WHO WILL HOLD YOUR ASSETS WHEN YOU DIE?

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Are the central banks of the world all failing at the same time? Will I live long enough to care? If I die before I care, who will hold my assets?

Today’s everything bubble is global in scale and affects every financial market and banking institution. On a global level, outstanding personal, business, and government debt has approached a whopping $240 trillion. That’s more than 300% of global GDP. That’s a bubble that central banks are going to be unable to borrow their way out of.

There are no knights in shining armor on the horizon who are coming to the rescue, and central banks are basically helpless to do anything about it. Everyone’s out for themselves. They don’t really have time to think about us. With interest rates near zero in real terms and loaded up balance sheets, central banks essentially have no ammunition to fight with.

There is little room on a fiscal front either. According to Peter Diekmeyer at sprottmoney.com, U.S. public sector spending already exceeds 60%. Any further spending increases would come from wealth extraction from the productive areas of the economy. This in turn would crimp productivity even further.

Diekmeyer writes that China, which bailed out the world by borrowing tens of trillions of dollars following the 2008 financial crisis to stimulate demand, is also tapped out. If you’re an American, and you love misery, move over, because there’s plenty of company. Japan and Europe appear to be even worse off than we are.

DO AMERICAN BANKS HAVE BLACK HOLES TO FILL?

One of my clients who works in financial services and is of European descent recently told me that most of the banks in Europe have gone insolvent. She said she was trying to help take care of a friend’s deceased mother’s estate when she learned that legally it appears European banks have the right to borrow a client’s funds for as long as they like for the purpose of filling “Black Holes” in the banks coffers. My first question was why would the European banks have “Black holes” that need to be filled? Isn’t that when it’s time for the institution to dissolve due to insolvency? Where’s the suspect government when we need them?

“Barclays has a 30-billion Sterling ‘Black Hole,'” my client said. RBS, the Royal Bank of Scotland, has a “4-billion ‘Black Hole'”. Deutsche Bank is “awash with over-valued derivatives,” I was told. And the list of failing interconnected European banks goes on and on, and it doesn’t end there.

Santander and BBVA are said to be disposing of their South American and Central American holdings, while National Westminster is now only interested in mortgages, car loans, student loans, and the like. Many of the banks are under the control of the European Central Banks (ECB), and they cannot do anything without ECB permission. I was told the European banking system is in a “bloody mess” and only getting worse. It’s like a “fever”, with the position of European banks being “terminal illness.” My client could have been talking about the American banking system as well.

Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge agrees with my client. Global banks are tumbling. Durden recently reported that the stock process of 16 of the most “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” (SIFIs) in the world are now in bear market territory (down by 20% or more from their recent highs in dollar terms).

The 16 SIFIs considered to be in “bear market territory” are listed as: Deutsche Bank, ICBC, Prudential Financial, Credit Suisse, Bank of China, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Nordea, UniCredit Agricole, ING, Santander, Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, UBS, Agricultural Bank of China, and AXA.

DO JAPANESE BANKS HAVE BLACK HOLES TO FILL?

The infection appears to be systemic in global banking. Maybe “Black holes” are contagious. The Japanese banking business model is experiencing changes that reflect the same financial issues facing their “Western” global financial brethren. In this instance we’ll be nice and say the problem with Japanese banks is that they’re having liquidity problems. That’s because the little liquidity they do have, outside of their debt, is flowing dither and yonder. That’s why they’re working hard to keep a hold of the more than $460 billion in wealth that is left by their customers each year when they die.

In an article entitled, Japan’s Banks Want to Keep Hold of Dead Customers’ Savings, authors Yuki Hagiwara, Gareth Allan, and Takako Taniguchi write that more people are dying annually in Japan which results in smaller banks struggling to keep their capital fluid. Not only are the banks losing their customers they are losing their customers’ savings – which hurts even more – as heirs migrate to larger cities where the biggest lenders hold banking interests.

It is estimated that regional banks lose 60% of the funds that are subject to inheritance. Coupled with the fact that one quarter of the Japanese population is over 65 years of age, local Japanese banks are turning to trusts to secure the next generation of clients and their deposits. The banks are selling what are called “testamentary substitute trusts”, an inheritance device that helps to quickly unlock funds when an estate holder dies. This business model also sets up the banks to develop relationships with the heirs of the trusts they create.

The problem with some of the bigger Japanese central banks is that many of the dying elderly live near or around bigger cities like Tokyo, and when the customers die, their children take their inheritances with them – away from the major financial centers. The Bloomberg article cites a Capgemini Financial Services Analysis from 2017 which says that the assets of wealthy Japanese have grown to $7 trillion. The Japanese central banks do not want to lose this money. There are “Black holes” to be filled, bank operations to be covered.

These testamentary trusts began about ten years ago and they have grown in popularity. The trusts are set up to offer heirs immediate expenses to cover funeral costs, and estate holders can choose to leave lump sums in the trust or have their funds distributed gradually over time. We decided to take ours all in one lump sum, right now, please, thank you.

IS HOLDING DEAD CUSTOMERS’ SAVINGS THE SOLUTION?

Retaining inheritance assets helps banks reduce their dependence on income that’s eroding as Japan’s rock-bottom interest rates squeeze margins, the Bloomberg article says. Banks have been urged to find other ways to build a sustainable business model, and holding on to dead customers’ savings appears to be a part of that new model.

Succession is good business for regional banks in Japan and elsewhere in a financially stagnant world. The Japanese financial industry says demand for testamentary trusts increases when a population ages, and banks can earn fees by selling them. This kind of financial pattern and worse acts as fate for much of our aging population. The big guys are squeezing what little margin the little guys have left. And the big guys are going after other big guys’ margins as well. There’s little margin left to be squeezed, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and the aging population is caught in between.

The amount of financial assets passed on to successors is expected to grow because the number of citizens that are expected to die will increase over the next two decades. Many of those estates are large. Japan has many millionaires who are getting old. So does the United States. One can only wonder if banks in the U.S. have begun targeting the aging population to see who has what funds, and how best to retain them once their clients pass? And what happens if we as heirs to our aging parents do form a trust with a regional bank, and then the bank goes belly-up? Where we deposit our paychecks on Friday and no one at the bank shows up Monday for work, when we need some of our cash back? What happens to our testamentary trusts then? Who will be protecting my financial interests when I’m gone?

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AID AND ATTENDANCE BENEFITS HELP MILITARY VETERANS WITH HEALTH AND HOMECARE COSTS

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Major issues are taking place around the world directly impacting our finances, which seem to be at the center of all things. Finances, aging, and health care. At our age what else is there?

If you’re a senior citizen then you know what I’m talking about. Creaky joints and forgetful episodes are the least of our problems. Health and homecare have become major issues to our population that continues to grow older. Where are we going to live? and who’s going to help us when tying our own shoelaces becomes a thing of the past? become big questions. How will we be able to take care of our physical and mental maladies when we can no longer afford to care for ourselves?

Many of us have to face these and similar health and home related issues head on every day, beginning as soon as we try getting up in the morning. Many aging military veterans dealing with real life home, homeless, and health issues seem to have it even tougher than the average citizen. Veterans return from distant wars having been exposed to many unhealthy toxins only to find inadequate healthcare awaits them. Many physical and mental challenges to deal with, yet our veterans have seemingly few healthy medical or homecare options available at home. If our veterans don’t end up sick and dying, they age. Like we all do. And we’re all aging at the same time in record numbers right now.

Senior veterans need to be aware that there is help available from the government and it’s called Aid and Attendance. Veterans can obtain benefits that can be applied to costs of a senior living community. But most vets and many senior living communities seem to be unaware of this benefit. Pass this information along.

If you’re a wartime veteran, or a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, and you’re 65 years or older, you may be entitled to a tax-free benefit called Aid and Attendance provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The benefit is designed to provide financial aid to help offset the cost of long-term care for those who need assistance with the daily activities of living such as bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and transferring.

PAID IN ADDITION TO A VETERAN’S BASIC PENSION

Aid and Attendance is a benefit paid by Veterans Affairs (VA) to veterans, veteran spouses or surviving spouses, and it is paid in addition to a veteran’s basic pension. According to California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform the benefit may not be paid without eligibility to a VA basic pension.

A pension is a benefit that the VA pays to wartime veterans who have limited or no income and who are at least 65 years old or, if under 65, are permanently or completely disabled. There are also “Death Pensions,” according to California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, which are needs based for a surviving spouse of a deceased wartime veteran who has not remarried.

Aid and Attendance is for applicants who need financial help for in-home care, to pay for an assisted living facility or nursing home. It is a non-service connected disability benefit, meaning the disability does not have to be a result of service. You cannot receive non-service and service-connected compensation at the same time.

Canhr.org also lists the service requirements for Aid and Attendance benefits. A veteran or the veteran’s surviving spouse may be eligible if the veteran: Was discharged from a branch of the United States Armed Forces under conditions that were not dishonorable AND Served 90 days of continuous military service (active duty), with at least one day during the following wartime periods (did not have to serve in combat):   World War I: April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918; World War II: December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946; Korean War: June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955; Vietnam War: August 5, 1964 (February 28, 1961, for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964), through May 7, 1975; Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990, through a date to be set by Presidential Proclamation or Law.

If the veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally he or she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty, with certain exceptions.

MEDICAL QUALIFICATIONS FOR AID AND ATTENDANCE BENEFITS

In listing the medical qualifications for Aid and Attendance benefits, veteranaid.org says a wartime veteran or surviving spouse must need the assistance of another person to perform daily tasks, such as eating, dressing, undressing, taking care of the needs of nature, etc. Blind individuals, patients in a nursing home for mental or physical incapacity, or residents in an assisted living facility also qualify. Any application will require medical evaluation from a physician, current medical issues, net worth limitations, and net income, along with out-of-pocket expenses.

Veteranaid.org says financial qualifications must have an average of less than $80,000 in assets, excluding their home and vehicles.

A veteran can receive up to $2,846 monthly with the Aid and Attendance benefit, says americanveteransaid.com. The Website provides a Benefit Table that lists qualifying benefits as such:

Status                                                  Monthly Benefit Amount

  • Surviving Spouse                                       $1,176
  • Single Veteran                                            $1,830
  • Married Veteran                                        $2,169
  • Two Vets Married                                      $2,903

Aid and Attendance benefits are tax free.

MORE VETERAN AID IS ON THE WAY

Steven Monroe says there are other organizations helping seniors and American veterans as well. Monroe, writing for the SeniorCare Investor at senoircare.levinassociates.com, cites Luke’s Wings, which provides air travel for families to visit vets in the hospital, or in the case of seniors, when they are in hospice care.

Militaryoneclick.com – which connects caregivers of U.S. veterans with the essential resources needed to strengthen the family support foundation; American Freedom Foundation – supports veterans helping to empower and enable them to lead confident and productive lives; Fisher House Foundation – provides a “home away from home” for military families to be close to a loved one during hospitalization; Homes for Heroes Foundation – coordinates financial assistance and housing resources to the Heroes of our nation such as Military personnel, Police/Peace Officers, Firefighters and First Responders who are in need; Hope for The Warriors – helps enhance the quality of life for post-9/11 service member, their families, and the families of the fallen who have sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty.

I encourage all military veterans to keep searching for available resources for your home and health needs. There are many people out there who care about what you’re going through. More help is on the way. Positive changes are being made within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

U.S. VETERANS GETTING CLOSER TO ACCESSING MEDICAL MARIJUANA

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The U.S. Congress is making important if not snail-paced strides toward helping to make medical cannabis accessible to military veterans. First, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently reintroduced the Veterans Equal Access Act, which would expand medical cannabis access to eligible veterans.

Secondly, on May 8, 2018, members of the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee approved H.R. 5520. This combined with S. 2796, a Senate companion legislation, that was introduced on May 7, 2018, and referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, would work toward facilitating the necessary research regarding medical marijuana and its affects in treating multiple symptoms suffered by military veterans.

EXPAND VETERANS’ ACCESS

H.R. 1820 would expand medical cannabis access to eligible veterans. In its language The Veterans Equal Access Act authorizes physicians and other health care providers employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to “provide recommendations and opinions” to veterans “who are residents of States with State marijuana programs” regarding the participation in said medical cannabis programs. The bill further authorizes the VA to complete any forms necessary to reflect such recommendations and opinions.

In further effort to reverse the VA’s decades long attitude against medical cannabis, Representative Blumenauer also filed an amendment that would forbade the VA from utilizing any of the funds derived from this bill for the purpose of prohibiting “VA providers from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran’s participation in a State marijuana program.”

The two bills add up to major steps toward overcoming legal hurdles that have been used to outright prohibit VA doctors from making recommendations to veterans for medical marijuana use, even if compliant under state law.

The above-mentioned legislative attempts to change the law are important because the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department has a lengthy history of withholding support for medicinal cannabis access by military veterans. In October 2017, Tom Angell, writing at marijuanamoment.net, recorded how a new update to the VA’s Website had confirmed the longstanding agency policy of disallowing government physicians from helping veterans qualify for state medical cannabis programs.

“Veterans should know that federal law classifies marijuana – including all derivative products – as a Schedule One controlled substance,” Angell writes of the VA department Website page that can no longer be accessed. “This makes it illegal in the eyes of the federal government. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is required to follow all federal laws including those regarding marijuana. As long as the Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as Schedule One VA health care providers may not recommend it or assist Veterans to obtain it.”

The FDA could take forever on that one. Angell wonders what if VA doctors were still allowed to recommend medical cannabis to veterans, even though it is considered illegal under federal law? Wouldn’t that still be a benefit to a veteran’s health if a VA doctor believed as much? And what about the fact that the above referred to VA Website page has been taken down? Might that be proof that the VA is changing their prohibitive stance against medical cannabis?

For many years the VA has thrown up major obstacles to American veterans’ safe access to medicinal cannabis as a treatment option for veterans suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, and other post-war ailments. Yet VA doctors have had no problem prescribing seriously addictive opioids that have been attributed to thousands of American deaths. It’s time for this treatment model to change. Our veterans deserve the opportunity to exercise their free will and have more equal treatment from their treating physicians who know them best, to wit their VA doctors.

What is important for the VA administrators and doctors to understand is that we are talking about “recommendations” or “opinions” of VA doctors for the use of medicinal cannabis. We are not talking about prescriptions. The law is very clear in states and nationally. No physician in the United States, whether paid by the U.S. government or in private practice, can prescribe pot to patients. It’s against the law because the prescription process is federally-regulated and cannabis currently falls under the Controlled Substances Act’s restrictive Schedule I. Schedule I drugs are those considered to have a high potential for abuse without any currently accepted medical value.

Even with marijuana’s Schedule I status, there is nothing in federal law that prevents VA from allowing its doctors to recommend or give their opinion on their patients’ usage of medicinal cannabis in the states where it is legal to do so. It’s now time for VA doctors to do so as well.

THE STUDIES MUST BE DONE

The medicinal cannabis studies have to be done, for the benefit of military veterans and the greater civilian public, and H.R. 5520 is a good place to start. This new legislation seeks to authorize and instruct the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to research medical marijuana for use in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain in American soldiers returning from war.

As ordered and reported by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs on May 8, 2018, H.R. 5520, The Veterans Affairs Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, would act to codify VA’s existing authority to conduct such research. On that basis, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 5520 would cost less than $500,000 over the 2019-2023 period, primarily to prepare and submit the necessary reports to the Congress. That spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.

FACILITATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA RESEARCH

The road to progress has not always been paved for success by the VA, which is another reason S. 2796, the Senate companion bill to H.R. 5520, was introduced in Senate on May 7, 2018, after which it was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Regarding The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, this bill (1) authorizes the VA to conduct and support research on the efficacy and safety of certain forms of cannabis and cannabis delivery for veterans enrolled in the VA health care system diagnosed with conditions such as chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder, and (2) Collected data shall be preserved in a manner that facilitates further research.

SOLUTIONS

The bottom line is the VA must act to change the internal prohibition of medical access for veterans to cannabis. Congress will have to continue to force the issue if the VA isn’t going to do anything to help veterans have access to medicinal cannabis.

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. calls the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 a “pragmatic and bipartisan piece of legislation that would advance our understanding of the impacts of medicinal marijuana usage and could improve the lives of veterans and other Americans.” But it’s just a start. We need to push harder for federal government evolution on the issue of medicinal cannabis research and access for military veterans.

The government must permit VA medical providers to be able to discuss with U.S. veterans the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and to be able to give recommendations and opinions in those states where medical marijuana laws exist.

We need to keep pushing for rescheduling of marijuana.

The VA needs to stop blocking federally-approved researchers from recruiting veterans for research on medical cannabis.

Studies must be performed regarding medicinal cannabis’ effects on veterans with PTSD issues. Such studies need to be performed and veterans must be given access to them.

MORE CHOICES AND FEWER BARRIERS; DOORS OPEN FOR MORE PRIVATE HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICA’S MILITARY VETERANS

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There are doctors and alternative methods to the art of healing that have proven track
records and military veterans deserve access to them should their health condition call for it. That’s why it was a big step when a deal was made calling for major reform that will soon take place within the United States VA. All that awaits is a President’s signature.

On May 23, the U.S. Senate passed with overwhelming approval by a vote of 92 to 5 the VA Mission Act of 2018 (S. 2372), which acts to combine the U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs’ (VA’s) seven community care programs into one. The bill would also
extend the VA “Choice Program” for one year while the VA implements the new
consolidated community care program.

According to an article written by Lisa Rein of The Washington Post, the massive bill promises to expand access for military veterans to private doctors at taxpayer expense, which is another victory for President Trump as it helps to cement one of his biggest campaign promises. The $55 billion package makes a five-year commitment to addressing the many shortcomings in America’s largest health system, which still struggles with delays after a 2014 scandal in which VA employees were found to have fudged patient wait-lists.

The bill acts to inject an additional $5.2 billion into the “Choice Program.” The “Choice Program” allows veterans to obtain care from non-VA care providers. Presently, about one-third of veterans in the system see outside doctors through the program, which Congress hastily approved as a temporary remedy in response to the above scandal. But the program – designed to serve the overflow at VA facilities both of aging Vietnam-era veterans and younger service members returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – is “fragmented and unwieldy,” Rein writes. Doctors have complained of slow or nonexistent payments, and veterans say there’s insurmountable red tape involved.

The new measure passed the House on May 16 by a vote of 347 to 70 and now heads to
President Trump’s desk where it is expected to soon be signed, before funding for the
“Choice Program” runs out.

The “Choice Program” has been declared a wreck from day one and dramatic changes
have been anticipated ever since. According to The Washington Post article the
Congressional Budget Office estimates that as a result of the bill an additional 640,000
veterans will seek medical help outside the system each year. For the first time the VA
will have to negotiate contracts for veterans to seek care at private walk-in clinics.

The bill was negotiated between Congress, the White House, and veterans groups over
the past year. Negotiations were reportedly often contentious between widely divergent
competing financial interests running down party lines. During this time Trump fired his
VA secretary and nominated a White House physician as a replacement, only to have the
nomination disintegrate after claims of misconduct surfaced. That turmoil slowed
progress of the legislation.

MORE CHOICES AND FEWER BARRIERS FOR VETERANS

One of President Trump’s key campaign promises had been to allow for more private
medical care to military veterans. Veterans can expect to benefit from the bill through
more choice of doctors and fewer barriers to health care.

According to a blog written by Austin Igleheart, the measure also expands
the circumstances under which veterans can obtain non-VA health care. Currently,
veterans may seek third-party care if they face a wait of at least 30 days for a VA
appointment or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The VA Mission Act will
remove these limitations and allow veterans access to non-VA care if they require
services not offered by VA or if their doctor decides it is in their best interest. The bill
will also boost funding to recruit more doctors to VA in an effort to improve capacity.

Additionally, the VA Mission Act includes a provision that would expand VA’s Program
of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to all veterans over the course of
two years. Currently, “monthly stipends, health insurance, medical training and access to home health aides are available to family caregivers for post 9/11 veterans”, Ingleheart writes, “but not to veterans from other eras and their families.”

IN THEIR OWN HOMES, AN ALTERNATIVE TO INSTITUTIONALIZED HEALTH
CARE

The program allows family caregivers to provide care for veterans in their own homes, offering an alternative to institutionalized care and reducing the costs to local governments associated with providing health care and other services to our nation’s veterans. Ingleheart writes that by allowing VA to contract with other entities to provide supportive services for family caregivers, and authorizing VA to compensate these entities for the services they provide, the VA Mission Act can help reduce costs for counties that provide such services.

The blog further notes that the bill intends to establish a prompt payment standard to
ensure reimbursements from VA to third-party care providers. This measure will help
ensure that health care providers are able to continue serving VA-eligible veterans in a
timely manner while avoiding unnecessary delays or added costs. This is all a blessing to
help bring greater qualify of life to a vastly underrepresented, exploited, and important
minority segment of our society, our military veterans.