, but you generally will get a lot more back when you have a professional do them for you.
In order to get the Aid and Attendance pension benefit, you also need to prove your medical needs. In other words, you need to show that you require assistance in two basic daily activities (bathing, cooking, administering medication, etc.), are blind or nearly blind, or currently living in an assisted care facility.
All in all, it really is up to you to see if you qualify for the VA pension benefit. It’s not going to fall into your lap, so make sure you take the steps required. If you are unable to do so, find someone that can help you. There are professionals out there that specialize in such legal wrangling and can make sure that you get the most out of your VA benefits. After all, you have served your country in an exceptional manner and it is only fitting that you get what is rightfully yours.
About The Author: Marty Fogarty is the founder of The Heartland Law Firm, Chicago’s expert for VA benefits and holistic Elderlaw planning. Heartland uses the Internet to its fullest to solve certain offline challenges faster by working with trusted online resources. This is why www.VeteransBenefitsGuide.com was created; to give you clarity about your eligibility and certainty about your next step towards success in qualifying for VA benefits. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Do I qualify for VA benefits?” give the site a visit and have your questions answered.
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Annual Compensation Payments
A structured settlement is a court-ordered set of periodic payments which stem from a lawsuit for damages or a legal agreement to settle damages in a tort case. The structured settlement calls for compensation payments for damages or workers’ compensation and is subject to the Internal Revenue Code Section 104.
Structured settlements have only been around for a generation or two, as the first structured payment plan occurred in a British court case in the 1970s. This type of payment replaced lump sum payment plans, which were the rule in damage claims before that time. The innovation came about because of the increasing amount of money changing hands in tort cases in the Seventies.
Since the Seventies, structured settlements have become the norm in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. These payments are often funded through the purchase of annuities, which acts as a guarantee of future payments. Structured settlements are considered asset-backed securities, and can result from either settlement out of court or due to a legal obligation incurred through a lost court case.
What Is Tort?
“Tort” is money compensation for injuries caused or wrong done by one party to another. Tort law has been evolving since before the 1970s, because of the increasing amount of damage claims in cases since that time. You’ve probably heard people talk about “tort reform” and tort cases all the time, but it’s a term that many people don’t immediately understand, since tort law isn’t taught in public schools.
What Is Tort Reform?
Tort reform is the name given to law which hope to limit the amount of compensation in tort cases. Supporters of tort reform claim that out-of-control damages clog up the civil court system, encourage ambulance chaser lawyers, and increase insurance costs for everyone else, as companies have to compensate for large damage settlements.
Opponents of tort reform claim that companies must face high penalties for cases where they cause irreparable damage to employees and private citizens, because they will view lesser settlements as the “price of doing business” and therefore have no motivation to limit danger to workers or individuals affected by cost-cutting decisions.
Therefore, tort reform becomes a matter of viewing individual welfare against public costs. Questions of whether to support tort reform often revolve around the question of whether private corporations will police themselves or need the threat of legal jeopardy to do the right thing in setting up their business practices.
You could say that tort reform is about whether “slimy” lawyers prey on private interests, whether crusading lawyers serve a public purpose in keeping those very same private interests honest. Whether you support tort reform tends to boil down to where you stand on that issue.
Proponents in tort reform have won a valuable public relations battle simply in having the issue termed “tort reform”, because opponents would say reforming the tort system is no sort of reform at all, but opening the door for corruption. In my personal view, the murky politics of personal injury law leaves room to blame both sides, though I suppose having a “curse on both your houses” attitude hardly solves any problems. Each case is different, so I tend to dislike laws that limit judgments.
Structured Settlement and Tort Reform
Structured settlements therefore have become a way for businesses and companies often targeted by personal injury claims to defer some of the costs of tort cases against them, but limiting the amount of up-front payments and forestall damages that would put them out of business.
You could say lawyers and corporations alike have found a third way, which avoids a lump sum damage claim that would close doors, while avoiding the kind of tort reform laws that would close the doors on the law practices of so-called ambulance chasers. The business paying structured settlements retain capital they can invest in their business, hoping either to collect interest or make profits that offset the costs of the annuities they’ll have to pay.
The corporation forestalls costs and pays out over many years, the lawyers still collect fees for years to come, and those harmed are paid out over the years, hopefully as its own kind of pension. It should be noted that Medicare and Medicaid sometimes affect the amount of money paid in a structured settlement.
Selling Structured Settlements
Believe it or not, there are companies that buy structured settlements from the people who’ve been awarded them or who bargained for them out of court. Imagine you have a structured settlement plan, but you need money up-front and fast. There are companies who’ll pay you a lump sum amount (at a lesser total cost), and who then have the right to collect the damages (making a long-term profit).
These companies do the same with life insurance policies, annuities, and lottery awards. You have to imagine that the amount paid to those selling their future payments is going to be at a significantly reduced amount, so they can eventually turn a profit on this transaction.
For the most part, I would urge people not to sell their structured settlement to one of these companies, but people mortgage their futures for quick cash today all the time, so I know that advice is going to fall on deaf ears in many cases. Understand that you’re selling a dime for $0.05 today, or more likely, you’re selling a quarter for five cents. If you can avoid selling out your annual payments, don’t sell.
Is there anything more confusing than shopping for car insurance? How can all those claims on TV that go “At ABC insurance our insureds save $400 over insurance with XYZ company” when XYZ company is making the same claim about ABC. Who’s fudging who?
Car insurance can be really complex and that’s how those commercials get away with their claims. The fact of the matter is each company will have a class of insured who has elected specific coverages that will be cheaper than another company. Nobody is comparing apples to apples and that’s not doing the consumer any favors.
The best thing a consumer can do to get the best deal on car insurance is to understand just what it is and what drives the cost. Armed with this information you can go shopping and compare apples and apples to find out who actually does have the best deal.
With that thought in mind consider the following:
For starters find out what your state requires for minimum coverage. This will vary from state to state as will the penalties for driving without insurance. In fact if you are an uninsured driver in California and you are hit by another vehicle, because you are uninsured you can not file a claim or sue for other than actual economic loss. That means no claim can be made for pain and suffering.
Liability coverage. This is the element of car insurance that most states require you to have. This insurance pays third parties for damage you cause to either property r persons. This coverage comes in a wide range of coverage levels each with a different cost.
Collision insurance. If you are involved in an accident and you are at fault, your collision coverage can be used to repair your car. Collision will come with a deductable. If you are a good driver you can choose the deductable yourself. If you are a high risk, the insurance may only offer you a higher deductable. Generally speaking, the higher the deductable (the amount you pay for the repairs) the lower the premium for the coverage.
Medical payments. This coverage pays out medical expenses for anyone inside your vehicle (including yourself) if they are injured as a result of an accident regardless whose fault it is.
Comprehensive coverage. Companies will package this differently but basically it is a fire and theft coverage. Depending on how the policy is written it will cover not only the theft of your car but items stolen out of the interior and the trunk.
What to do next
Now you know the basics of car insurance and you can start doing some informed comparison shopping. But just where do you start? Do you call up every company’s agent and ask for a quote? Even if you go to an insurance broker he or she is only going to represent a few different companies. So where can you go.
Actually the medical insurance industry was the first to revolutionize the way people shop for insurance when they created online health insurance quotes. The auto insurance people weren’t far behind and now there are massive brokers that offer free car insurance quotes online. Without question shopping for car insurance online gives you access to the most companies and of course saves an incredible amount of time.
Secure internet insurance sites
The insurance sites are secure and can get you quotes for comparison based on your exact specifications…no TV ads here. The most time consuming part of this process is entering the coverages that you want and submitting your driving experience. But you only have to do this once rather than doing it for each company.
What’s more is you can adjust the coverage levels after you have received you firs quotes for cost comparison to see how it impacts your cost. Shopping for car insurance is not fun but it has become faster and more effective thanks to the internet.
Laura Penekamp is a stay at home mom who loves to freelance articles. When she’s not busy with her three children Laura spends her time writing about all the ways a family can save money online.