- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

The government is offering 20 million federal workers, retirees and military personnel an insurance deal that could ensure old age doesn't rob them of their dignity and their money while saving taxpayers millions.
The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program could at worst help enrollees avoid poverty and live in dignity when they need help with the tasks of daily living.
At best, it could jump start private firms to offer, and private sector workers to buy, their own LTC insurance protection. Currently fewer than 7 million Americans have such coverage.
It also could save the taxpayers (federal, state and local) a bundle by shifting many of the costs associated with long term care to invididuals and the companies that agree to pay them daily benefits of from $50 to $300 per day.
But there is a problem with the government's program: Most of the people who designed it and will sell it are computer hotshots. They do lots of things by computer. And that's great. Hail e-government!
Up to a point.
But many maybe most of the people who really need LTC the most (and the soonest) don't know the internet from the interstate. They left the work world before word processors and computers became standard office issue.
Many, many older folks still think of a mouse as a rodent, not something to navigate around a computer screen. For them, an icon isn't the symbol for AOL or My Documents. Their icon is Franklin Roosevelt or John Wayne.
These people the 60 plus crowd aren't dumb. They could teach the typical computer mouse-jockey some tricks. They are the "Greatest Generation." But they don't know computers.
And if the government wants to help them, it can either buy them all a computer and provide lessons (not a bad idea), or it can conduct the LTC business in language, and using tools, they understand.
The government now produces press releases in Spanish and gives instructions for benefits in Vietnamese and other languages. And that's great. But the least it can do is to help people who served it for decades during some tough times by giving them instructions in standard English, not in computer talk.
The early signup period runs from now through May 15. Eligibles can also enroll during the regular open season which will run from July through the end of December.
To get started, call 1-800-582-3337, or if hearing impaired, call 1-800-843-3557. Or get your son or granddaughter to get on the Internet and go https://www.opm.gov/insure/ltc/index.htm

Fear the turtle
Fear the Turtle is the rallying cry of the University of Maryland's athletic teams. But federal workers and retirees from Annandale to Zaire know the real fear factor comes from the Offset and Windfall laws.
Both are little known until they reach out and bite, or devour, the Social Security check of unsuspecting federal retirees, cops, public employees and school teachers.
Offset hits the former feds (or others with annuities not covered by Social Security) who try to collect spousal or survivor benefits based on their husband/wife's Social Security earnings. Offset can wipe out the spousal or survivor benefit.
Windfall is less harsh. But it still hurts. The Windfall formula can reduce by as much as $270 per month the Social Security benefit earned by someone who also gets an annuity from work outside of the Social Security system.
The National Association of Retired Federal Employees and federal postal unions (now joined by powerful teachers unions) have been pushing for modification (or less likely, repeal) of the Offset and Windfall formulas. They will do a headcount once Congress returns from the Easter recess to see how many new members have signed on to reform bills.
This is where your out-of-town friends and relatives can come in handy. The Maryland and Virginia congressional delegations don't need lobbying or pressure. They've all signed on to Offset and Reform bills. All of the uncommitted members of the House and Senate come from areas well beyond the beltway. The Offset reform bills are H.R. 664 and S. 611. The Windfall reform bill is H.R. 1073.


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