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Assistance with Home Energy Costs – HEAP Benefits

Author: Linda Grear

October 8th, 2014

According to a recent New York Times article, the US Energy Department projects a warmer forecast this coming winter season. After enduring frigid temperatures and higher energy costs last winter, many American consumers will spend less this winter. Because temperatures are forecast to be warmer than last winter, that will mean less demand for heat.

The Energy Department estimated in a report on winter fuels that roughly half of American households that heat with natural gas can expect a decline of 5% in their gas expenditures. Homes that rely on heating oil can expect to spend 15% less this winter because of the recent drop in world oil prices. Homes that heat primarily with electricity can expect to save 2%. But the biggest savers will be users of propane who are expected to spend 34% less this winter, because of 24% lower prices and lower consumption.

The lower energy prices should help consumers, particularly seniors living on a fixed income, who spend a high proportion of their income on energy costs. There is also assistance available to help low income New Yorkers with the cost of heating their homes with HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program). HEAP is a federally funded program for assistance with home heating costs and energy conservation for eligible households. There may be assistance with assistance for heat and electricity costs, as well as furnace repair or replacement to keep the home’s primary heating source functional.

For 2014-2015: To qualify for assistance with heat and electricity costs, the total household monthly income for a single person must be at or below $2,194. For a two-person household, the monthly income must be at or below $2,869.

To apply for HEAP, you may contact your local County Department of Social Services. In Erie County, New York, the phone number is (716) 858-7644.

For more information regarding elder law issues, please contact HoganWillig, Attorneys at Law at (716)636-7600 or visit www.hoganwillig.com. HoganWillig’s main office is located at 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York with additional offices in Lockport, Lancaster and Buffalo.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Author: Krystal Chapin

October 1st, 2014

With the start of the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, HoganWillig wants to make sure Western New Yorkers are well informed about this devastating disease. Knowledge is power and prevention is key. Here are some quick facts about the disease:

  • One in eight U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.
  • Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed and approximately 410 will die each year.

Every person should know the symptoms and signs of breast cancer, and any time an abnormality is discovered, it should be investigated by a healthcare professional.  Most people who have breast cancer symptoms and signs will initially notice only one or two, and the presence of these symptoms and signs do not automatically mean that you have breast cancer. Be sure to see your health care provider if you:

  • Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from the rest of your breast
  • Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from your other breast
  • Feel something that is different from what you felt before

If you are unsure whether you should have a lump (or any change) checked, it is best to see a provider. Although a lump (or any change) may be nothing to worry about, you will have the peace of mind that it has been checked. By performing monthly breast self-exams, you will be able to more easily identify any changes in your breast.  Be sure to talk to your healthcare professional if you notice anything unusual.

What’s the good news? In the U.S., we have seen a gradual reduction in female breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 50 and older. Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1990, in part due to better screening and early detection, increased awareness, and continually improving treatment options. It is recommended that women 40 and older have mammograms every 1 to 2 years.

We live in time where technology is not only helping doctors detect earlier, treat, and cure breast cancer, but it can also help people become more proactive about their breast health. An app created by the National Breast Cancer Foundation called Early Detection Plan: Breast Cancer allows users to be reminded to perform a routine breast self-exam and schedule clinical breast exams and mammograms, depending on age and health history. The app also functions as a resource in which users can learn more about clinical breast exams, mammograms, risk factors, signs and symptoms, and how to perform a breast self-exam. This app can be found in the iTunes app store and is free.

Accidents at School

Author: Robin Friedman

September 26th, 2014

Everyone is back to school.  Children are in school for a significant part of every day, and we trust schools to safeguard our children.  As a parent, you should be aware that schools have a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to safeguard our children’s safety.

Many schools today have written safety protocols, but accidents can and do happen during school hours.  Accidents can be caused by inadequate supervision, or defective equipment in a gymnasium.  Dangerous conditions can be present in a school building due to negligent maintenance.

The issue of bullying has received much attention in the last few years. Once a school is put on notice of a bullying incident, it has a legal obligation to take steps to protect your child.  Parents know their children better than anyone else, so if your child does not tell you about a bullying incident, hopefully you’ll see the signs, or notice your child is acting differently.  If you become aware that your child is a bullying victim, put the school on notice immediately.  You can send an e-mail to the principal, or another appropriate school official.  Make sure you follow-up, and be persistent in your efforts.  From a legal standpoint proof that the school had prior notice that your child has been bullied is critical.  A school may not be responsible for an injury if it had no reason to be aware of prior bullying incidents.

We can answer any questions you may have.  Call us for a no obligation consult; there is never a fee unless we are successful.

Why Do Domestic Violence Victims Stay With Their Abuser

Author: Robin Friedman

September 15th, 2014

If you are anything like me, you probably watched the video of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer(now Janay Rice) in the face and cringed with anger and sadness.  I was shocked by the brutality of it.  And then I thought when it couldn’t get much worse, I heard the part of the story about how Ms. Palmer went on to marry Ray Rice and refused to testify against him in court.  It gave me the chills.

Those of us who have not lived through the experience of being in an abusive relationship cannot fathom how anyone would allow a significant other to treat them like that.  Initially, I became angry with Ms. Palmer for marrying Mr. Rice and refusing to testify against him, and that is the natural reaction most of us have. But, it is the wrong reaction.  Statistics show that a victim of domestic violence will attempt to leave her (or his) abuser numerous times before actually leaving for good and ending the relationship.  Leaving exposes the victim to great risk- roughly 75% of women who are killed by their abusers are murdered when they attempt to leave or after they have left a relationship.

We(meaning the friends, family and supporters of victims) cannot effectively convince a victim that she must leave her abuser.  That is a decision that must come from within.  So, the correct response from us in this situation would be to support Ms. Palmer, be a resource for her when she is in need, get her in touch with professionals that can help, and encourage her to make the decision to leave on her own.

If you are ready to leave an abusive relationship and need assistance obtaining a domestic violence protective order, contact one of our family law attorneys to schedule an appointment.

Latest Email Scam

Author: Hogan Willig

January 3rd, 2014

HoganWillig has learned that the New York State Unified Court System and local courts have received inquiries regarding email notices to appear in court proceedings. Many of the notices purport to come from the NYS Unified Court System. The notices also state that the recipient must open an attachment to learn the time and location of the court appearance.  The notices are an email scam and the attachments contain a computer virus.

Members of the public should be aware that the e-mails are not from the New York State Unified Court System and they should delete the emails without opening the attachment.

The Affordable Care Act and You

Author: Amanda Kelly

December 6th, 2013

Who is required to participate?

All taxpayers must enroll themselves and dependents with “minimum essential coverage” by January 1, 2014 or pay a penalty.

What is the cost of not participating?

The greater of:

  1. 2014 = $95.00 or 1% of income (the lesser of)
    2015 = $325 or 2% of income (the lesser of)
    2016 = $695.00 or 2.5% of income (the lesser of)
  2. 1% of the excess of the tax payer’s income over the income tax return filing threshold (2% in 2015 and 2.5% in 2016)

The penalty is capped at 300% of the adult flat dollar penalty or “bronze” level premium.

**For taxpayers under 18 years of age, flat dollar amount is one-half the amount above.
**The penalty is calculated on a monthly basis and is payable with your year-end tax return. 

What is the “Exchange”?

 In the past, most individuals obtained health insurance through their employer.  For those without this option or for those not offered affordable coverage through their employer, a Health Insurance Exchange will now be an available option for purchasing coverage.  It is best to think of the exchanges as an online marketplace. The exchanges are user-friendly and will now allow these consumers, including some employer groups, to research and shop for health insurance plans with ease and clarity.

The general public will now easily view and more importantly, compare the following for each plan:

  • Rates
  • Scope of services covered
  • Provider Networks
  • Geographic coverage by defined ranges
  • Quality ratings

Health plans on a public exchange will be given a metallic designation: platinum (covers 90%), gold (covers 80%), silver (covers 70%) or bronze (covers 60%). This metallic level will help shoppers understand the level of coverage a plan offers and how much they will need to pay out of pocket and what the plan pays.

Subsidies and tax credits will help make insurance affordable for many qualifying consumers who shop on the public exchanges.

The exchanges are due to be open for business starting in October, 2013, allowing individuals or employer groups to shop for health insurance coverage that will begin on January 1, 2014.

The health care reform law creates a new web portal, www.HealthCare.gov, that   will help individuals and small businesses find health insurance coverage.

All states are given the option to create and run their own exchange.  In the event any state does not run their own Exchange, its citizens will have the option to shop on the Exchange run by the Federal Government. All citizens will have an exchange available to them, despite their state’s offering.

There will also be private exchanges offered by private companies.

Am I eligible for a subsidy?

Consumers are eligible for a subsidy if their household income is between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level and they purchase insurance coverage on the exchange.

Employees are not eligible for a subsidy if they are covered through their spouse’s plan that meets Affordable Care Act requirements or if they are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.

I am uninsured with a pre-existing medical condition. How do I obtain coverage right now?

Uninsured residents with medical conditions that are expensive to treat may be eligible for the NY Bridge Plan, a new pre-existing condition insurance plan. (Until January 2014 when more options will be available through the exchange)

I am currently enrolled in Healthy New York-What are my options after January, 2014?

 As of January 1, 2014, Healthy NY will no longer be available to individuals or sole proprietors.

DON’T WAIT! Individuals and families will be able to shop for and enroll in coverage on the New York Health Benefit Exchange beginning in October 2013 for coverage starting January 1, 2014.

For additional details and information, please feel free to contact us at (716) 636-7600.

Don’t Worry About Olympus, We Have a Plan…

Author: Jeffrey Novak

March 25th, 2013

An interesting occurrence took place this week with both the President and Vice-President of the United States absent from American soil for a brief period of time. On March 19, President Obama was aboard Air Force One over the Atlantic Ocean on his way to Israel for a trip to the Middle East while Vice-President Biden was returning from Rome where he had attended the inaugural Mass of the new Pope, Pope Francis, at the Vatican.

This left, for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, Speaker of the House John Boehner, not a member of the President and Vice-President’s political party, the top governmental official on American soil.

Speaker Boehner’s place as the number 3 man in American government is the result of current law. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 establishes the line of succession to the powers and duties of the office of President of the United States in the event that neither a President nor Vice-President is able to “discharge the powers and duties of the office.” The Act places the Speaker of the House as the first successor. The Act reads, in part:

…[i]f, by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall…act as President…

Now pair this rare event with the release of a new movie this past week, Olympus Has Fallen, about an attack on the White House that results in the President of the United States being taken hostage by terrorists, and some might be wondering: “who is in charge if the President is out of communication or incapacitated?”
Now, I haven’t seen the new movie but I can guess, much like the late-1990’s tour de force Air Force One starring American treasure Harrison Ford, there is a scene where the nation’s national security team debates who is in charge with the President in a position where he is incapable of giving directives to his government and military.

The Constitution of the United States offers some guidance. Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

So before anyone starts to wonder why Speaker Boehner didn’t take his 15-20 minute window to repeal Obamacare or implement his solutions to the debt-crisis, the fact is that to have actually been cloaked with any of the powers of the Office of President of the United States, there would have to have been an invocation, twice, of Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.



We Practice Law for Your Peace of Mind