Saturday, January 23, 2016

Caregivers and Income Tax Filing

I have had numerous requests to blog about this topic so here we go.....

Let me state my qualifications on this topic.
The topic of income tax in the wounded world is often very confusing. Many do not understand a few key concepts that can make you income tax filing a bit easier or even eliminate the need for you to file. I fully acknowledge that you need a translator to understand the IRS at times. Let me help with a bit of the translation. (Please take note I have linked sites to many items listed.)

Let's start with income itself. We have two categories: earned and unearned.
  • Earned income simply means you have actually worked a job of some sort and received payment from working. You will receive a W2 or 1099 MISC from this income. If you are running your own business, you will need a detailed log of your income and expenses in order to report them. 
  • Unearned income simply means the income came to you through passive means, meaning you did not work to receive it. The most common type of unearned income I see comes from interest earned from savings accounts and/or social security.
In the caregiver world here are the sources of income that primarily concern us.
These sources of income are non-taxable and are unearned income. Social Security Income only becomes taxable when your earned income exceeds the limits set by the Social Security Administration. However even if your SSI is taxable it is still unearned income and will not be considered for tax credits.

Now let me post a few questions that are frequently asked.

What if my child(ren) receive Social Security?
Here's a great link that will go into further detail, but usually the child's social security income is not reported on an income tax return.

How do I receive Child Tax Credit and/or Additional Child Tax Credit?
You must first have earned income to be eligible for the credit. If you have earned income, then the credit will be calculated based on that income and the amount of qualifying child(ren) you have. Unearned Income will not qualify you for this credit.

How do I receive Earned Income Tax Credit?
Like Child Tax Credit you must have earned income to be eligible for the credit. If you have earned income, the credit will be calculated based on that income and the amount of qualifying child(ren) you have. Unearned Income will not qualify you for this credit.

How does the Affordable Care Act impact us?
Everyone must either have health care coverage or meet the requirements for an exemption. If you do not have coverage or meet the exemption then you are assessed a penalty on your income tax return. If you have only unearned income, then you will meet the requirements for an exemption. If you have Tricare, Champ VA, or other health care coverage, you will receive your 1095 form from your company for you to show your tax professional and to keep in your records.

Do we need to file a tax return?!
Visit this IRS link to find out or contact a professional.

Please remember every income tax filing situation is fact dependent. It is always best to consult a professional with any additional questions. Here are a few links to help you find a professional.
Best wishes on your tax filing! May the odds be ever in your favor!
Jessica Allen, AFC

Friday, January 22, 2016

5 Years Ago.....

Five years ago the morning of January 22nd was so normal when it started.

Five years ago I was just another Army wife trying to get through another deployment on her own.

Five years ago our girls were 5 and 8.

Five years ago my husband was just another soldier on a routine patrol. 

Five years ago our journey began....

I have learned so much in the past five years. I have learned about myself, my character, my ethics, my heart, and my strength. I have learned that God sure knew what he was doing went he put my husband on my path. I have learned that our children are absolutely amazing. I have learned about the art of medicine. I have learned that love can really conquer all. I have learned normal doesn't really exist. And I have learned healing from the wounds of war doesn't get better, it just gets different.

I am very proud of our family's journey. We have been through a lot. We have seen a lot. And we have been blessed more than I can say. 

Everyone's journey is different. I know some have not approved of decisions we have made along the way. Maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong. One thing is for sure we made the decisions that we felt were best for the four of us.

Our journey isn't about one person; it is about our family healing together. Sure my husband was the one who stepped on the bomb and has the most visible injuries. However, others so quickly forget the wounds in the heart and mind that they cannot see. And they seldom look beyond the chair or the prosthetic legs.

When I saw my husband for the first time, I immediately noticed his legs were missing and all of the machines he was attached to. Do you know what I remember the most about that moment? The look he gave me when I walked into the room. He needed someone who loved him to tell him it was all going to be ok. That was my job on that day and it is still my job each and everyday that he or the girls need it.

This journey is never easy. As soon as one fire is put out, two more pop up. Dealing with the mounds of paperwork and drama is absolutely exhausting. I often wonder how I am not an alcoholic by now. However every January 22nd I am reminded that no matter what fire comes our way, I can remember all we have overcome since that day in 2011. These memories show me that together we can overcome anything that comes our way!

Friday, January 1, 2016

I Don't Know How You Do It?!

My title is a sentence that is said to me so often I have lost count. I thought I would give the cliff notes version of my daily schedule.
  1. I get up at 4:30am Monday to Friday. On weekends I am up in the 5am hour. Why?! Because I need a good 30 minutes with my own brain before I add in any other brains into my day. 
  2. The first thing I do is consume my vitamin drink then I follow it with one half of a lemon squeezed into 2 cups of warm water. I get my breakfast ready (usually a poached egg with one piece of toast and a cup of chai) and make my way to my desk.
  3. One weekdays I am working by 5am. Why?! Because no one answers their emails that early. I get so much done between 5-6. I even amaze myself sometimes.
  4. Kids get first wake up call at 6. They have to be at school by 730. First call is at 6, then serious wake up call is 630. We have learned that rather than rushing and panicking (which still happens sometimes) we do the multiple calls to get them moving. At some point hubby is up and moving so then this is where the me going in a gazillion directions kicks in. 
  5. Once the girls are up and moving and/or at or off to school (we take turns driving them) I look at the board to see what we are doing for dinner. I live by the crockpot. My mother says our home is where crockpots go to die. I have to admit she is correct. I kill at least one crockpot per year. 
  6. Then I am back to work. I spend my days bouncing between work, hubby's needs, cleaning and whatever else gets tossed in. It is really crazy, but I do find time to take a lunch break with my hubby as many times during the week as possible.
  7. Kids are back home in the 3pm hour. It's homework, extra curricular activities, and chill/snack time. I try my hardest to have all of my work completed by 3. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My ultimate goal is to give the girls as much of my time as possible since they have been gone all day.
  8. Dinner is served in the 5-6pm hour. 
  9. Then it's reading, baths, snacks and bed.On school nights everyone here is in bed by 8. I am usually the first one out, but 8 is our shut down and be quiet time.

Do I think everyone needs to be up at 430am? No, this is just what works for me and our home. While the first 4 hours of our day Monday-Friday are basically the same, no day is ever the same around here. We tend to stick to this format, but life happens and sometimes our format gets tossed right out the window. When we are on vaca, I usually stick pretty close to the up in the 5am hour, but everything else is up in the air. I am a creature of habit and function best on a schedule, but I do love vaca!!

As you can see I carpe that diem, then sleep, and repeat. There are 24 hours in each day, I am highly selective on which ones I chose to use as pause time. You are correct to assume I received excellent marks in school for time management. Ha!!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The More You Know......

2015 will be the year I wish I knew less. I always joke about the NBC "The More You Know" banner that would run after they enlightened our country about an issue of some sort when I was growing up. As I have learned things this year, you could hear me saying "The More You Know" and could imagine my own NBC banner with the rainbow star coming across. But as I get older, I find that sometimes I wish I knew less.

I miss my happy bubble. I miss thinking that our government took true care of the veterans they chose to send straight into harms way. I miss thinking that everyone cared about other people. I miss thinking that everyone could see past the end of their own nose. I miss thinking that a person's word truly meant something. I miss promises made were actually promises filled.

2015 brought us another roller coaster year. We had another 12 months of twists and turns. We held on and we have made it through....again. (We're getting pretty good at this roller coaster thing.)

How did we make it through?! Because we have made the peace with the fact that we are on our own. The white horse is not coming. Promise makers have their own lives and over commit. We acknowledge life just happens. People forget they even made commitments and promises. We fully embrace the fight for the wounded never, ever ends and truly only the wounded and those who fight with them know the battle continues.

What does that mean for us?! It simply means things will get done when we get to them. We can either sit down and count all the things people never followed through with or we can make a list of what needs to be done and sketch them all out in 2016. We chose the later.  

This year we learned that we will focus on the few amazing people who were brought into our lives rather than focusing on the turds that need to be smacked in the face a few times with a hard object. There was so much positive in this year, we will choose to focus on that rather than the negative that attempted to take root and tried to ruin our happy. 

Let's highlight some of that awesomeness.....

  • We now have this amazing home that Chaz can get around in with almost zero difficulties!!! That in itself is huge for us! For years we have waited for him to have freedom like we have now.
  • The girls chose to go back to school. Their school is fabulous and we are all very happy with the choice.
  • I have been granted some greatness with my job at YRF for 2016. Lots and lots and lots of planning, research and work has gone into what we are launching. I am thrilled over it. 
See three awesome things. Boom! There there's the super, duper short list and we close 2015 and welcome 2016 with open arms!!

2015 was not a bad year, it was just another year of hard lessons that had to be learned. We will take our lessons, combine that with our faith and keep moving forward. Bring on a new year!!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Elfin' Fun

It cracks me up to see what polarizes people these days. It's like we have to be on a side of every issue. Sometimes we make an issue out of the issue. Take the Elf on a Shelf for example.....

I have had people tell me they hate that we participate in such foolishness. Then I have friends text me, scolding me for forgetting to post pics of what our elves are up to....whoops that just reminded me....

We invited the elves into our home in 2011. Why?! Because our life kinda sucked then. We were still dealing with Walter Reed and trying to heal and hit set-back after set-back. Our girls missed their friends. We all wanted to just move on and go home. We were stuck in the blahs. We needed to have some true fun. Yes, it is that simple.

Why have we continued? Because it's fun! Our little family of four enjoys having the elves for the short time they are here. 

Our elves do not tattle on our kids to Santa. Our girls know the true meaning of Christmas. For us the elves are just a way to make the holiday season even more joyous and fun. Seriously, it's that simple. There is no underlying theory of destruction of the true meaning of any holiday or religion, nor are we supporting the theory of perpetuating a police state. It's just simple fun!!

I believe we could all use a little more fun in our lives. Sometimes life really sucks and it kicks your ass. And when you are a child trapped in a situation that most adults can't handle, you deserve a little bit of fun every once in a while. Sure there are lots of other ways to have fun, this is just one way we have fun in our home. It's just simple, harmless fun.

Here's the thing with the elves....if you want to do it, do it. Have fun with it and don't let anyone spoil it for you. If you think it is silly and you don't want to do it, don't. But don't be a Grinch and ruin another person's joy because you disagree. It's just that simple. ;)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Selfish Saturday

My birthday was two weeks ago. Months prior my best friend from college and I decided that we should take a Saturday for ourselves and hit the pause button on adulting for a day. We decided that was a beyond excellent decision that must be repeated.

My friend, Jessica, is my best friend for a long list of reasons. Here are just a few.....
  1. We have the same name. (Seriously, isn't that awesome?)
  2. We attended the same college. (We are approaching the 20 year mark on this relationship.)
  3. She is my little sister in our sorority. (Kappa Delta, by the way)
  4. Perhaps most importantly we LOVE UK basketball. (There have been some great texts over that topic for sure.)
In all seriousness, the reason our friendship works so well is that we both live insanely busy lives, so we understand each other very well. Once we are in the same room it is like absolutely no time has passed and we just pick up where we left off. We do not get to see each other often and our friendship is a fueled on text messages, but it works for us.

We have been there for each other in our darkest days and can easily recall the calls that led to floods of tears. Together we have healed through the frequently truckloads of drama the Lord knows we can handle. It is the healing together through adversity that has made our bond so strong.

Neither of us make time for ourselves beyond the occasional hair appointment or perhaps random kid-free trip to the store. We are great at telling others (including each other) how important that is for self-care, but our self-care comes in the the massive amounts of books we read. We both love to escape into our books and that occupies a chunk of our conversation when we see each other.

But we did it!! We were selfish together for the first time!! We both worked and ran away to Lexington, KY on a Friday. Selfish Saturday 2015 began the next morning. The entire day, we did what we wanted. We did not have hubbies or kids whining, nor chiming in. We finished our day celebrating my first visit to the Rupp Arena and cheered on our UK Wildcats together!

We had a blast and of course we both had to go home super early on Sunday because we have too many responsibilities. But we did it!!! The ladies who preach about self-care, actually took time for themselves! It was amazing! I am overjoyed we did it! And I cannot wait to do it again!

It will be a long time before another Selfish Saturday will come around for us. I can assure you, we will do it again and again and again. I am so thankful for my friend. I am so thankful that we took the time to be together. I look forward to many more selfish days in our future!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Get the Stories Out

We currently reside in a county that is probably 99.7% civilian. Most of what they know about military life comes from the media, Lifetime or the movies. Truth be told, they don't want to hear the actual truth about what our families go through. They only want to hear the "cool stories" about the wars and not about the healing that takes place.

I am learning that civilians truly believe that the government takes cares of our family's every single need. They don't understand the amount of red tape that exists for us, because the amount of red tape we cut through does not exist in the civilian world.

Many think that buying a green light bulb will actually help our families. They don't understand that our level of need and assistance goes way beyond a simple purchase.

Lies about our benefits make civilians envious of our "lavish" lifestyles and cause them to not to friend us.

When our children share their life experiences, apparently our children "think they are better" than others and this makes it harder for them to make friends.

When a veteran serves our country, apparently he must be violent and angry so we need to stay away.

When the caregivers of our wounded choose to have a job and/or independence and/or not make their entire existence about the catastrophic injury, then apparently the caregiver is selfish and should be ashamed.  

When our wounded get prosthetic legs, apparently that makes everything all better. 

We have an abundance of ignorance in the civilian world. We need to get our stories out there so more can understand. Most importantly we have to not be angry at people for not understanding. You cannot comprehend something that you know little to nothing about. It is our job to inform and educate not hold it all in and lash out because someone simply doesn't understand.

With Veterans Day approaching, this is a great time to get those stories out there and help combat the ignorance. I challenge all of our military friends to tell one civilian a day about our military life and how the fight for the families of our wounded, ill, injured, killed and missing never ends. I challenge you to let everyone know we lose 22 veterans a day to suicide. The only way to lessen the ignorance is to increase the education.