My father retired as United States Air Force Senior Master Sergeant after 24 years of honorable service and with a significant service-related disability. Then, he pulled another couple of decades as a clerk with the United States Postal Service. He cleared mountain land he had inherited, built up the property with the family home, two area rental properties, barns, tool sheds and gardens. Then, he enjoyed his retirement with his wife, my mother, on the property until her death last November.
Now, as a widower he is legally blind, suffers from prostate and spinal cancer, is an insulin-dependent diabetic, has the usual hypertension and is diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer’s Dementia.
Oh, yes. And he’s destitute. Or at least he was – his attorneys have failed to notify me otherwise. Almost immediately before her death, my mother and my son convinced my father to sign everything over to the one individual in the family who demonstrated the least degree of actual work and care toward them – my son. My mother was so sure of her omniscient wisdom and that it was solely her property to dispose of that she and my son had my father sign these documents – How did he see them? Did he understand them? – and then, enlisted the secret assistance of my sister in having them notarized.
The failings of the state and federal government to care for my father despite their promises to do so and his very real need for them is a disgrace.
According to the WashingtonPost.com, there will be no increase in social security benefits for 2011. My father is one of the 59 million Americans receiving Social Security benefits whose benefits will be frozen for the second year in a row. In 2007, a study indicated that for 63% of beneficiaries, their social security benefits comprised 50% or more of their incomes; for 32% of recipients, that monthly check is 90% or more of their income. In other words, that check is no treat, no “extra” – it is indispensable income necessary to pay bills.
The number of Americans who hear this statistic and shrug, assuming that it has nothing to do with them, their lives, their businesses, or their budgets astounds me. Social Security recipients are hardly aliens imported from a distant planet. More likely and depending upon your age, they are you, your parents or your grandparents. If a social security recipient is a member of your family, do you just save this shrug for when they complain or do you moan about the loss of premium Christmas gifts they can no longer afford to give you? If you, yourself, are the recipient, do you seek part-time employment to offset rising expenses and static incomes? And for all those business owners and CEO’s out there, you’d better make darn sure that the majority of your customers are employed citizens younger than retirement age.
What financial support my father will require from me is unknown until it becomes apparent how much of his property is returned in his name. My own financial situation has been hardly stable the last few years with a divorce under my belt and the “recession” that decimated my consulting business.
In addition to the federal slap in the face, the Commonwealth of Virginia has kindly provided an insult to the original injury: after investigating my father’s case for financial exploitation and finding cause, they declined to prosecute the case. The rationale provided was that my father already had an attorney and that they preferred to await a civil resolution. A state statue that summarized and increased penalties for adult abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation was summarized as Virginia Joint Resolution No. 45 for 2010. So, yes, the state says he was exploited, but no, they’ll not prosecute the offender but await his own attorney’s resolution of the issue – through billable time that will have to be paid through his estate if returned.
Perhaps my father is lucky in that his memory is fragile and he remembers little. It must one of his few respites not to have to worry about these issues. I wish that I had the same option.