"If you have any questions about Medicaid eligibility call the professionals at S.A.F.E. Planning, I made the call, listened to the presentation, found out that Medicaid for long-term care was not charity, but an entitlement program designed especially for seniors, and my wife was eligible.
God Bless SAFE Planning
I couldn't imagine what the journey of getting my mother into a nursing home would have been like without having the support and guidance of the professionals at SAFE Planning. The emotions that went along with the decision to place my mother into a nursing home were hard enough to deal with then, the thought of piling on how to figure out what's needed to fill out a Medicaid application well that would have been a nightmare.
Brad and Linda Rachal can't say enough good things about S.A.F.E. Planning, and they think more people should be aware of how S.A.F.E. miraculously protects assets when a parent has to go into a nursing home or dies.
Irma Rachal had Alzheimer's and was in a nursing home before she died. "They wanted to take my dad's home away after momma passed," explained Brad, "but S.A.F.E. made sure he got to keep their house so every time somebody asks, we recommend S.A.F.E. Planning."
Linda puts it this way, "Being able to keep their home helped Papaw to still feel like a man. We'd never even heard of S.A.F.E. until Mamaw (Irma) told us SAFE was handling their financial planning. She knew somebody who recommended them to her, and she signed herself up with them to protect their assets."
According to Linda, Irma and Wilfred's kids and grandkids meant everything to them. When a family is dealing with long-term care and death it is difficult enough, but when you add the maze of government regulations and bureaucracy to the mix, it can and often is overwhelming and devastating to families because they probably don't understand how trusts, savings, gifting rules, look-back periods, etc can affect the outcome.
When Wilfred also had to go into a nursing home, Brad and Linda said that Ric and Sharon handled everything for them. "They just told us what paperwork to bring in, and they worked it out. We never felt alone. They walked us through every step," Linda shared. "I'm still amazed at how they helped us and are still helping us out because when you don't know anything about Medicaid regulations and how to go about things, it makes a huge difference when you have people like Ric and Sharon who took care of things for us. Ric is still helping us with the burial policies."
Brad stated, "Mom was just a country girl who retired from Western Electric, and Dad retired from Ralston Purina. They worked all their lives saving for the future, and then at the end they would have lost everything if it hadn't been for S.A.F.E. Planning."
"Brad and I want to go ahead and let S.A.F.E. do our planning because we know how much they have helped us with Mamaw and Papaw's estate," said Linda. "Every time we have questions, they tell us to come on in, and they walk us through the problem. We just can't say enough about the great things they have done for us, especially Ric, and we wish everybody knew about S.A.F.E. Planning."
"One of the best decisions I ever made was when I made an appointment to go see Ric Cochren at S.A.F.E. Planning," declared Ed Chance. "My wife heard about Ric at her work so I went to see him. He and Sharon (Calhoun) were truly a blessing. They still are. Sharon probably thinks I have her on speed-dial. They went so far beyond anything I ever expected, and there is no automated service. The first time I walked into the office it was like we were friends. I was under so much stress and just overwhelmed with all the problems, but they relieved that stress and just blessed me by taking my problems and handling them so professionally. They saved my parent's estate."
Evelyn Chance lived alone after the passing of her husband, and though she was noticeably slowing down, she was able to live independently until she fell and broke her wrist. Ed had already been helping his mother keep her medications straight and doing other things a son does for his parent when she's in her eighties. But the situation escalated when his mom woke up from the wrist surgery, because Ed says, "She'd lost everything. Her memory was gone." So Ed, whose life is complicated by his battle with muscular dystrophy, moved his mother into his home to take care of her.
"I needed back surgery badly, but I had my mom to take care of, and there's no way I could have had the surgery without the help we got from Ric and Sharon." Ed is retired and didn't think it would be fair for his wife, who is employed in the medical field, to work all week and come home and take care of his mother so he kept putting the surgery off - until he found out he could get help from S.A.F.E. Planning to hire a sitter. With the sitter coming in a couple days a week, Ed was able to schedule his doctor's appointments and personal errands around the sitter's schedule.
Because Ed's dad had been a military veteran, Ric and Sharon were able to get Evelyn financial help from the VA that Ed had had no idea was available, and then they got her qualified for Medicaid nursing home care where Ed regularly goes to visit and to call BINGO for the residents.
Ed says it was that call to Ric that made a HUGE difference in the Chance families' situation because he and Sharon walked them through the process. "If I hadn't made that appointment to see Ric, this would all have turned out so differently - NOT for the better, and I just advise anybody else to do the same. They'll be glad they did!"
"Charles Bush said his mom, Emma, enjoyed the assisted living facility she moved into after her husband's death, but eventually the money ran out, and a change had to be made. Charles' friend, Ron White, advised him to call S.A.F.E. Planning in Shreveport, and thankfully, that's what he did.
Charles drove to Shreveport from his home in West Monroe and met with S.A.F.E. Planning's Ric Cochran who "got the Medicaid ball rolling". According to Charles, Ric and Sharon Calhoun got all the necessary paper work into the system, dotted all the I's, navigated the bureaucracy until they got his mom qualified for Medicaid.
The consultation is free, but S.A.F.E. Planning charges a fee to get a client processed through the confusing governmental maze of Medicaid. "I'm not going to lie to you," Charles said, "I thought the fee was a little high at first, but it was a one-time, up-front payment. Looking back, I realized that it was well worth it because assisted living will take all your money. After that initial fee they never asked for another dime in the whole process. We live in a capitalist nation, and if you are not paying somebody something for a service or job they are doing, you probably aren't going to get anything done."
The Bush family is very pleased with what Ric and Sharon did for them, and Charles said he highly recommends S.A.F.E. Planning. "Ric and Sharon know what they are doing, and I think it was smart on my part to call them."
Emma, 88 years old, has had an active life. She and her late husband, Wayne S. Bush, were married in 1949, are parents of three children, and they were together until his death in 2007. She was a Sunday school teacher at McClendon Baptist Church in West Monroe, was a substitute teacher and a member of Eastern Star. Charles describes his mom as being a "people person".
When writing testimonials I always ask clients how they heard about S.A.F.E. Planning, Inc. This particular client has been a friend of mine since 1980 so it wasn't a surprise when he said I was the one who had recommended him coming to S.A.F.E. Planning when he was trying to get his wife, Karen, approved for Medicaid. At the time Karen was desperately ill and needed a full-time care facility. Her condition has since stabilized, but she still needs supervised care.
Bobby knew Steve and Blake Rainey for many years too, but he wasn't familiar with what S.A.F.E. Planning did until I shared with him how they specialized in safeguarding estates and life saving's of hard-working people like Bobby.
After attending one of the free classes offered by S.A.F.E. PLanning, Bobby met with Blake during a free consultation to see what could be done to save as much as possible of the King's finances. Bobby had already paid three months of Karen's nursing home costs and knew that the expenses were only going to keep rising until a life-time of work and savings was gone.
After making the decision to have S.A.F.E. Planning help him Bobby paid the one-time fee and provided Blake and Sharon Calhoun with all the paper work, investment / financial information they asked for, and he was happy to find out that they were able to do exactly what they said they could do to protect his assets and get Karen approved for Medicaid.
"I am happy with the advice they gave me, and they handled everything right," states Bobby. "I'm happy with the job they did for me. I've recommended them to other people."
Bobby lives in the Springridge community near his kids and grandkids. He attends Providence Baptist Church, and he visits his wife every day. He retired from Lucent Technologies (the old Western Electric), and also worked under contract to IBM.
Keithville resident Byron Barclay had heard about S.A.F.E. Planning through friends, and he'd also seen print ads in local publications before he called to set up an appointment with Ric Cochran to discuss getting Medicaid approval for his mom's nursing home care in 2015. As it turned out, Byron's parents had an earlier connection with Ric when they bought an annuity from him years earlier when he worked for another company.
"My mom just loved Ric," said Byron, "so it helped me have peace of mind dealing with Ric and S.A.F.E. as they helped us with the financial planning and Medicaid approval. I don't know if I could have filled out all those government forms correctly, and I've heard horror stories from people trying to deal with Medicaid themselves so I'm happy I did it right ... by turning it over to Ric and Sharon. They handled it all for us." (Byron, like most of our clients, has only positive things to say about Sharon and her efficiency and professionalism.)
Byron is employed by Kilpatrick Life Insurance, and he says he is used to dealing with people who are trying to spend conservatively. He was well-pleased that S.A.F.E. was able to save the family home and "a good piece of cash for us" which they especially needed for upkeep on the home.
Byron's dad, Leo, was a WWII veteran, and his mom, Billie, was a teacher. And, like many of their generation, the Barclay's worked hard and saved all they could. But because of Leo's declining health, they had to hire sitters the last few years of his life which, of course, took money. Then when Leo died, Byron and his brother Kyle believed there was no way their mom, Billie, could stay home alone hence the need for a nursing home where she lived until she passed. Billie Barclay taught at Forrest Hills Elementary before she retired, and the Barclays were also members of Summer Grove Baptist Church. They have two grandchildren and one great grandchild.
"I don't want my kids to have to go through what I did making decisions and taking care of my parents so I want to plan accordingly," Byron stated. He said he has recommended S.A.F.E. Planning to his friends, and that if he had the choice to do it all over again, he would do it the same way - with Ric and Sharon.
We are extremely satisfied and grateful for the work that Mr. Cochran was able to do for us in our times of need. We would highly recommend him and his services to anyone. With his knowledge of the Medicaid rules he was able to get Mary (Lynn's mother) approved for Medicaid assistance that paid for her nursing home stay. She was only required to pay half of her life savings, thus leaving the other half to help pay for her additional needs while she was in the nursing home. Every year during her stay in the nursing home SAFE Planning automatically filled out all required forms to keep her Medicaid flowing smoothly. Upon her death, Mr. Cochran received a letter stating that the state was seeking restitution for the benefits they paid out. He promptly addressed this matter and thanks to his knowledge, in less than two weeks, we received a letter stating they were no longer seeking restitution from her estate. Mr. Cochran's service during the past six years was nothing but outstanding.
Friends tell friends. That is how Dotty McDonald heard about the excellent services S.A.F.E. Planning does for their clients. So after calling for an appointment in 2018, Dotty, her friend and a cousin traveled to Shreveport from Lafayette and met with Ric Cochran, primarily to talk about her cousin's mother but to also learn what could be done for her own parents. After meeting with Ric, who Dotty describes as having the patience of a saint answering all their questions, her cousin engaged Ric to get her mom on Medicaid and save her assets, which he did.
As an only child, Dotty was concerned about getting her aging parents, Richard and Brigitte McDonald, the very best care while preserving as much of their estate as possible. Brigitte retired from Evangeline Downs and Richard was self-employed as a barber until he retired. Like many of their era, they worked hard, paid for their home, and managed to build a nest egg. Dotty was interested in planning for them, but needed to get her parents to go along. They were old school and independent. Over time, Richard realized he needed help as Brigitte already had dementia and his health was declining along with his capability of providing all her care. He didn't want everything they worked so hard for to be lost in their last few years.
After Richard spoke on the phone to Ric, along with Dotty, they decided to move forward. Both Richard and Brigitte wound up moving into a facility, and the vast majority of their estate was saved. In fact, Ric said, "I exceeded my own expectations where the McDonald's were concerned, though it took a while because just as we applied, in November of 2018, Medicaid in Louisiana switched over their entire information system and there were system glitches, to put it mildly. Dotty was very responsive in getting us the documentation needed from her parents' files for us to submit on their behalf. That helped a lot!"
"Ric was always there for us, night or day," states Dotty. "He was God's own angel, and I can't say enough positive things about how S.A.F.E. Planning took care of us. I just can't sing their praises any louder. They performed excellent services for my family."
Jim Springer describes the situation that brought him to SAFE Planning: "We basically ran out of Medicaid benefits to keep my wife in the nursing home, and she needed full-time residency care." Jim had checked out other companies similar to SAFE, but he said SAFE Planning was more attractive to his needs so he called and got an appointment with Ric Cochran.
"They explained what they could do for us. The fee seemed steep, but my wife was in the Guest House for two years, and almost all our claims had been denied. Ric was more than accommodating, and I am well-pleased with their results. I'm 80 years old, and if I had it to do over again, I'd use them. I'm thankful that my estate was saved. They made sure I didn't have to sell my house or sit here with a lump in my throat not knowing if I would have to survive on Social Security. How many people my age can afford to pay $6,000 a month?"
Jim said he was pleasantly surprised that it only took SAFE 30 days to get approval for his wife, Alicia. She was 78 years old when she passed, and Jim keeps busy as he deals with widowhood. The Springer's adopted two brothers ages two months and eighteen months in the 70's so Alicia quit her job for full-time motherhood. One son lives in Shreveport, and one is in Memphis, Tennessee. Jim described he and Alicia as Roaming Catholics because though they were members at St. Elizabeth's, they went where ever the best preachers were. Jim retired from Granger in 1995 and started his own software business that he still runs. He also plays the guitar, and some people may remember the band he played with, the Mavericks.
Billy Pace is well-pleased with the job SAFE Planning has done in qualifying his wife, Virginia Gayle Pace, for Medicaid while saving his assets. Virginia had MS before she developed dementia, and Billy took care of his wife for two years before he decided he needed help. After 60 years of marriage it was a very hard decision to make, but Billy knew their situation was worsening and Virginia needed more help than he could give her.
One of their two sons was a friend of Ric Cochran who works for SAFE Planning, and Billy said his son kept telling him he needed to talk to Ric so he eventually made an appointment and spent over an hour with Ric discussing not only Medicaid approval for Virginia but also his Will and Power of Attorney. The initial consultation is free, but Billy said he gasped when Ric told him what the planning fee was. "I sat there for two whole minutes considering, but then I thought about what it would cost me per month for nursing home care, and I realized it was really a good deal so I told Ric, 'Okay, let's do it.'"
"They (SAFE Planning) have just blown me away with what they were able to do for us," said Billy. Ric applied for us in December, and it was May before she was approved, but it saved us our savings. I've talked to four or five of my friends, recommending they call Ric. There's no way I could have done what they did dealing with the Medicaid people."
Billy and Virginia have seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, via their two sons.
(2013) Jimmy and Barbara Bell have been married 54 years and were living in their dream retirement home near Lake Bistineau complete with acres of pasture land for their cattle and a pond stocked with White Perch for Mrs. Barbara when tragedy struck in the form of a stroke while they were readying to attend Sunday school at United Pentecostal Church in Minden.
Their lives were changed that fast. Barbara had surgery which resulted in complications necessitating a long hospital stay but Medicare limits the number of days she was allowed to be in the hospital so Jimmy had to check her into a nursing home that was costing thousands per month.
"I'm 80 years old, and I've worked for 60 years," said Jimmy. "We're not party people. We've been conservative and tried to save for our old age. Our home was paid for, and we've been careful to provide for ourselves, but at that amount per month, I knew that in a short while, all our savings would be gone. I was a desperate man when somebody gave me a card and a brochure from S.A.F.E. Planning and told me to call them."
"I was very skeptical. I knew I couldn't get Medicaid," he relates. "It (the brochure) sounded too good to be true, but because I was desperate, I went to see them. I was still skeptical after talking to Ric and Sharon. I couldn't do it (Medicaid process) on my own though. It is bad that our government forces a man to go to such lengths to keep what he has spent his life saving. But I knew it would be better to save some of my money rather than lose it all so I did what they (Sharon and Ric) told me to do, and everything they told me is just what happened. I thank God we found somebody who could help us, and who knew how to deal with Medicaid. What they do at S.A.F.E. Planning is just like a ministry!"
"I just feel so much gratitude to Mrs. Sharon and the way she did everything for me so that I don't even have to deal with Medicaid! It was hard to write that check to them, but it has been well worth it for all that they were able to save for me and, anything I can do for them, I will do it. I tell people all the time that theirs is a ministry that even my church couldn't do for me, and I'm just happy that there are people like them who have the know-how to do what they do."
Jimmy is so appreciative of what Ric and Sharon have done on his and Barbara's behalf that he has even volunteered to speak at some of the S.A.F.E. Planning meetings to tell people how they have helped him. "Because without them doing what they did for me, I wouldn't have the gas money to get there," he says.
He also credits Blake with helping him get over his initial fears of letting them have access to all his financial affairs. "Blake is very down-to-earth, and he helped calm my fears and skepticism of letting them in my business that I'd always taken care of myself," says Jimmy. "But now I feel like what they do is a ministry to people like us who have no way to deal with the government and Medicaid while saving anything for ourselves. And, if I don't live another year, I want to know Barbara is taken care of, and thanks to them I have some peace of mind."
(Jimmy and Barbara Bell have both passed since I interviewed and wrote this testimonial article, but we remember them fondly and are happy to have counted them among our client-friends.)
For the 15 plus years that I have worked for S.A.F.E. Planning interviewing people for our newsletter and now social media about their experiences with us, I've heard some positive testimonials, but a recent talk with Karen Hodges has to be the most positive feedback yet.
Karen's mom, Barbara Bell, recently passed away six years after having a major stroke with complications of Alzheimer's which necessitated her going into a nursing home in July, 2012. According to Karen, her dad, Jimmy Bell, always believed Barbara would one day be able to come home, and he worried that the $5,000 per month cost of the nursing home would eventually mean selling their home and land to pay for her care. He worried that Barbara would not have a home to come to, and of course he looked into how his insurance could help him which was disappointing due to the 90 day stay limit, etc. It was at this point that Karen's aunt who worked at the nursing home advised Jimmy to call S.A.F.E. Planning.
Jimmy and Barbara had worked hard and saved to be able to buy their retirement home and have a few cattle in Doyline. They wanted to be able to take care of their financial needs without being a burden to their daughters, and they wanted to be able to leave something to their family when they died. Jimmy began working when he was seven years old as a shoeshine boy in Montgomery, Louisiana. During WWII he would walk downtown to where soldiers paid him 10 cents to shine their shoes before they got on the trains, and he would go home with a pocketful of dimes that he and his mother needed for food. He was an independent and proud man, but after Barbara went into the nursing home he knew he needed help. Karen said they stayed up nights praying and figuring how long he could pay for nursing home care before having to sell everything to meet state guidelines for Medicaid. Then in November, 2012 Karen was with her dad when he met with Ric in their first conference at S.A.F.E. Planning. That appointment changed their lives. The S.A.F.E. staff got Barbara approved for Medicaid effective January 1, 2013 and saved their entire estate.
It was hard for Jimmy to trust a complete stranger with his personal finances, and Karen said there was hardly a day during those first weeks that her dad did not call or go to the office with questions and the need to see how things were being handled. Jimmy was also concerned about making sure that Barbara would be taken care of if he died before her. It was hard for him to turn over all his paperwork, but he was more afraid not to because he wanted to save his home and assets. "When she gets better I want her to be able to come home to the home she loves," he would say.
Karen was especially impressed that the S.A.F.E. Planning staff was able to deal with her dad's fears without getting exasperated having to explain the process over and over, but she said not one time was he treated with anything other than compassion and patience.
Jimmy preceded his wife in death when he died peacefully in his sleep in June, 2015. The estate he entrusted S.A.F.E. to help protect was safe from any estate recovery by Medicaid, and Barbara never had any interruption in the benefits secured for her.
"Ric (Cochran) told us step-by-step what to do," said Karen. "We had to trust Ric, and it was good that we did because he and Sharon (Calhoun) took care of everything and guided us through each phase. After dad passed, my sister and I went to him and said help us, we don't know what to do. Again, Ric led us through the process and Mom was taken care of too. Then just a couple weeks ago we went back to Ric after mom died and asked for his help in handling things. S.A.F.E. never failed to treat us well, and they always did what they said they could do."
"I have told many people and continue to tell them repeatedly that we'd never have been able to get all this done without S.A.F.E. Planning. I have every intention of turning my inheritance over to Ric (for financial management) because he did such a wonderful job protecting my parent's estate. What they did for us was life-changing!"
*Editor's note: "I remember interviewing Mr. Bell when he gave us a testimonial for the newsletter a few years ago. Men like him are few and far between these days."