elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

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cas
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elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by cas » Mon Mar 19, 2018 7:59 am

This post is partially as a heads-up for other people who might find themselves in the same situation and partially a "Does this seem weird?" question.

My elderly mother called me in a panic on Saturday. She had gotten a letter from the state of Florida employee/retiree health insurance organization saying that her state of Florida spousal-dependent-of-retiree health insurance was going to be cancelled starting April 2. (My parents have been married over 50 years. They have been on state of Florida employee, then retiree, health insurance listing my mother has the spousal dependent of my father for over 40 years.)

She said she had gotten a letter from them a while back saying she had to sign a form attesting she was validly married to my father and send in a copy of her 2016 IRS 1040 showing that she was married filing jointly with my father. She had sent in this information, blacking out some sensitive data that they said she could black out. But now she had a vague letter saying what she sent wasn't adequate, so her insurance would be cancelled in 10 days (unless she provided "adequate" documentation in the meantime). (My father has dementia, so he is not in the picture to help deal with this paperwork stuff.)

I looked into it and

1. This was indeed a legitimate letter and not a scam (https://www.mybenefits.myflorida.com/he ... rification)
Mom was in such a panic that I didn't press on whether she had really adequately blacked out all information that could potentially be used for tax fraud when she trustingly sent in a copy of her 1040.

2. The documentation they wanted was an IRS *transcript* (obtained from the IRS get_transcript function of IRS.gov) - copy of a 1040 was not adequate. A marriage license/certificate was also not adequate. More recent FAQs state this, but the initial letter that my mother got did not clearly state that a copy of the 1040 was not adequate ... just said that they wanted the most recent copy of the "IRS Return Transcript." (I wonder how much of the US population would interpret that as "a copy of my IRS 1040"?)

Mom isn't overly comfortable with computers, plus just had cataract surgery and can't see the computer very well right now, plus was completely panicked by the thought of losing her health insurance, so I worked with her to figure out how to get this IRS transcript within the necessary 10 days:

- We couldn't do it purely online because her credit is frozen (with the PINs in the bank safety deposit box, not accessible on a weekend), plus her cell phone is on a pay-as-you-go-plan. Both those things blocked her from using the purely online IRS get-transcript method.

- The IRS says the purely by-paper-mail method to get a transcript takes at least 30 days.

- So we used the method of requesting the transcript online, but having it snail mailed to her address on record. The IRS says this should take 5 to 10 days. Given that it is the height of tax season, I think that is going to be cutting it very close. (And that is assuming that the US post office managed to deliver this very sensitive information to her mailbox and not the mailbox of one of her rural neighbors, which the post office frequently does.)

The information I found on this health insurance audit of dependents says 98,000 employees/retirees, with 193,000 dependents, got the initial paperwork for the audit. Given the vagueness of the language of the initial letter, I'm going to guess that my mother is far from the only person who sent in a 1040 rather than an IRS transcript. I'm going to guess that the supposed 10 day deadline will be extended. And - who knows - maybe the IRS transcript will appear in Mom's mailbox within the 10 days.

But .. beyond that ... I guess the powers-that-be think a current tax transcript showing Married-Filing-Jointly status is better proof of current marriage than a marriage certificate/marriage license/1040. And they do allow sensitive information (financial #s, all except last 4 digits of SS#) to be redacted. But I can't get beyond a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that - given all the problems with tax fraud that have stemmed from the Bad Guys successfully swiping tax info using the IRS get_transcript function - that there is something really disturbing about random organizations requiring people to pony up an IRS transcript to prove marriage.

Anything in particular that I should be doing (aside from redacting just about everything possible on the IRS transcript) to better protect my mother from misuse of this IRS transcript that we have to send into some 3rd party contracted company hired by the state of Florida?

Oh, and by the way ... the FAQ for this audit also has this in it now. Lovely.

"Updated 1/22/18: Please note that DSGI has been made aware that some employees are receiving spam calls from in-state and out-of-state area codes designed to elicit personal information, such as Social Security Numbers, with callers claiming they are part of the dependent eligibility verification audit. Please be cautious about disclosing confidential information. HMS is conducting the audit and will NOT request Social Security Numbers to confirm your identity. "

livesoft
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by livesoft » Mon Mar 19, 2018 8:08 am

Wow.

I think an IRS transcript will come in the mail in a few days. At least that's how long it took for the system to get my a mailed transcript.

Since this is state government action, where is the contact to your state government officials in all this? This is the kind of thing that a state rep would love to eat up and help constituents with. They generally have a walk-in office near where one lives or at least within Uber distance.
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2cents2
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by 2cents2 » Mon Mar 19, 2018 8:24 am

The website that you provided listed Florida Legislature (and Executive Office of the Governor) on the phase 3 list (March 26, 2018 – May 31, 2018), so it looks like the legislature will get to enjoy this process first hand. (It's too bad they weren't in the phase I group).

ThriftyPhD
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by ThriftyPhD » Mon Mar 19, 2018 8:26 am

Places I would contact:

Union head (if your dad was in a union)
State Rep
State Senator
Governor
Local News

Partly to complain, partly to make sure they're aware that this is confusing for people and to try and extend the timeline or put out information.

That said, from the page you linked under required documents:
If you and your spouse have been married for 12 or more months, a Tax Return Transcript of your most recently filed (2016 or 2017) federal income tax return showing you filed as married, either jointly or separately. The tax return transcript is the only official record of the tax return that you filed with the IRS. A copy of your tax return (Form 1040) will not be sufficient. You can request a copy of your transcript from the IRS at www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript or by calling the IRS at 1-800-908-9946. Please submit ONLY the first page, showing yours and your spouse’s names or the last four digits of their social security number and tax filing period. All other information should be redacted. If you are unable to obtain your transcript, please contact HMS.
At least here, it's pretty clear what they want. I would press on state rep to get deadline extension for those who are making a good faith effort to comply.

fposte
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by fposte » Mon Mar 19, 2018 8:58 am

In my state, the attorney general's office would likely be responsive to complaints about this; I'd try them.

oldfatguy
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by oldfatguy » Mon Mar 19, 2018 9:29 am

cas wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 7:59 am
I guess the powers-that-be think a current tax transcript showing Married-Filing-Jointly status is better proof of current marriage than a marriage certificate/marriage license/1040.
A tax transcript is much better proof of current marital status. I have two marriage certificates, and I am not married to either person. I could also fill out a 1040 showing that I was MFJ, but not file it with the IRS.

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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by rkhusky » Mon Mar 19, 2018 11:16 am

Perhaps the state should get out of the marriage license business if they aren't going to accept their own records as proof.

prd1982
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by prd1982 » Mon Mar 19, 2018 11:49 am

I suspect some people will have problems getting a transcript quickly. I just went thru this for my sister. In order to complete online, you need to have a cell phone plan in YOUR name, and it cannot be a pay-as-you-go Even the online for a mailed copy can be tricky if, for example, your tax form listed the address of a tax service, or former address. So often what is easy for the middle and richer folks to accomplish is easier than for the poorer. And the older you our, the more likely you are to have difficulty. I understand the reason FL is doing this, since forging a 1040 is easy. But there needs to be a plan to handle those that cannot provide the documentation in a timely (as defined by the state) manner.

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Pajamas
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by Pajamas » Mon Mar 19, 2018 1:56 pm

I'm guessing that this situation is so messed up and out of control on a wide scale that they are not going to strictly enforce the deadline. No one is going to want to be responsible for cutting off so many people's health coverage inappropriately. If they do, someone will have to apologize publicly and resign.

pshonore
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by pshonore » Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:06 pm

rkhusky wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 11:16 am
Perhaps the state should get out of the marriage license business if they aren't going to accept their own records as proof.
A marriage license proves you were married at one point in time; nothing more.

rkhusky
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by rkhusky » Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:27 pm

pshonore wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:06 pm
rkhusky wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 11:16 am
Perhaps the state should get out of the marriage license business if they aren't going to accept their own records as proof.
A marriage license proves you were married at one point in time; nothing more.
Not much benefit to a document that's only good for a couple of days.

feehater
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by feehater » Mon Mar 19, 2018 5:24 pm

pshonore wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:06 pm
rkhusky wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 11:16 am
Perhaps the state should get out of the marriage license business if they aren't going to accept their own records as proof.
A marriage license proves you were married at one point in time; nothing more.
Ok, I'll bite. Doesn't an IRS transcript only prove that you checked the married box on last year's 1040? Or does the IRS actually keep a centralized database of all marriage licenses and divorce decrees?

Edited to add...I'm not disagreeing with you about a marriage license being inadequate, only pointing out that your logic can be applied to other forms of proof too.

dknightd
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by dknightd » Mon Mar 19, 2018 5:47 pm

10 days is not enough time! That should not be allowed. I have to occasionally document my wife (and in the past, kids) are legitimate dependents. But it seems like they typically give 30-60 days. It is a pain, but I understand their desire to reduce abuse. It bugs me every time I have to prove my wife is still my wife. Aren't divorces public records? Why should I have to prove my wife is still my wife? If they want to deny her coverage, that I have been paying for, shouldn't they have to prove she is not my wife before deleting her coverage?

Anyway, thanks for the heads up. One or more of my parents are showing signs of dementia. This would be an easy thing to let slip through the gaps.

I suspect if your mother was denied coverage, you could appeal and prove marriage after the fact if needed. Likely the 10 days is just what the contracting company wants so they can check this one off their list as soon as possible. Of course, I could be wrong . . .

You might want to call them, explain you are having difficulties collecting the information. Explain your dad has dementia. Ask what happens if he should die before your Mom.

Thanks for helping your Mom out with this.

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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by Katietsu » Mon Mar 19, 2018 5:50 pm

I do agree that a 10 day deadline is unrealistic and the original instructions should have been clearer. If they really try to enforce the 10 day deadline then there is reason to complain. I suspect they have found that many people will drag their feet and never do it without a short deadline.

I was required to do this about 5 years ago. I do not see why the request itself is unreasonable. In the case of my plan, they found hundreds of ineligible people who were still being carried fraudulently on the insurance plan. Most of these involved ex spouses for whom a valid marriage license would be available.

I also would not worry about identity theft issues. These people already have name, address, and social security number. Block out the income and what else are you giving them?

Some employers are requiring this on an annual basis. Several local employers also are requiring proof that the spouse has no access to insurance through the spouse’s job if you want to cover the spouse. Just part of the current state of our healthcare system.

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FIREchief
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by FIREchief » Mon Mar 19, 2018 6:46 pm

feehater wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 5:24 pm
pshonore wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 3:06 pm
rkhusky wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 11:16 am
Perhaps the state should get out of the marriage license business if they aren't going to accept their own records as proof.
A marriage license proves you were married at one point in time; nothing more.
Ok, I'll bite. Doesn't an IRS transcript only prove that you checked the married box on last year's 1040? Or does the IRS actually keep a centralized database of all marriage licenses and divorce decrees?
A joint 1040 will also list the name and social security number of the spouse. That's a bit more meaningful than just checking a box.
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.

Miakis
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by Miakis » Mon Mar 19, 2018 7:00 pm

If there's a local IRS office nearby, I'd go in person to get the transcript.

If either you or your mother has a tax preparer, you can have them fax in a 2848 and get a transcript through E-services within the 10 day window (immediately if they're willing to call Practitioner Priority Service and fax the 2848 while on the phone).

Miriam2
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by Miriam2 » Mon Mar 19, 2018 9:46 pm

cas wrote: She said she had gotten a letter from them (HMS) a while back saying she had to sign a form attesting she was validly married to my father and send in a copy of her 2016 IRS 1040 showing that she was married filing jointly with my father. She had sent in this information, blacking out some sensitive data that they said she could black out.
The HMS eligibility form states the sensitive data was to be "redacted" on the approved form - which is a Tax Return Transcript - not her tax form 1040. She used the form 1040 which the HMS letter expressly states "will not be sufficient."
cas wrote:But now she had a vague letter saying what she sent wasn't adequate, so her insurance would be cancelled in 10 days. . . (unless she provided "adequate" documentation in the meantime).
The requirement is not that vague - the HMS letters (they have sent out several to remind people) specifically state that the only documentation that will be accepted is a Tax Return Transcript and not a Form 1040 and give the link that directly links to the IRS Tax Return Transcript:
If you and your spouse have been married for 12 or more months, a Tax Return Transcript of your most recently filed (2016 or 2017) federal income tax return showing you filed as married, either jointly or separately. The tax return transcript is a record of the tax return that you filed with the IRS. A copy of your tax return (Form 1040) will not be sufficient. You can request a copy of your transcript from the IRS at www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript or by calling the IRS at 1-800-908-9946. Please submit ONLY the first page, showing yours and your spouse's names or the last four digits of their social security number and tax filing period. All other information should be redacted.
It is complicated for people and especially senior citizens, and it would have been better if HMS had simplified their letters. Tax Return Transcripts are used for many situations requiring status, such as student loans recertifications and financial aid, but most people don't know what they are.

Note - she also has to fill in, sign and send in her Verification Form (which she received from HMS) along with her Tax Return Transcript.
Mom isn't overly comfortable with computers, plus just had cataract surgery and can't see the computer very well right now, plus was completely panicked by the thought of losing her health insurance . . . So we used the method of requesting the transcript online, but having it snail mailed to her address on record. The IRS says this should take 5 to 10 days. Given that it is the height of tax season, I think that is going to be cutting it very close.
Have you called HMS at 877-577-4549? They can provide your mother with a grace period.

rooms222
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by rooms222 » Mon Mar 19, 2018 11:28 pm

Reading the FAQs, they seem to have overlooked that if a married couple has children living with them under certain conditions they can file as head of household rather than married jointly or married separately. For a period of time both my former spouse and I each filed as head of household because we each had children living with us. This is not addressed in the guidance for this audit.

The terms of this audit seem pretty harsh and state that they do plan to drop people right away and make them appeal. It implies that they will be dropped first and added back with a break in coverage, at least for dependents.

cas
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by cas » Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:55 am

Miriam2 wrote:
Mon Mar 19, 2018 9:46 pm

The requirement is not that vague - the HMS letters (they have sent out several to remind people) specifically state that the only documentation that will be accepted is a Tax Return Transcript and not a Form 1040 and give the link that directly links to the IRS Tax Return Transcript:
If you and your spouse have been married for 12 or more months, a Tax Return Transcript of your most recently filed (2016 or 2017) federal income tax return showing you filed as married, either jointly or separately. The tax return transcript is a record of the tax return that you filed with the IRS. A copy of your tax return (Form 1040) will not be sufficient. You can request a copy of your transcript from the IRS at www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript or by calling the IRS at 1-800-908-9946. Please submit ONLY the first page, showing yours and your spouse's names or the last four digits of their social security number and tax filing period. All other information should be redacted.
Miriam,

Since you sound like you are perhaps involved in the administration of this process, I would respectfully like to elaborate on the communication my parents have received. Unfortunately, the process and wording that you outline that should have happened is not what happened in their specific instance.

I have logged in to the VerifyOS website with the proper verification number and am cut/pasting from the exact letters that HMS says were sent to my parents.

Verification Request (date 1/26/2018): This is the version of the relevant paragraph included in the letter my parents received. It is considerably shorter than the paragraph quoted by Miriam, there is no sentence about the inadequacy of the 1040, and there is no sentence explaining what a tax transcript is. I have read and used computer search on the whole 5 page letter. There is no sentence anywhere in any of the 5 pages that says that the 1040 is inadequate or that even mentions a 1040 or an IRS Return Transcript again.

Given that this whole audit is being done in phases, maybe the sentence about the inadequacy of the 1040 was added to the paper and online documents at a later phase/date.

Granted ... people may well argue that the mention of the URL for the IRS get_transcript is adequate to indicate that maybe an IRS Return Transcript isn't the same thing as an IRS 1040 Tax Return. In the real world, my mother interpreted that sentence as being there for people who were poor record keepers and couldn't find their 2016 IRS 1040 Tax Return. After all, in her approximately 80 years, Mom has had to fill in more than 60 IRS 1040 Tax Returns. She has never even heard of an IRS Return Transcript and has never had to produce one for anyone before. I'm a generation younger, and the first time I ever heard of an IRS Return Transcript was this past year while reading this forum. I've never had to produce one. Before this year, I suspect I might well have interpreted the relevant paragraph the same way my mother did.
REQUIRED DOCUMENTS

FOR SPOUSE:

-If you and your spouse have been married for 12 or more months, a Tax Return Transcript of your most
recently filed (2016 or 2017) federal income tax return showing you filed as married, either jointly or
separately (can be obtained from https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript or by calling the IRS at
800-908-9946).


Partial Documentation Notice (dated 2/22/2018): I can see on the VerifyOS website that this letter was supposedly sent to my parents. Unfortunately, my parents never received it. My mother's eye surgeries were right at that time, so at that time I was living in their house (from mid_February through mid-March), picked up their mail and went through their mail. My mother also went through the mail every day that her eyes allowed her to. I can absolutely verify that they never received this letter. They (and I, in a different state) frequently get US mail for other addresses, so I assume their mail is also frequently misdelivered. I guess whoever got this particular letter didn't bother to try to get it delivered to the proper owner. Or, if the US mail was not at fault, maybe HMS's mailing processes aren't working like they are supposed to.

In any case, even if they had received the letter, for people who are not aware that a tax transcript is different from a tax return, I'm not sure there is enough information to make that crystal clear. If someone has already once made the incorrect assumption that "tax transcript = 1040", then the emphasis seems to be that somehow the year wasn't visible on the document that was sent in, not the that 1040 itself was the wrong document.
Thank you for responding to the State of Florida's Dependent Eligibility Verification Audit. Our records indicate
that you have missing or incomplete documentation; therefore, your dependent's eligibility status cannot be
verified.

Below is a list of . . . the additional documentation you must send to verify eligibility:

We have received the following documents:
A copy of the front page of the most recently filed federal tax return.

Please see below for information to complete verification for this dependent:
The tax transcript of your most recently filed (2016 or 2017) income tax return was not received or was
not sufficient. Transcript copies can be obtained from the www.irs.gov and needs to show the tax year
and that you and your spouse filed as married.
Final Notice (dated 3/14/2018): The following 2 sentences are the only sentences referencing documentation in any way. There is no specific mention of what is wrong or what is needed, including no mention of either the IRS Return Transcript or the inadequacy of the 1040.
According to our records, we did not receive the documentation needed to complete the State of Florida's
Dependent Eligibility Verification Audit for your dependent(s) by the March 12, 2018 deadline.

Please submit the required documentation for the non-verified dependent(s) listed above by April 2, 2018. If
we do not receive the documents needed to verify eligibility, your non-verified dependent(s) will be removed
from your coverage
(Yes, I, the computer literate daughter, was able to go to the VerifyOS website mentioned in the letter and figure out what was wrong by navigating assorted tabs. However, given the timing (tax season), the accompanying scary threat (loss of health insurance), the fact that the referenced website was NOT a state of Florida website, the nature of information requested by the VerifyOS login (reference number, birth date), then the nature of the information requested (tax transcript), my first suspicion was that the entire thing was a new scam designed to get enough information for the Bad Guys to file fraudulent tax returns under stolen identities. My elderly parents are targeted by these types of financial scams approximately once a week. It is constant and unrelenting.)

Miriam2
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by Miriam2 » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:26 pm

cas wrote: Yes, I, the computer literate daughter, was able to go to the VerifyOS website mentioned in the letter and figure out what was wrong by navigating assorted tabs. However, given the timing (tax season), the accompanying scary threat (loss of health insurance), the fact that the referenced website was NOT a state of Florida website, the nature of information requested by the VerifyOS login (reference number, birth date), then the nature of the information requested (tax transcript), my first suspicion was that the entire thing was a new scam designed to get enough information for the Bad Guys to file fraudulent tax returns under stolen identities. My elderly parents are targeted by these types of financial scams approximately once a week. It is constant and unrelenting.
cas, I can see it has been incredibly frustrating for your parents and for you to deal with this annoying verification process :( And no doubt your mom was panicked at the possibility of losing their health insurance over these demanding requirements. The HMS letters are too detailed and threatening. It would be better if they sent a simplified step-by-step, especially since this is probably the first year that your parents, and other employees, have had to do this.

But this is what I would do now -

1 - Call HMS immediately & explain the situation with your parents & request an extension, a grace period

2 - Immediately go to the on-line IRS Tax Return Transcript site & order a copy of the Transcript with your mom's social security number, to be delivered by mail. Close the site, return to the site & order another transcript with your father's social security number, to be delivered by mail.

3 - Repeat this process about 3 days later

What this does is ensure you will receive the Transcript by mail, allowing for failed delivery for some of them :annoyed

4 - Make sure you have another copy of the Verification Form that needs to be filled out & returned to HMS

5 - When the first IRS Tax Return Transcript arrives, immediately block out what HMS doesn't want, as per your HMS directions. For sure HMS wants your mom and dad's names and/or the last 4 digits of their social security numbers, and the tax filing period. To cover your bases, I would leave in the married filing jointly and address. In fact, I would only block out the amounts.

6 - Immediately fax it to HMS along with the signed & dated Verification Form; check on-line to make sure they received it. If not, make your HMS calls.

7 - If you mail the Tax Transcript & Verification Form, send it certified return receipt. It will cost some $6, but you can track it and most importantly, you'll receive a signed receipt proving they got it - and which is relief to your mom, knowing they got it. A mere "tracking mail" is not sufficient - all that may show is that your letter arrived in the post office in the destination city; it does not prove that HMS got it.

I hope this helps, I'm not sure there is any better way to accomplish this :(

Also, perhaps make a copy of the forms and what you did - so that if this health insurance verification process is asked for again next year, your mom will have the simplified step-by-step process available to follow. :happy

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Artsdoctor
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Re: elderly mother given 10 days to give IRS *transcript* to health insurance or lose benefits

Post by Artsdoctor » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:45 pm

This is clearly outrageous. In the ideal world, you'd contact your state representative; this is what they're for. However, there's one question: is your state representative a reasonable person?

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