Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December of 2017 which is aimed at cutting taxes for corporations and all Americans. While the bulk of the legislation went into effect January 2018, most taxpayers will not see much of a difference in their taxes until 2019, when they file their 2018 taxes. However, there are several important changes seniors need to be aware of now that could affect not only their tax bill, but other items such as their health care premiums. Legislation as complicated as a new tax code can be difficult to dissect, and certainly requires the help of a tax professional. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions you may have while reading through the points below:
Before explaining the changes, let’s examine several facets important to seniors that will remain the same. The new tax bill keeps the extra standard deduction for those 65 and older, which is $1,250 for individuals, $1,550 for heads of households, and $2,500 for couples who are both age 65 or older. Also, the new plan keeps the popular medical expense deduction. This deduction is for people with incomes below $75,000 which allows them to deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their income for the 2017 and 2018 tax year. In 2019, this will increase to bills that exceed 10 percent of their income. Further, the new plan does not affect the way Social Security or investment income is taxed.
Perhaps the most talked about change in the new tax plan is the repeal of the individual mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act. According to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), by 2027, this will increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 13 million. The CBO also states that because there will be a smaller pool of insured, it expects insurance premiums in the individual market to increase by 10 percent over the next 10 years. Citizens age 50 to 64 can expect a premium increase of up to $1,500 in 2019.
The tax bill slashes taxes across the board, contributing to a loss of $1.5 trillion in revenue to the government over the next decade. This deficit would trigger cuts to “pay-as-you-go” programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is expected to have its budget slashed by $25 billion in 2018.
Other notable provisions that will affect senior taxpayers include the new tax brackets which range from 10 percent for the lowest earners to 37 percent for those with the highest incomes. Taxpayers can deduct state and local taxes, which may include income, sales, and property taxes. The state and local tax deductions are capped at $10,000. Alimony payments will no longer be deductible. Anyone who inherits an estate can now exempt $10 million compared to the previous $5.6 million. The charitable giving deduction will increase under the new plan until this provision expires in 2026. The mortgage interest deduction is also being updated. Now, the deduction on mortgage interest is capped to loans of $750,000 for new home purchases and interest accrued on home equity loans is no longer deductible.
Under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the majority of seniors may see their tax bills decrease. However, it is still prudent that seniors be aware of the changes that may affect them such as their health care premiums or deductions on medical expenses. If you would like to meet with a professional who will be able to assess your personal situation and provide you with guidance on how this will affect you, please don’t hesitate to give our office a call.
Elder Law Attorney McIntyre Elder Law 123 W. Marion Street
Aging is the sign of a successful life. After all, when you think about the alternative to aging your perspective about getting older shifts. You should start seeking self-sufficiency for your retirement years well before the age of sixty-five. But, even if you have not done so, don’t shun the planning stages. You need to address planning no matter what your age. Some preparation is better than none at all. It can provide you with some peace of mind and can take pressure off of family members who would have to make their own income adjustments to be able to provide money to support your cost of living. No one wants to become a burden to their children or otherwise extended family. It feels good to be able to provide for oneself (and one’s spouse) no matter how lavishly or modestly. It is a relief to know that you have solid plans as well as contingency plans for the future. Although it can be hard work and tough to realize how much it will take to cover your future living expenses, putting off the planning stage does not lead to easier or better outcomes.
First of all, consider your location. Many seniors prefer the idea of living out their lives in their own home but there is much to consider about that approach. Are you close to family members or someone willing to help drive you to doctor appointments and grocery stores when you are no longer able? Can your home accommodate a wheel chair; is there a bedroom on the first floor or is there a way to get up and down the stairs? How expensive are the property taxes in your area? How mild is the weather? If you want to go to a retirement community, what locations are most affordable as well as most desirable? How would you transition to less independent living over time?
Once you know your location goals, do some worst-case planning. Adverse health and unforeseen life events can ravage your finances unless you are already managing a sizeable sum of assets or have incorporated proper planning. You might look for advice as to how to turn a nest egg into retirement income, or how to add to your long-term insurance care, or to establish some long-term insurance care. Think particularly about in-home care should your goal be to stay in your own home as you age.
You need to know if your state has approved the Long-Term Care Partnership Program, a joint federal-state policy initiative to encourage the purchase of private long-term care insurance. A professional can explain to you how it can protect some of your assets if you would require extensive care in the future, for instance for Alzheimer’s disease, which could potentially exhaust your private insurance policy benefits and require you to apply for Medicaid. A professional can also advise you if there are any federal or state tax incentives available to you for long-term care partnership insurance. You can also discuss implementing some additional life insurance that can remain in force until you are eighty. It can help a spouse with extra money should something happen to you. In the meantime, both of you could sleep better at night knowing the insurance policy is in place. The point is, you need to examine some potential worst case expenditure scenarios and how you would be able to meet the needs of your care should the moment arise.
Your aging is a success story. Embrace how you prepare for your senior years no matter what your age is, and the sooner the better! Retirement requires careful thought, planning and decision making for the best outcome possible for you and your loved ones.
Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.
The term “Veterans Benefits” is somewhat misleading. Only a percentage of the people covered by VA benefits served formerly in the Armed Forces. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides vocational rehabilitation, health care, employment services, pensions and more to both active and former service members, as well as their spouses, widows, parents and children.
When you make up your mind to apply for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs it is beneficial to have all of your important documents and forms ready, because they will most certainly be needed. Relatives of Veterans who wish to apply for benefits should have any relevant marriage certificates, birth certificates, and the Veteran’s birth and death certificates if necessary. You will also need the Veteran’s discharge papers.
Find out if you are eligible for enrollment to receive health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This is easily done at the VA website vets.gov, or via telephone at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) where you will be asked no more than 15 questions and be told whether or not you are eligible to receive benefits. You may also mail an application to the Health Eligibility Center, or apply in person at a physical Veterans Affairs location. Veterans and their families should be aware that they may be eligible for care at a non-VA health care provider if certain conditions/hardships are met, such as if they live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility. The VA will help you determine which “priority group” you best fit in, ranging from 1-8 depending on various conditions, to best give you quality care, as determined by their standards.
Although it may first seem unlikely, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers services to Veterans and their spouses that go far beyond simple health care. The VA can help you secure a house for your family via specialized home loans or purchase a car. Naturally these programs take into account the various levels of physical disabilities with which the recipient may struggle. For example, the VA can help you modify your home to be wheelchair accessible, should you require.
The words “GI Bill” probably bring to mind images of baby boomers’ parents and the post-World War II program designed to help returning Veterans receive a college education, but did you know that the GI Bill still exists? The Forever GI Bill, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, is a comprehensive program that offers post-9/11 Veterans a wide variety of tools to help them get their degree, including a monthly housing allowance and priority enrollment in classes wherein Veterans are allowed to register before the general public.
Although we probably do not like to think about it, there are thousands of servicemen and women who do not return home from the field of battle. For these heroes, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers funeral services and/or burial in a national military cemetery, whereupon the gravesite will be maintained in perpetuity.
Contact our office today for more information on benefits for war-time Veterans.
Within the next 20 years, the need for memory care housing options will become more necessary than ever. In 2016 alone, more than 2.5 million Baby Boomers turned 70 years old, the youngest boomers hitting age 52. With advancing age comes an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. Recent estimates state that the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease could potentially triple from the 5 million sufferers in 2013 to around 14 million by the year 2050. By the year 1976, Alzheimer’s disease was officially identified as the most common cause of dementia. In most cases in the past, people living with Alzheimer’s disease would stay in a typical nursing home or assisted living community, receiving the same basic care as other residents. However, because so much more is being discovered about the disease in recent years, the way we think about caring for people with dementia is changing.
Some of the most recent innovations in memory care include:
Alternative Therapies Music, art, and even pet therapy are often provided to residents with dementia as a way to stimulate memory, cognitive skills, and communication. In addition, these therapies can help improve residents’ physical and social skills, as well as reduce their stress and ease aggressive behaviors.
Dementia Staging Dementia staging refers to the ability to understand exactly what stage of the disease a person is in to help provide the correct level of care needed. This person-centered approach sees each individual as unique and focuses on what they can do, rather than what their limitations may be.
Specialized Technology As smartphone and computer technology advances, so does technology for dementia sufferers. GPS tracking devices for those who are at risk of wandering, emergency response devices to detect warning signs of illness or a fall, and the use tablets to play brain games or keep in touch with distant relatives, technology makes memory care today more efficient and streamlined. Technology is also beneficial for the person with memory care issues as it allows their cognitive abilities to continue functioning at a high level.
Unique Housing Designs While many senior living communities have a special area designated for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, some communities today go above and beyond, providing just one floor to these residents. Intimate homes are offered that house up to 10 residents with a staff that specializes in memory care. These types of environments nurture a familial experience and build deep relationships between the residents and the caregiving team. The residents are allowed to maintain their own personal routines and are encouraged to continue to pursue their interests.
Dining Experience In a central dining area setting, everyone sits around a single table for meals. The seniors are encouraged to engage in conversation and develop friendships.
Colors and Patterns Because people see more yellow as they get older, gray was often chosen as the common denominator for institutional living. Instead, using green or yellow paint enhances colors as visualized by seniors. Coral blended with a bit of yellow makes a nice combination and engages the senses.
Memory Recall Nostalgia-evoking displays throughout the halls, such as workbench stations or wooden coat racks draped with glamorous dresses from a distant era, are meant to stir residents’ memories. Personal touches like family photo cases near the entrances of their rooms brighten otherwise unremarkable hallways.
As research continues for this disease, more and more innovative ideas are uncovered that can help seniors with memory care issues and can help care givers of those individuals.
If you would like more information about caring for a loved one who suffers from memory issues, contact our office for an appointment today.
Elder Law Attorney McIntyre Elder Law 123 W. Marion Street
There is good news! Social Security payments will increase by 2% in 2018. The bad news? It’s not enough to keep up with inflation.
Many senior citizens will be happy to learn that the amount of money they will receive in their social security checks will increase two percent in 2018. This averages about $27.38 per month, or $329 per year under a new Cost of Living Allowance (COLA). “It will help them make ends meet,” says Erin Parrish of AARP Minnesota, pointing to an example of how the modes increase may allow a person to purchase a month’s worth of medication.
Unfortunately, this modest increase in benefits, the largest since 2012, still does not allow many seniors to keep up with the ever-rising costs of medical care. As the age of retirement has continued to rise, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has continued to warn that the present rate of depletion of social security funding will result in the fund being empty by 2034.
Other changes to social security in 2018 include a slightly higher tax cap. At present, Americans in the workforce who pay social security taxes give up 6.2% of their pay to Social Security if they make up to $127,200. That cap will slightly increase to $128,700 in 2018.
The SSA has announced that the maximum possible benefits that a person can receive increased from $2,687 per month to $2,788 per month, or $33,456 per year. Additionally, seniors who continue to work while receiving Social Security can earn up to $17,040 without being penalized. This is a modest increase from $16,920 in 2017. Likewise, disability payments will increase in 2018 by $10 per month.
One of the biggest changes to Social Security is that it no longer mails paper statements. Beneficiaries in 2018 are now required to have an online account at ssa.gov. This development may be quite irksome for senior citizens who are not tech-savvy. To make matters more complicated, the SSA will require two-step verification for security purposes which will likely require more than one pin or password to access an account. While security is always a concern, some seniors may wish to have a trustworthy friend or relative walk them through the procedure the first few times.
So, there are some modest increases coming to various aspects of social security benefits in 2018 that will be welcome for millions of Americans. What has long been “the bedrock of American financial security” will continue to be so for the short term but what happens after 2034? With the social security predicted to be depleted, what will our seniors do then?
The aging population needs to take steps today to ensure their financial security. Look at alternative means for future income such as safe investments and early planning. They should take these actions while they are still working. Go one step further and work with an elder law attorney to create a strategy that will help protect assets and allocate funds for long term care. It’s crucial to plan as early as possible, contact our office today for an appointment.
Aid and Attendance is for veterans, spouse of a veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran needing day-to-day care to get paid a monthly benefit.
The term applies to individuals needing the aid and attendance of another person to help with daily activities, and is paid in addition to an individual’s pension. Clearly, to receive the Aid and Attendance benefit, you must first receive a pension.
There are certain requirements to qualify. If the veteran is in assisted living or a nursing home, they automatically meet the initial requirements. After the initial qualification, further criteria still need to be met.
There are three tiers of additional aid offered to veterans and people that meet the requirements.
The Third Tier: Aid and Attendance
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, one of the following is needed for an individual to qualify to receive Aid and Attendance:
The individual must prove he/she requires aid and attendance of someone to carry out basic daily functions, such as bathing and getting dressed.
The individual must be disabled to the point of being bedridden.
The individual must be admitted to a nursing home because they cannot provide basic care for himself/herself.
The individual must record an eyesight of 5/200 or below in both eyes.
The maximum amount individuals will receive once qualified for Aid and Attendance differs on a case-by-case basis. Below are the current maximum monthly benefit amounts as of 2018:
The Asset Level Threshold for Aid and Attendance qualification. The threshold is accepted as being below $80,000, but we believe it’s around $20,000. However, there are ways to position assets and still qualify for Aid and Attendance.
One day of war time duty
If you’re a veteran, and have served ninety days of active duty, one day beginning or ending during a period of War, you may be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefit.
Example: I would qualify because I was in the military during the window for the Gulf War. It also qualifies my spouse. Even if I passed away, she’d be eligible for that benefit through me.
Check to see if you qualify for this beneficial program. Eligibility must be proven by filing the Veterans Application for Pension or Compensation.
A copy of DD-214 or separation papers
Medical Evaluation from a physician
Current medical issues
Net worth limitations
Out-of-pocket Medical Expenses.
To qualify (financially), an applicant must have on average less than $80,000 in assets, excluding their home and vehicles.
Checklist for Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits:
Veteran? Spouse of Veteran? Spouse of deceased veteran?
At least 90 days of active duty service
At least one day of active duty service during a wartime event. Service does not have to be in a combat theater.
Under $20,000 in assets, excluding home.
A current need: At least 2 out of 6 standard ADLs impaired*:
Activities of Daily Living:
§ Preparing Meals?
* A physician must sign an FL2 form confirming current need.
I often get questions about surviving spouses of veterans.
What happens if the veteran is of good health, yet their spouse has healthcare problems and incurs staggering medical bills?
According to veteranaid.org, the spouse of a veteran who incurs healthcare costs is eligible to receive no more than $1,176 each month. Similarly, a veteran with a sick spouse is eligible to receive no more than $1,436 each month. These figures are of January 1, 2018.
Veterans Improved Pension: Other Tiers
As mentioned, the Veterans Improved Pension program has three tiers.
TheFirstTier — Basic Pension for disabled veterans 65 years and up. This also extends to the surviving spouse of a veteran if he/she meets the income qualifications.
The following are the countable income requirements (as of January 1, 2015) a veteran must meet for the Basic Pension.
The joint countable income of a veteran and spouse must be less than the pension amount for which they are eligible. Example, a married veteran in 2017 is eligible for $25,525 in pension; if their countable income is $10,000, they are eligible for an additional $15,525 / year in pension.*
The Second Tier Housebound Pension. You must also qualify to be eligible for this monthly amount.
Housebound Pension recipients must prove they require assistance of another individual in their home, by having their primary physician sign that they need the help. Their day-to-day actions are not as limited as those receiving Aid and Attendance.
(*Conditions to be met for countable income for Housebound Pension are the same as above).
When speaking about countable income, it is imperative you record all your expenses. The VA discourages individuals from paying various expenses in cash, this way you maintain a paper trail and can add this to your countable income.
Here’s how to calculate Countable Income.
(See VeteranAid.org for downloadable chart)
First Step Estimate total annual income of veteran whether single or married.
What to include
All income including social security, pension, interest income, dividends, income from rental properties, etc.
CDs, annuities, stocks, bonds, savings/checking, IRAs, etc.
Assets owned by spouse
What NOT to include
Residence or vehicle when calculating net worth
Life insurance policy
When taken into consideration, you get the estimated annual income of the veteran.
Second Step Add all recurring healthcare expenses incurred by veteran each month. This includes:
Assisted Living costs
Nursing home costs
Home Care service costs
Health Insurance premium
Monthly prescription costs
Add up these monthly costs and multiply by 12 for the annual healthcare expenses.
Third Step Subtract annual healthcare expenses from annual income.
Total annual income — (minus) Total annual healthcare expenses
= Countable Income.
This amount determines the veteran’s eligibility for one of the three tiers of the Pension program.
Proposed Changes to VA Pension Eligibility Rules
It’s a basic right to know when legislation is introduced that affects large groups.
The proposed changes to the VA Pension Eligibility were on the table January 23, 2015 by the Department of Veteran Affairs.
The VA Pension Eligibility is a needs-based program. Benefits awarded to veterans and their families provide help throughout the years.
Below are proposed changes and how they may impact you if you’re a veteran, or family member of a veteran.
Current Reading of the Law
Since 1980, the law stated that to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, a veteran must have served a minimum of 24 months. At least one of those days must be actively served during a “wartime period”. Veterans who have been dishonorably discharged do not qualify. Allowances can be made for veterans 65 years of age and older who have a permanent disability.
In terms of income, the veteran’s household income cannot exceed the amount the veteran is trying to qualify for in assistance and benefits. Much of the language regarding income is about countable income.
What Might Change
Below are some proposed changes for Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits qualifications. These changes, if imposed, make it harder for veterans to qualify, and allows them to keep and protect less money and property.
A clear net worth limit. The VA proposed that the net worth limit a veteran can claim when applying for the Eligibility program cannot exceed $119,220.
Income and net worth calculation. The Federal Register has provided an example breakdown of how calculations will be made. First, the VA will calculate income to establish the pension entitlement. They will “subtract all applicable deductible expenses to include appropriate prospective medical expenses”. When calculating the net worth, the VA will take the annual income and add it to the assets. For instance, let’s say a veteran’s net worth limit is $115,000. The annual income of the spouse is $7,000 and the total assets are $116,000. The total net worth would come to $123,000, which exceeds the net worth limit by $8,000.
Exempt asset. A primary residence will not be included as an asset in the calculation of net worth as long as the residence sits on an area not exceeding 2 acres. Right now, there is no limit on the acreage of the primary residence and it is exempt from the net worth calculation.
If you want to read the full legislation, go to FederalRegister.gov and read their article entitled “Net Worth, Asset Transfers, and Income Exclusions for Needs-Based Benefits”.
I strongly urge you, if you are a veteran, or you are the spouse or child of one, to sift through the proposed changes to see how you might be impacted.
Should you have any questions or need would like to discuss qualification for Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits further, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Welcome to the elder law report, I’m Greg McIntyre, the elder law guy and I have my usual support team with me today, Hayden Soloway and Taylor Shelton, and our special guest is Billy Peeler who is with Mike House Senior Consulting Services.
This is an awesome business organization that helps and guides seniors and their families through the unchartered waters of finding the right place to care for their loved one. For many people, they don’t know the answers to these questions. That is where our guest will come in and what we will talk about here.
Before we get to that, Taylor, what is memorial day about?
TS: You’ve put me on the spot. Memorial day is about remembering the fallen veterans that served our country.
GM: That’s true, it is remembering those who have fallen or been injured defending our freedoms and serving our country, so we can sit back and talk on the radio and talk freely, and all that stuff. One way we do that is to display the American flag and eat hot dogs.
As a veteran of the US Navy, I love my brothers and sisters in arms, and appreciate those who are serving now. I am a certified attorney with the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs and qualify veteran seniors for veteran’s aid and attendance. Many veterans could get up to $34,000 dollars a year to help pay for in-home, assisted living or nursing home care if they ever need it.
That is a great benefit many veterans and their families do not know about. We qualify veterans for this benefit on a regular basis.
So, now it’s time for Hayden’s happy place, and I know you love lighthouses?
HS: I do love lighthouses, I will go out of my way to photograph a lighthouse.
GM: Didn’t you live in a lighthouse for a short time?
HS: No, but I spent a lot of time travelling by them, my favorite being Cape Lookout.
Everybody looks at the lighthouses in the gift stores and think, we’ve got eight lighthouses, well no, there are about nineteen and may be more, because you look at some lights that are just utilitarian out on a point, so it goes beyond Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras and the ones we see in the gift stores.
There are some interesting things about lighthouses and Taylor told me something about them.
TS: The United States has more lighthouses than any other country, and Cape Hatteras is the tallest lighthouse in North Carolina at one hundred and ninety six feet.
HS: And do you know which state has the most lighthouses?
HS: Michigan. Think about the lakes and the curvature of the land. They have one hundred and fifteen lighthouses in Michigan. Another interesting fact is that lighthouse keeping was one of the first United States government jobs made available to women. There are still lighthouses being used by the US Coastguard today. You would think with GPS and all the technology we have that they would have fallen out of use. Also, when lighthouses were close together, they had different flash patterns so mariners could count the number of seconds it takes for a rotation and determine the lighthouse and where they were. From 1886 to 1902 the tallest lighthouse that was active in the world was the Statue of Liberty. The newest one is the Charleston light which was completed in 1962 and is triangular. The oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina which has been guiding ships since 1817 was ‘old baldy’ on Bald head Island.
GM: When I was in the Navy I did the light morse code on the ship, and one time I saw this ship or light coming toward us, and I said in morse code, ‘move, we’re an aircraft carrier and we’re coming toward you and will probably run right over you’, and the response was, ‘we’re a lighthouse, so you might want to correct course.’
So, Billy, how are you today?
BP: I’m doing fantastic Greg.
GM: We have known each other for a while, we’ve done some breakfasts and lunches, networking groups and seminars together. That was way back in the beginning when I first started doing seminars, so, you’ve been in the senior care world for quite a while, and have worked for some assisted living facilities?
BP: Yes, I worked for Carillon Assisted living, a great organization. I enjoyed what I did and it set the platform for what I wanted to do with this company, and what I wanted to provide. The biggest issue was, I wanted to help everybody and not cater to just one individual facility because that might not be best for everyone. I wanted to do what I could to guide folks in the right direction for what’s going to suit them the best.
GM: So, you’re someone they can trust to evaluate the care need and help them determine if this is the right fit, this in-home service, or this assisted living service, or this skilled nursing service?
BP: Absolutely. We have two wonderful contracted nurses on staff who will go in and do a physical level assessment, a cognitive level assessment, and then an in-home assessment, because if someone wants to stay home, we want them to be able to do that. We want them to come up with a plan but if that is not an option, we do have ways where we can do the assessments, talk with the doctors, talk with the family to see what the ultimate goal is, and have them provide a plan that way.
GM: That is awesome. I didn’t know about the nurses you have.
BP: Yes, we have two wonderful nurses who have been in nursing for, lord, as long as I can remember, since I was born, because one of them is my mom. She is very knowledgeable, and has been in the nursing field a long time. She’s worked for doctor’s offices, hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, so she knows the ropes.
GM: I’m a huge fan of family businesses. So, you guys go in and evaluate a care need, and then what happens? What questions do you think seniors or the families of seniors have when someone has a care need?
BP: Well, there is a couple of things:
Number one, when is the time to make a move?
It’s not always an easy transition or easy conversation to have with your family, with your loved one. That is one way we can come in and scope, and have the conversations with your loved one and the family, because you have some families where the primary caregiver is ready to do something but the family who lives out of town thinks, oh, mom or dad are fine. They think they don’t need any help, you’ve got it under control. They don’t see the everyday care that is involved and what a toll it takes on the caregiver and their family.
GM: A lot of the time, family caregivers will pre-decease the person they are caring for. That is crazy. Why is that?
BP: Because the caregiver gets so worn out. All the time and the energy, the mental state, it all takes a toll on the whole person, not just one side but it takes everything inside of you to care for a loved one.
HS: Caregivers often put aside their own needs to care, which can include delaying checkups and putting off social activities with friends, which brings about one of the things we need for longevity, happiness.
GM: You talk about that a lot.
HS: Well, I am a caregiver. Fortunately I have a brother and sister and it works out well for us but we have a dilemma coming up over a weekend when one wants to be gone for four days. We’re trying to put that together now.
In situations, especially where someone has had to quit their job, and it’s their only income, it effects their quality of life.
GM: Taking care of yourself is important. You must take some time for yourself. It doesn’t mean you don’t love the care recipient, your husband or wife, you have to take some time to take care of yourself.
HS: There are things like respite care, and sometimes it is expensive but if you qualify, you can go through care solutions. They can organize some money for a temporary respite so the family can have some time away.
BP: Respite is a great way for the family to get a break. Sometimes even the caregiver and person they’re taking care of just need to be separated for a little bit because you get tired of each other. If you’re the primary caregiver, you’re in there every day, it takes a toll on both of them.
HS: Is respite care a good opportunity for someone who anticipates having to go somewhere to go visit and see what the facility is really like on a day to day basis?
BP: I really can’t tell you how many folks I have moved into a community that just want to test it out, or who are not sure if it’s going to be the right fit. They go in and do a week, or a two week respite to see how they will adjust.
I would say be careful with that because the simple fact is, there is a transition period when someone moves into a community. A lot of time that transition is two to three weeks. So, can you really get the full idea of how that person will adjust during that short amount of time. I would make sure it is worth your time before you do it.
There are a lot of folks out there who would rather do these assisted living communities on a month by month basis. If you can do a month to allow the person to adjust and really see how they will do, give them that instead of just trying a week. That week is going to be your loved one adjusting to the move, so let them settle in, let them get used to the socialization, the activity and the structure of that facility.
I talk about those three things all the time, and even if you have the ability to stay at home and take care of a loved one, really take into consideration other than yourself, the care giver and the care receiver, what other socialization is that person getting? What other types of activities are they doing, and what is the structure because of the old saying, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
HS: But you can take someone out of a care facility in many cases if they don’t require constant medical care. You can take them to dinner, we take my father out to dinner at least twice a week. When he goes to rehab which he does about every six to eight weeks, and he has to be there a couple of weeks, we try and get him out. He went to the beach last week with my sister and brother.
BP: That’s what it’s all about. As long as you are able to do that and have the means to do that, then why shouldn’t that person stay at home? Then there are some families that have to work, there’s not a chance, especially when you think of alzheimers and dementia to leave someone at home by themselves while you are at work? How safe is that? They’re home alone.
GM: It’s not.
HS: There is certain technology available, such as, I’ve fallen and can’t get up, and the medication dispensers.
BP: Right, and now people are using baby monitors to hear what’s going on at home, or in-home camera systems, which are great things, but I still want to focus on that socialization, activity and structure because that is going to be key, especially in alzheimers, to know the development and progression of the disease.
HS: In my short and abbreviated experience, the things that matter the most, at least to my father, is food and visitors. I would say that for some, there would be bingo and activities like that. You must find out what means the most to your parents, or whoever you’re caring for.
GM: For families needing help in these situations, and there really is a great need, there seems to be no one to call. They’re feeling like there’s a void. In the senior care world, Billy Peeler can be that person to contact. You can be that lighthouse helping to guide them to where they need to go, and steering them away from situations that might be a bad fit. Plus, I see clients on a regular basis who say, they are full over here, they are full over there, where can we go, what can we do? You would be the person to call who can help them find the right place, where there is an open bed or room, or in-home solution. You also evaluate, and decide if can they do private pay or do we need to find a care benefit for them.
BP: I think that’s what is different about us from some of these other companies. We promote the one on one, guide you through the whole process, instead of just finding you somewhere and say, there you go. I want to be able to help everyone, so if it is Medicaid, I want to help educate them on the facilities that accept Medicaid. You know as much as I do, all the changes in Medicaid now, who bills for Personal Care Services and who doesn’t?
GM: We routinely qualify families for Medicaid. Regardless of asset situation, we will find the right benefit whether it be VA or Medicaid.
I want to thank you for coming on the show today. Maybe we can do a follow up on this, say, how seniors and their families can locate the right care facility?
BP: If anyone needs to get in touch with me, our number is 704-473-6149. We are in the process of getting our website up and running, and on Facebook, look up Mike House Senior Consulting Services.
If anyone needs to contact McIntyre Elder Law about anything discussed here, you can call us, if you are listening in the Charlotte to Tryon area on 704-343-6933, or if you are in the Henderson/ Asheville area you can reach us at 828-398-0181.
We are located in Shelby NC, at 123 W. Marion St. We see clients by appointment only in-home, or in one of our meeting locations in Asheville or Charlotte. You can see a video of this show on Facebook at McIntyre elder law, or go to our website at mcelderlaw.com
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
I’m Greg McIntyre and this is the elder law report. I have a crowded studio this morning, my special guest is Jason Winn of Winn Insurance and we will be talking about how you can avoid losing it all.
If you want to talk about the dream team, you have that with your insurance professional and your elder law and estate planning attorney working together, that team can protect you over all. We are going to do a whole show based around that today.
We are going to talk about the new world of long term care insurance which has been totally revamped. I call that the unicorn right now because it’s rare and when I have a client who has long term care insurance, it makes my planning job a lot easier. I tell them I don’t provide as many services to them because they don’t need as much, they have some bases covered. If something happens to them or their spouse, they have it paid for, they can stay at home.
How many people want to go to a long-term care facility after all?
No-one wants to go. People want to stay at home and be taken care of in their own house, if it comes to that. Statistics show that seventy percent (70%) of seniors over sixty-five years of age will need some type of long term care, be it in-home, assisted living or nursing home care. Those are better, or worse, depending on how you look at it than Vegas odds.
HS: Vegas takes the money and leaves you with empty pockets. That’s why I don’t gamble in Vegas.
GM: That’s right, so why would you gamble your entire life to accumulate wealth, or to pay off your mortgage on your house over thirty years only to risk losing it in the last few years of your life. That is my mission and the reason I do what I do. I can’t stand the idea that people will work their whole live to lose it all in the end.
I would also like to introduce Taylor, she has been with McIntyre Elder Law for a while now, and I wanted to introduce her to our audience. She will be a guest on the show at some time. She is Hayden’s protégé.
HS: Yes, and sometimes I might not be here.
GM: Which brings us to Hayden’s happy place. What have you got for us?
HS: I was looking at a picture of my grandson proposing to his fiancé, and he did it at the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and it got me thinking, that is the tallest building in the world, but what are the others?
GM: Is it still called the Burj Khalifa because it used to be the Burj Dubai? You want to talk about a huge building, I want to say it’s about two and half Empire State buildings on top of one another. It is unreal how tall it is.
HS: It is two thousand, seven hundred and twenty three (2723) feet high. It’s half a mile high. The future tallest building is going to be the Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia which will be three thousand two hundred and eighty one (3281) feet high and will be completed in 2019.
GM: When I was in the Navy, I spent quite a bit of time in Dubai. I was brought up between Shelby and Boiling Springs and my world view of the middle east was that it was just dirt camels, but no, there is this future city in the middle of the desert. A lot of oil money, money coming out of the ground over there.
HS: The United States had the tallest building until the Burj was built, which was the World Trade Center. Now, the biggest building in the world is the New Century Global Center, we’re talking eighteen million two hundred and ninety eight thousand six hundred and forty eight square feet (18,298,648 sq ft) and it’s in China. The longest bridge in the world is the Danyang Kunshan Grand bridge in China and is one hundred and two point four miles (102.4 miles) long.
GM: There are a lot of big things out there and the biggest one seniors and their families face, is losing everything they have worked for. I certainly don’t want to lose everything I am currently building up just because I didn’t plan.
So, Jason, why did you get in to insurance?
JW: Well, twenty years ago my mother passed away at the age of forty-two, so the distribution and the preservation of life she never knew. She was in the middle of that accumulation phase. My dad was a banker but my mom owned her own business. She moved her business in to the house after cancer ravaged her body. At her funeral, Fred Hamrick came through the line, not with a bucket of chicken, but with an actual check. I will never forget that. We didn’t have to move. One of the most traumatic things for folks beyond losing a parent or a child or a loved one, is having to move schools and their home. Imagine the compounding effect that happens when people pass away. So, we didn’t have to move, my sister and I had a little starter fund.
GM: He was your insurance agent?
JW: Yes, Fred Hamrick, Maxwell B Hamrick insurance. They’re a good organization, they are competitors of ours but we do some different things. That small amount that mom had the foresight to purchase at thirty-eight years old was just a miracle to us. So, I am a proponent of that and I go out and preach that. Everyone can afford life insurance, get it young, get it early. It has now moved so far, it hits all three phases of life. As you do elder law planning with seniors, if they have the proper insurances in place, then they don’t have to worry about some of the crisis planning.
GM: Then they don’t have to worry about spending hundreds of thousands out on their spouse, and all their life savings are going to be gone, and we might lose the house in the end.
JW: Then they can put that worry in the rear-view window and move on.
GM: Exactly, because they have a long-term care policy that’s kicking in and paying.
JW: If they have that, I call it winning the game. To me, at the end of life, in the preservation phase of life, to leave a legacy, as you would say, if you are going to have a legacy, you need something besides just memories.
GM: I know Hayden has some questions about long term care insurance?
HS: Well, yes, I have two term policies, one hundred thousand dollars each. I think when I got them they were twenty-six dollars each. I think they have gone up a bit since then as I’ve got older, but they are meant for young families to cover emergencies and things like that.
JW: Well, you know, life insurance, just like an automobile has gone through many changes. When our grandfathers were buying their first automobile, there was no power steering, or door locks, or automatic windows, or defrosters, or heated seats, the kind of things we’re used to now, and my point is, life insurance used to be only whole life insurance, term insurance, then there was something called universal life, but as time moved forward, they advance it. So, if you had term insurance, the first step would be to contact that company and see if it’s convertible to a permanent policy. You mentioned whole life, it’s an older product, been around for one hundred and fifty plus years but there are newer products on the market. If they will convert that, you may not have to go through underwriting and they might even include a long-term care rider with just minimal underwriting.
Life insurance has radically changed, so if you have a belief system that said life insurance is bad because once it was bad, just like used car salesmen, bad doctors or bad lawyers, long term care has radically changed. Stand-alone long-term care is moving to the wayside, there are few companies that offer it. People still think of that just as they think of long term care as a nursing home that smells of urine, no, not anymore. It is stay at home, have your family take care of you and have a bucket of money to pull out of to refurbish the bathroom, or put in hardwood floors instead of carpet. All those things that you want to do as a senior or for a loved one you can do now.
GM: Or put in a roll-in shower?
JW: Exactly. Who wants to lift their one hundred and fifty pound husband in to the tub? You are not going to be able to do it, or you will end up needing long term care yourself.
HS: It’s something people don’t think about. The products are so different. You have Taylor who has a young child, people like me who have grandchildren, and some my age who might need what they should have bought years earlier, that their children could buy now.
JW: A great example is that Taylor should buy term insurance that is convertible to permanent. When she gets to my age and Greg’s age, she should convert that, because now we have more disposable income unless you have nineteen children like Greg. You should be able to afford the conversion. When you get to a certain point in life you begin to think about it.
My grandparents passed in 2015 but both had alzheimers and stayed at hospice, or at a care facility that was seven thousand dollars ($7000) a month.
GM: Those places love when you have insurance because then they don’t have to scramble trying to find how you are going to pay for those services, or if this is going to be a short or long term thing. You’re in there and they can take care of you and you don’t have to worry about the money, your family doesn’t have to worry about it. Getting insurance is an unselfish thing to do because it takes the financial burden off your kids and off your spouse, it really does.
Speaking of grandparents, you have an office in Boiling Springs on Main Street which is an old home place.
JW: My great grandmother and great grandfather lived there, and I live I Boiling Springs with my family and we love it there.
GM: People need to think, how am I going to replace income, how am I going to send my child to college, how would my wife survive if I suddenly passed away, how would he or she send the kids to school.
TY: You don’t think about those things until you have kids.
HS: You can’t assume it won’t happen. I’ve had six wrecks in two years, none of them were bad but it could happen at any time.
GM: Six wrecks in two years? The whole point for me is, I see people all the time losing assets because of a tragic health care situation. With the revolutionary changes in life insurance and long term care, if you have those things in place, they will pay off far more than you invest in them. They are also beneficiary assets that allows you to pass them to the kids and grandkids if you don’t use them, tax free. So, there is multiple benefits. A lot of people I meet do have money in insurance, in whole life policies or 401K’s, or a checking account.
JW: Those are sleeping assets. It’s not about use it or lose it anymore.
HS: It used to be though?
JW: That’s exactly right. Now, you use it or keep it.
GM: If people want to contact you and set up a meeting, do they have to come to your office, or will you go to them? How does that work?
JW: One thing I recommend is, they call McIntyre elder law, you have a wonderful process where you evaluate all the things in their life, their needs in life, and you package that up and then that document with their permission can be sent to me. We’ll set up an appointment and then we’ll meet. If they want to find out more information about me, Facebook is the best way, so Facebook WinnInsurance, that is the best way to get ahold of us.
HS: If they don’t have access to Facebook how else can they get in touch with you?
JW: My number is 704-482-7746. When you call that number, you will talk to one of my fantastic staff, Elisha, Lisa or Jody.
GM: I want to thank you for being on the show today Jason.
If you have any questions you can call me at 704-343-6933, or at 828-398-0181. I or my staff will be glad to talk to you and schedule an appointment.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
I’m Greg McIntyre and this is lunch with a veteran. I’m a veteran of the United States Navy and an elder law attorney and I deal with veteran’s aid and attendance benefits and so I am very passionate about our veterans and their stories. My special guests today are Michael and Barry Carpenter, father and son and both were in the military.
I love to hear veteran’s stories and preserve them for future generations. So, Michael, you were in the Marines and Barry you were in the Airforce?
BC: Nine and a half years, special operations in the Airforce.
GM: Michael, how long were you in the Marines?
MC: Four years.
GM: Four and no more. What does Marine stand for?
MC: First in, last out.
GM: Navy was Never Again Volunteer Yourself. We had a lot of Marines and Marine squadrons who were on the aircraft carrier providing Marine security on deployment. Why did you join the Marines?
MC: I came out of high school and went to work in a mill.
GM: Are you from this area?
MC: Yes, born and raised in Gastonia. I went to work in a mill for about six weeks or so, and I said, there has got to be something better. So, I signed my name, took an oath and after I got to Parris Island I said, what am I doing here? Why am I here? That was October 1961, and I graduated December 14th, 1961.
GM: Wasn’t part of An Officer and a Gentleman and Full Metal Jacket filmed there?
MC: Yes, a lot of them were. Hamburger Hill, Pork Chop Hill, a lot of movies were filmed. There was a place down there on the coast, it was like a war zone, it looked like the trees and everything were all black. It looked like a lagoon but you walk out on it and wonder, is this part of the United States?
GM: Why does it look that way?
MC: I guess all the training they had in that area.
GM: How was Marine bootcamp?
MC: Today some of the guys I’ve talked with, they kind of say it’s a boy scout camp. They’re not as rough on them now as they were back then. Basic training was ten weeks and we were up at forty thirty in the morning, lights out at ten and you were constantly moving, constantly on the go. All kinds of physical training.
The first few weeks were book training, learning what you were going to apply yourself for. After basic, we went to Camp Geiger for infantry training. It was in January when we were there, and spent one week out in the field. It did something different every day, rained, sleeted, snowed, it was just a survival course for that week which we all came through.
After that we went to do duty wherever we were to be. I was a truck driver, got trained, and then went back to Camp Geiger where I drove the trainer bus as they called them to haul troops out to the training fields. I really enjoyed that after I had gone through it, knowing what they were going through. One of my favorite places was the gas chamber. I would go in there any chance I got and get my mask on. I would keep my mask on but not everyone else did. There was a tree outside the door with bark only on one side because they would come running out, eyes closed without their masks on and run straight in to it.
I learned to maintain and fire all the weapons. My last year in, I was stationed in Okinawa and that was an experience, a new culture. We would see how they lived, what they did, their work, the houses they lived in. There were times I wanted to go back and see what it’s like now.
We went back to Parris Island in 2000 and it was a totally different place. All the old barracks had been pulled down, new barracks had been built up and I watched one of the platoons and what the drill instructor was saying, and I reminisced back to when I was there. The drill instructor was lecturing on one of them but he wasn’t lecturing the way we were lectured. I would say they were more assertive when I was there. It was an experience. I learned a lot, I matured, enjoyed every minute of it, and served.
GM: I have never been to Okinawa, but I was in mainland Japan.
MC: When I went over, I went to San Diego to Camp Pendleton, and from there we got on an MSTS, Military Sea Transport Service. From there we went to Hawaii, and docked in Pearl Harbor, right across from the Arizona. Then we went to Japan, then out to Okinawa. We arrived there in mid-December 1963, and left last week of December 1964. The boat ride going over was something else. We sailed in to a storm going over. We were in the storm for two days, lots of sick people. Coming back was more pleasant. We left Okinawa and went down to Taiwan, back to Japan, then docked in Honolulu, then back to San Diego. It was about an eighteen day trip both ways.
GM: I went from San Diego to Hawaii and then to Japan on aircraft carriers.
MC: Which carriers?
GM: I was on the Constellation and the Nimitz.
MC: I saw the Constellation when I was in Okinawa. The port was too shallow for it to come in to the dock and was anchored probably five or six miles off shore.
GM: We docked in Hong Kong bay before and had to use transport boats to get in.
What do you think you took out of being in the Marines?
MC: Discipline, maturity and ambition.
GM: How did you take ambition from being in the Marines?
MC: Seeing a problem, recognizing what to do with it and fixing it.
GM: I was enlisted in the Navy and found out from myself and from my father who was also enlisted, that the only difference between an officer and an enlisted man is a piece of paper, a college degree. That gave me a ton of ambition to go ahead and complete my degree.
After you left the Marines you were a machinist, right?
MC: Since I left the Marines I worked in several different shops around Gastonia and Charlotte. I got an offer up here for full time in December 1977 and I’ve been there since. I got a good job that nobody wants so I call that job security. The product we run, the machines that we make are sent worldwide. Some of those parts we make on the machine, and I am the only person in the country that makes those parts. Some of the other guys might make one now and then but I’ve made thousands of them. They get sent out to Japan, China, Pakistan, Australia, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Denmark, England, Germany, Canada and Mexico.
GM: You’ve had a worldwide influence, that’s impressive. Being a machinist is a combination of using your head, mathematics and a hands-on job. Did you learn those skills in the military?
MC: No, when I got out. That’s what they say in the shop, engineers went to school and have it up there but you put one in a shop, they can’t get that knowledge from their head to a practical application. The philosophy is, they need to be in the shop five years before they become engineers.
GM: Was that on the job training?
MC: On the job training and some people would call it R and D, research and development. I called it T and E, trial and error.
GM: That’s the best way to learn.
MC: If you’re not making a mistake, you’re not doing anything.
GM: I feel like we live in a world where we’re not allowed to fail, where you can’t make a mistake. We as parents many times prevent our kids from making mistakes and learning from those mistakes, but the best way to learn is trial and error.
MC: Experience is the best teacher.
GM: There’s a ceo called Thomas J Watson, who talked about if you want to fast track yourself to success, you must double your rate of failure. That means you are out there trying new things and learning by doing to get it right. You also must be persistent. You can’t give up when you make a mistake or fail. You fix it and learn the right way.
Would you go in to the military again if you could do it over?
MC: That was one thing that, I got my four years, I’m out of here. A few years later, I thought, if I had put in twenty or thirty?
GM: I have the same thoughts. I would have been retired by now after twenty years.
MC: I went to grade school with this guy and he went in to the Marine Corp a year before I did. He put in thirty years, he was a Master Gunnery Sergeant. That was the last time I saw him in 1963 until 1990. He was eighty-nine at that time. I asked him how’s pay now, and at that time his base pay was thirty-two hundred a month. That’s not too bad, but I’ve got my family, four children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
GM: Sounds like things turned out great and thank you for your service.
Now the other mister Carpenter, Barry Scott Carpenter, you were in the Airforce, special Operations. What does that mean?
BC: It comes down to, you go, you do and you’re never seen. You’re in and out. If you were in a situation and were caught, or was in the wrong place at the wrong time, nobody knew you were there. It was kind of like the Green Berets, the Seals, similar to that type of thing. You did what you had to and got out as quick as you could. My whole career was not in special operations, that was the last three to four years.
I went in July 1987 to San Antonio and did six weeks of basic there, then went to Wichita Falls for my technical school, which at the time was metal fabrication. So, basically whatever had to be fixed on the aircraft or vehicles, you repaired it, painted it and got it back out as quickly as you could. Then I went in to cross training, so you were versatile for different areas if they needed you to go, which is where the special operations came in.
I went to Charleston South Carolina Airbase, next to the Navy base. I used to go over there all the time. From there I went to RAF Lakenheath in England, and I did four years over there. Then I went to Fort Walton Beach where I did my last couple of years in the special operations branch. I saw a lot of changes in the military, a lot of different aircraft and weaponry, different equipment for the Humvees. I was in Kuwait and Tel Aviv, that kind of tested your sense of being human. What you had to go through and what you saw over there, it was unbelievable. It was a short war, everyone thought it would last longer than it did. Thank God I never had any post traumatic syndrome or anything like that. I think God got me through a lot of it, otherwise it might have been a different story.
We left there and went to Incirlik Turkey for six months in case anything started back up, so we could run across the border and shoot back. I was in Kuwait and met King Fahd and was given a gold coin which I have to this day, as a representation of what happened.
The different types of things I saw, the cultures and experiences, it was a lot of big changes, like going out and seeing what you did, and what you were doing in your life. It made me grow up a lot. It was like night and day for me. I knew I had to make a decision that would make a better me and better my future, which it did. Being in the military helped me be a more proficient, practical person. Making the right decisions in my life, I came through with valuable experience. I got out in 1997 and tried civilian life and I regretted not going back in. I had nine and half years in, so just a few more years and I could have retired.
When I got out of the military I had some experiences in different careers but they weren’t really what I wanted to do until I went to truck driving school and got my CDL’s to drive a tractor trailer. I’ve been doing that since 2010. It’s rewarding and challenging at times. There’s a lot of hazardous conditions you go through which tests your mental and physical endurance and capabilities. I wouldn’t trade in anything I’ve done. Would I go back and do everything over again? Yes, definitely.
You have schooling in the military, it’s rewarding, there’s no place you can go for free and go to school and have a degree when you leave. For people who have never served, it’s something I think everyone should try and experience. It will reward you, make you grow a lot and give you extra responsibility.
My dad is my hero. My other hero is me, because only I can look forward X amount of months and say, where am I going to be that month? How can I better myself? I try to do this every three or four months and try to out-do what I’ve already done. So far it is working out pretty good. I set goals and accomplish them. Thank God for everything I have and haven’t got yet because I know there is a place for everything to happen in the world.
GM: It sounds like you have your act together.
BC: I try.
GM: Gratitude is so important, and recognizing our accomplishments. For your dad to be your hero, that is awesome. My dad is my hero also, if I could be half the man he is, I’d be doing alright.
I want to thank you both for your service and appreciate you joining me.
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
I’m Greg McIntyre and this is lunch with a veteran where we talk about the stories and experiences of people who served in our military. I’m here with Ray Kale and his wife Connie. Ray is a Vietnam veteran and Connie is a part of his story.
So, you were drafted into Vietnam. Where are you from originally?
RK: I was drafted April 26th 1966 and my best friend Tommy since sixth grade was drafted with me. We went to the induction center in Charlotte and I thought we would be able to go back home but they sent me straight to Fort Jackson. After one week at Fort Jackson they sent us to Fort Riley, Kansas. I did six weeks of basic training and then six weeks of advanced infantry training.
GM: Did they send you directly to Vietnam after basic?
RK: I got to come home for a leave after infantry training for thirty days, that was in August, then went back and while I was still doing the last bit of training in the field I got a call saying my father was sick, so I went home and he had already died. Then we left the first half of December, went to California and got on a ship for twenty-one days, and I was sick for twenty one days, that was a long way. The day before we landed they put us on a landing craft, loaded live ammunition and grenades, rifles, machine guns everything. There wasn’t a word spoken all the way to shore. We were all scared to death.
GM: You didn’t know what to expect.
RK: Right. When the ramp went down there was a band playing welcoming us there. They loaded us on trucks, there was about two thousand of us, so a long convoy of trucks, tanks and ACP carriers. The area had already been secured, I think by the 71st Airborne but I’m not sure. They cleared the area, so when we got there, it was just dirt with a berm around it. From there we started to make a couple of patrols. On the same patrols two people got killed and I’m not so sure there was any enemy out there but then we had a big ceremony and they really made up the stories. They don’t know what happens out there, they have to put a story with death or something.
Then we went to, well, I don’t know where we were. I was in recon, a thirty man squad. We wore soft hats, we didn’t wear the helmets and basically all we had were rifles and some grenades. Tommy was in the same company, Echo Company in Kansas. He was in the mortar platoon. Half way through our tour I went to the 450th Up north, I think I was in Charlie Company and he went to the Mekong Delta. They put him in the infantry there. They didn’t want everyone going home at the same time you see. I stayed a year. There was something every day, different highs every day and night. We didn’t get any rest and what people don’t realize is that it rained for six months, you basically never saw the sun, and then it’s clear for six months, you never saw a cloud. It was dusty half the year and muddy the other half.
We would ride on tanks or we were walking, that’s how we got around. We would put a handkerchief around our face but you would be covered in red dust. Your face would be like you had a red mask on.
I came home in April and went back to work where I was working before at Walmer’s Business Firms and Connie came to work there. Actually, it was a different job but the same department she was working in. That’s how I met her but she was engaged to be married and she got married a while after that. Her husband Dwayne went to Vietnam and he got killed July 28th. He was there three months in the 196th Infantry.
GM: Man, I mean war is hard isn’t it?
RK: That day I was working and my supervisor came up and said, they sent her to the front office and told her husband had got killed. That’s how it happened isn’t it?
RK: I don’t know how many got killed, I know it was a lot. In my platoon there were thirty of us and five got killed and ten or fifteen wounded. I was sick for one day the whole time I was there. I always wanted to get malaria cause then you got out of the field for one month but I got it after I came home. I was at Fort Eustace, Virginia and I got malaria and stayed in the hospital.
GM: How did you get malaria when you came home?
RK: I don’t know. You would take the iodine pills and put them in your water and it makes your water bitter. A lot of people wouldn’t do it. I don’t know if that was why but I didn’t get it. I did everything they told me to. I got malaria my last month and then when I got home I got malaria again. I went to the VA in Salisbury because the doctor here couldn’t treat me.
GM: I wonder how the natives in Vietnam deal with it? I guess they’re used to it?
RK: I don’t know but malaria is terrible. It makes you so weak.
GM: And you got it more than once?
CK: I guess something stays in your body.
GM: I guess.
CK: He would get really hot in the summertime.
RK: Yeah, I got sick at work one day, it was in July so it was really hot, and I got in my car and my teeth were chattering. I had the heater on in my car. Then I got sick at Fort Eustace and about died in my room before somebody came in. I bided my time up there.
CK: Maybe it was the leeches.
RK: Yeah, we had leeches.
GM: When you went in the water?
RK: You don’t have to be in water, they can be on the land. You would think it was mosquitos but I have more mosquitos in my back yard. We rented a place and the leeches would get all over you. You had to burn them off with a cigarette. You would have to put your boots inside your pants otherwise they would come right up on you but they still get on you. I’m trying to think of other things.
CK: You were supposed to be dead.
RK: Oh yeah. I went to a forward base camp, they were all forward base camps because we never came out of the field. I slept on the ground at least fifty weeks of the fifty-two I was there. They would come out to resupply us, and the helicopters wouldn’t even land, they would just kick it off, take our mail and they were gone.
The radio was quite heavy and someone had to carry it. This was when I was still in the 9th Infantry Recon Platoon, and there was thirty in that platoon. A normal platoon was about forty-four or something, so we split up three ways. We weren’t that far apart, but we couldn’t see each other for the brush and jungle. I asked this guy, will you carry this radio, I’ll give you five dollars if you carry it. Well, you’re not supposed to switch your squads, you stay where you were assigned. He agreed to carry it and he went in my squad and I went in his. Well they got ambushed and we heard the explosions and firing and everything, and we got all split up. So, I’m by myself and scared to death and I heard someone coming through the brush and it was the Sergeant. He had blood on his face and ears and he said they’re all dead. They weren’t all dead but he thought they were. They all got wounded. So, I went with him and went back and the guy was on the ground dead and the rest were wounded, but he had that radio. The wire so you can speak was cut and he had a spot of blood on his chest. That was the only mark on him but he was dead. So me and another guy had to carry him to a river because there was no clearing, we didn’t have time to clear, so we had to carry him to where the helicopters could come in and get him.
They called back to the camp and Tommy was there and they called out the names of the wounded and KIA’s and they had me as a KIA because that was where I was supposed to be. When I went to Washington DC to the monument the first person I looked up was that guy. For five dollars he lost his life. I saw that happen at other times too where people went where they weren’t supposed to.
I guess the worst thing that happened to me was guarding artillery, eight inch guns. You can’t hide from jets and artillery. Our artillery is fearsome. There was a one-seven-five (175) and a one-five-five (155). They were the biggest guns they had so they were always subject to attack. This was when I was with the 4th Division. It was a company of about two hundred and we had to build a perimeter around with foxholes but the artillery people didn’t dig foxholes. So, I took out what’s called a listening post. The part I remember was you set out the listening post. You have two guys and you sent them out in different directions from your camp. You take them way out there, and if the enemy comes up, they’re supposed to run back or they get killed. It was like a chicken in a cage out there.
GM: They didn’t have a radio or anything?
RK: Nope, no radio, they didn’t have anything, just a rifle and if it’s raining which it was a lot of the time, you just lay on the ground. Someone always had to be guarding. Whatever your position was, always one of you had to be awake, usually an hour at a time and then you rotate. Anyway, that night I was in a tent, we put up a tent made of two ponchos in front of the bunker and I took these guys out. That night about one o’clock, there was like a misty rain and pitch black and we started to get mortared and the LP’s, the two I set up came running back in, and the guy who was on guard he pulled me by my feet into the bunker. We would all have got killed if it weren’t for the bunkers because of the mortars. Then they tried to come in. I don’t know how many there were of them, at least several hundred because they wouldn’t have tried to attack the camp unless there was a bunch of them. It was such a roar, the noise.
When you get to the point where you’re afraid of being overrun, they take the guns and shoot beehive rounds which have hundreds of steel darts and shoot straight into the jungle. Just point blank shoot them. Then we always had artillery protection too, and they’re always set so all they have to do is fire for the effect, a fire barrage. So, the artillery strike was coming in and the two LP’s in front of me were, don’t shoot, don’t shoot, because the artillery was getting close to them. There was, we called them pom pom guns, two guns on a tank beside me and they cranked up and went over to reinforce that side where the enemy had come in.
The next morning, the Sergeant told me, you need to go over, take your men, your squad and piece up the bodies. So many times, things happened and you don’t see the enemy. I went over and there were dead everywhere, blood everywhere, they were just mangled, just mowed down. So we dragged them out.
Over in Vietnam, the goal was not to capture property, we didn’t take territory, all we did was, we were looking for the dead bodies, that’s what they were going by, the kill, so we always had to count bodies. Even the artillery kill we still had to count and call them back in. The kill ratio in Vietnam then was twelve to one, twelve Vietnamese to one American. We took them out and lined them up on the ground, I can picture it, and there was one still living, and they asked a medic to look at him and they said, don’t worry about him he’s not going to make it. So, we had an interpreter and he asked the guy what was going on, and all he said was, we walked in to a wall of steel. That was it, he was one of the thirty-seven bodies we laid out but I know there was a lot more killed. There was just so much blood, and there was a trail of blood down the trail. We didn’t go and check or anything. We loaded everything up and that day we pulled out.
There was two artillery guys killed and a helicopter that tried to come in and take the wounded out got shot down, so those four on it were killed. I didn’t see that, someone else saw it. The guy in the bunker he got wounded, shot, I got shrapnel. They were moving ammunition to the next foxhole, the Sergeant told me to send some more, I was E5 he was E6, you’ve got to do what they tell you. So, I told this guy and he said, I’m not going over there, and I said, you got to go, I’m E5 your Spec 4, so he ran over, got it and ran back. It was pitch black and I could feel my arm was all wet, warm and sticky like blood. When I woke up the next morning, I went over to get the bodies and there was smoke and the smell. Charges on our side were on fire, it looked like the forth of July. It was shooting out sparks and everything, lighting up the place. I was afraid it was going to blow up. The day after that you just move on wherever they take you. That was the worst thing. We did get ambushed, people got killed by friendly fire.
GM: I imagine it would be really confusing with everything going on?
RK: We didn’t even know where we were. They didn’t tell you where you were going, they’d just say, load up, the helicopters or transport will pick you up, especially helicopters. We were waiting on a runway in an operation and they always told us, one round will get you home, that’s what the saying was. I told my friend, you know it’s kind of dangerous us lying here all together waiting for the helicopters to come and get us. There was a roadway they were going to build, all they had was just the dirt, jungle cleared out. We were sitting there waiting to be picked up and I said to my friend Ben, we better go on the other side of the road where there’s no one else. I feared if you’re going to shoot somebody you’re going to look where the crowd is. So we went over there and a helicopter came over and they were firing because they were supporting another unit that was under fire, and they came over and I saw the smoke coming out of the guns and they were firing and went straight over us and killed the guy over in the group who had been sitting beside me. So it was a good thing we went over to the other side.
RK: Vietnam was laying in the mud and the rain, it was just being dirty the whole time, missing family mostly. The best part was when we came home. I was on interstate eighty-five sitting in a car with my mother and brother. My father had already died. To get to go home and sleep in my bed for the first time, I will always remember that, that was the best part.
CK: You have pictures that you would have to be in a totally different frame of mind to take. In our society it’s not something you would take pictures of. That always blew my mind.
RK: I told Connie, I didn’t get emotion about anything. That’s what you do when you’re on patrol. The Sergeant, he has to figure out where you’re going.
CK: He gets more emotional now in his old age.
RK: I do. When I came out of there I didn’t care. We followed this unit, there was two hundred of us, I don’t know how many of them, a bunch of them, artillery was always bombing stuff and they just buried their dead in their foxholes, so we had to dig them up and count them.
I’ll bet half of the people I served with are dead now.
GM: Just doesn’t seem like that long ago. You were young when you went. It seems like it was an absolutely crazy year.
RK: Yeah, but I’ll bet half of them are dead now. A Chinook took me out in to the field for the last time and about crashed in to a dead tree and they started walking and I thought, oh gosh, don’t let me die now.
GM: A lot of times I’ll interview veterans who spent a lot of their time learning a trade or they’re a doctor, your story is a lot different. You were drafted, went to boot camp, and dropped off to fight a war.
RK: Sometimes I’m a little bitter.
GM: I don’t know how something like that can positively affect the rest of your life?
RK: Nothing did, apart from Connie and I got married in 1970. I didn’t think much about it, but the older you get, the more sentimental you get. I think about the people who didn’t come home like Connie’s first husband Dwayne. You have your life cut off at twenty years old. They had a song out, Fortunate son, talking about the ones who didn’t have to go. You look at the last four Presidents, they didn’t have to go over there. I had a life that I didn’t want to give up but you get snatched up.
CK: Dwayne was in college in eastern Carolina and he came home, he was going to Gaston college and he took a break and they got him.
RK: My brother didn’t go, he stayed in college. I’ll be honest with you, I tried to get out of going to Vietnam. I was trying to get out because my father had died. I don’t think that was right. I didn’t get to be with my father for the last six months of his life. For my mother, my father died, I went to Vietnam, my brother was at western Carolina, my sister had a baby born dead and my mother had started to work. She was forty-two years old and I’m gone. I couldn’t help. I could have been there with her because she needed moral support. I’m not bitter but sometimes it doesn’t seem fair. I can picture a family worrying about their children who are in a war. I can say it was a good experience now that it’s over.
GM: I don’t know about that. I’m going to say, war is bad. But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger maybe?
CK: The main part about it was how they just left and came home.
GM: Just left it unresolved.
CK: We watched a documentary the other day, the last days of Vietnam. The Vietnamese people were running trying to get on the airplanes because they didn’t want to be left there. They helped the Americans and knew they were going to be in trouble for it.
RK: I had a chance to kill two guys and I didn’t do it. They didn’t see me and they had shot down a helicopter. We would have had to go back to the village and look for whoever shot it down. I saw them, and they’re in green uniforms, you can’t spot anybody in those green uniforms, you just can’t see them. I could have picked them off with my rifle easily but I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. Other people opened fire on them. There was a little fence made out of sticks and a helicopter gunship came in and started firing rockets into the place they went. I know they got killed. We didn’t check it out, it would take too much time.
All that stuff is a lot louder in real life. It’s a lot more dramatic when you see a jet come over a tree line and you can see the pilot in there and the five-hundred pound bomb tumble out of it. We got ambushed going up a hill one night, it was real late. We should already have been set up for a start, and we shouldn’t have been on a trail either, but it was all trails and that jet came down and I saw it firing across the wings, sparks coming out from them. It could have got us. One of the guys I was with put his rifle to the Captains head and said, if I get killed I’m going to blow your brains out, if I get hit I’m going to blow your brains out. We needed to get away, or stop the firing. They had already cleared the hill for artillery. The artillery was awesome, just awesome what they could do. I could see why people in world war two got shell shock by the artillery though. It sounds nothing like it does on TV than it does in real life.
CK: Ray was saying, he has never seen a movie that really depicts how it was. All this rough talking, it was never like that.
RK: Those guys didn’t use foul language. All that extra stuff they wear, we had to stay in uniform, we had to shave every morning, no matter where you were, first thing in the morning so everybody is clean cut. We didn’t have to shine our boots though, but the helicopters pilots, people like them, spit shine boots, pressed uniforms, all that stuff. You’re still in the military when you’re there. You’re not free to do what you want.
GM: It doesn’t matter how you feel, you still have to get up and shave in the morning.
RK: I can’t tell you how many ambushes I was on where everybody was asleep but me. There was probably twenty of us, may be thirty. We were on the side of the road and I saw them coming, probably about a hundred of them, the North Vietnamese army walking down the road and they weren’t very far from us. We were up there in the brush, and all I can hear was the guy next to me snoring like crazy. So I’m trying to wake him up and keep him quiet and I’m the only one awake. I can’t call it in on the radio, I don’t know where the heck I am, I can’t call in artillery.
Another time we set one group up on the road and another group here, it was at night. It was right on the edge of the road, and they came this way and you’re supposed to call up to the other group so they’re prepared so they could shoot them when they came by. Well, I’m calling and nobody answers, I was the only one awake. Then a whole herd of water buffalo came over and almost trampled me to death, breathing over me, blowing air out.
I’ll tell you one more thing, all we did all day long was patrol, then we stopped in the evening where there was water, and there was plenty of water. We would be on high ground and dig a perimeter with foxholes. There was four to a foxhole, four feet deep and six feet long and two feet wide, just so all four could fit in there. I’m talking about the work, after walking all day with a fifty pound pack, then you had to clear a field of fire with a machete, cut down trees and take the logs, you fill up sand bags and put them on each side, put the logs across them, then sand bags across the logs, then set up the trip wires with claymore mines, and then the next morning, you take it all back down. You had to put the sand from the sandbags back in the foxhole, roll them all up, pack and go eat something. C rations, that’s all we had. The whole year I was there I did not eat ice cream, I did not have alcohol or eggs, only C rations.
CK: They would send them stuff.
RK: They would send us drinks but the people in camp would just send us the off-branch stuff. They would keep the cokes and stuff and send us the Canada DryWinks, we loved those. And we had to drink them hot you know.
RK: Winks, W.I.N.K.
CK: It came in a green bottle.
RK: They sent them to us in cans.
GM: I know Canada Dry Ginger Ale?
RK: Well Canada Dry makes this Wink. It’s sort of like a Mountain Dew but they would give us all the crappy stuff and take all the good stuff out. We were treated like dirt. We were called grunts, the grunts were treated like dirt. They took us out one time in trucks and dropped us off, and we said, can we have one of those cold packs, they said, no you can’t have one. So, one day they said, get off the truck, and one guy grabbed the cooler and we took it with us.
They hated to see us coming. If we came into a big camp they knew we would rob them. They knew we would take their stuff.
GM: I’ll tell you, I love to hear these stories but that was a tough story, that was a tough experience.
RK: I think about my grandson, I would be going crazy thinking about it. At least in Vietnam, it was daylight there when it was dark over here.
CK: If it comes to my grandson, I’m grabbing him and running.
RK: The only time I got emotional was when those two artillery guys got killed. They were separating their personal stuff from their military stuff so they could send the personal stuff home, and I thought, you know, here it is, it’s midnight back home and their families don’t know they’re dead. They don’t know they’re dead yet.
CK: Dwayne was dead a month before I knew it. I was still sending letters, and it took a month to get the information to me. For weeks after that I would get packages in the mail where they were sending things back.
RK: We sent letters, not that they got everything but we did send letters. My mother always sent me care packages. I appreciated all the people who sent me stuff. It made the C rations a little better, Texas Pete and all that, try to doctor it up a little bit. My father died September 27th. When I went home he had already died when I got there, when I got back, I think I was there a week, when I got back to the camp they gave me my mail and it was from him. I got so confused, how can I be getting mail, he’s dead, and somebody broke in to my locker while I was gone and stole my stuff. There are thieves in the military too.
GM: I really appreciate your time and I want to thank you both for what you gave to our country, for your service and for your stories.
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