awn O’Brian, Disability Rights Center, consults with a conference attendee, Wednesday. (Photo by Susan Ellis)

Senior Financial Health and Wellness Conference experts talked for several hours to more than 50 seniors about some of their issues – such as the rights of the elderly and persons with disabilities,  health insurance, Medicare fraud, and estate planning – Wednesday at St. Anne’s Catholic Church.

The seminar began with Naita Salmon, of Wholestic Me, talking about holistic health – taking control of quality of life. Holistic health involves five areas – health, relationships, work and career, money and finance, and the belief system.

Naita Salmon, Wholestic Me, gives information about her services to members of the audience. (Photo by Susan Ellis)

“Your health situation affects your life and your life situation affects your health,” she said.

Legal Services executive director and attorney, Shelby King Gaddy, provided information about some of the senior services offered by the organization to help with estate planning and end-of-life decisions.

“You have to balance legal decisions with life choices,” she began.

She defined powers-of-attorney, including a “durable” POA in which persons can be designated to make decisions about health care, finances, banking matters, and medical procedures. The document can be limited also to cover only certain services. The POA can be revoked at any time and expires when the beneficiary dies.

Gaddy also talked about Do-Not-Resusicate (DNR) orders and living wills which are forms used by physicians to follow an incapacitated patient’s directive about end-of-life decisions.

Avoid probate, Gaddy advised, because it is “not easy” even with a will. A revocable transfer on death deed or deed of gift can be used to protect homes and vehicles can be transferred, upon death, through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Legal Services will help clients with any of the documents but won’t set up trust accounts.

If there is no will, POA, etc, an estate is considered “intestate” and one-third of the assets will be awarded to the spouse and two-thirds to the children.

Attorney Kippy Roberson of the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands explained that his organization provides free legal services to people with disabilities or who are being discriminated against. They deal with housing, health care, education, and employment issues. They will also investigate suspected Social Security and other cases of fraud.

The Center also inspects and monitors residential facilities, without notice, for general treatment of residents and their medical care.

“I have yet to encounter a case of abuse or neglect,” Roberson said.

Some of the territory’s 24 facilities are not occupied to capacity due to staffing and funding. They could “use more government funding.” The organization is funded by federal grants.

Careeme Smith, Medicare technician with the Senior Health Insurance Program, dispensed information about Medicare and answered several questions from the audience. He pointed out there are alternatives to Medicare’s Part D, prescription coverage, through Frederiksted Health Care, Inc, Medicaid, and the Patient Insurance Program.

Smith had two warnings for using the insurance. When traveling to the mainland for treatment, the Medicare plan will be changed and when returning to the territory, beneficiaries must change the plan again.

“Disregard Medicare tv ads. They don’t pertain to the Virgin Islands,” Smith said, more than once.

Speaking of Medicare, Jennifer Logie, project director of the Senior Medicare Patrol, told the audience that between $60 and $90 billion has been lost to fraud, which results in higher out-of-pocket costs and copayments for beneficiaries.

Shelby King Gaddy and Jennifer Logie of Legal Services VI hosts of the Senior Financial Health and Wellness Conference. (Photo by Susan Ellis)

Identification theft is dangerous because the beneficiary can be denied coverage if a thief has already claimed the service. On the other side, a fraudulent provider will fill the patient’s records with false information, risking his/her health and life. Incorrect medical records can include false diagnoses, treatments that never occurred, misinformation about allergies and incorrect lab results.

Logie advised Medicare recipients to protect information by not carrying the card with them nor giving it to anyone. She recommended reviewing each Medicare Summary Notice for errors in services, supplies and equipment charges.

Legal Services is a non-profit, publicly funded corporation. Free services are provided by employed attorneys and legal personnel. Clients must meet certain financial eligibility requirements, be over the age of 60, or a victim of domestic violence. Appointments are necessary and can be made at 3430-718-2626 (STX) or 340-774-6720 (STT) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Gaddy said several additional seminars are being planned by Legal Services and the Senior Medicare Patrol on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.