Nursing homes do not have the right to take a resident’s government-issued stimulus check without approval from that individual. However, this fact, unfortunately, hasn’t stopped nursing homes from engaging in this practice under the false assumption that they are entitled to keep the money if the resident is a Medicaid recipient.
Did a Nursing Home Take Your Stimulus Check?
In June 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a statement that it was “aware of allegations that some nursing homes are seizing residents’ economic impact payments,” and that the practice is prohibited.
Indeed, many residents have complained that nursing and assisted living homes have intercepted and kept economic impact payments (EIPs) intended for their residents. They often assert they have a right to take a stimulus payment from residents who receive Medicaid.
How Nursing Homes Misinterpret the Law Regarding Stimulus Checks
Their confusion likely stems from the Medicaid rule that nursing home residents must pay all their taxable income, minus some deductions, to the home or facility. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not count EIPs toward eligibility for government benefits programs, such as Medicaid or Social Security, because EIPs are tax credits, not income.
This rule means nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and caregivers can’t seize stimulus checks from people on Medicaid. In addition, they have no right to claim any of this money unless the resident or their personal representative permits it.
It’s important to note that nursing homes may threaten residents with eviction or tell them they could lose their Medicaid benefits if they don’t relinquish their checks. Please don’t listen to them. Instead, if they insist on keeping a payment they already seized, you should seek legal assistance as soon as possible.
The CMS also states that if a facility seizes a stimulus payment from a resident, it would be violating 42 CFR §483.12, which asserts a resident’s right to “freedom from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.” Furthermore, nursing homes demanding that residents deposit their EIP payments with the facility could violate 42 CFR §483.10, which ensures residents have the right to manage their financial affairs.
Maryland Elder Abuse and Elder Financial Exploitation Statutes
According to Maryland law, elder financial exploitation involves intentionally taking or using the funds or property of a vulnerable or elderly adult (ages 68 or older) through “deception, intimidation, or undue influence.” The financial exploitation of a senior citizen can include stealing or embezzling money or property. It also includes convincing the individual to give away money or property using unrealistic promises, false pretenses, intimidation, or coercion.
In October 2021, the Maryland SAFE (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) Act authorized the Attorney General to take legal action, such as filing a lawsuit, on behalf of vulnerable and older adults. The law also allows these adults or their personal representatives to initiate legal action to recover money or property lost through financial exploitation.
Seeking Compensation in a Lawsuit
Victims of nursing home financial exploitation can seek retribution in court. In addition to monetary damages to reimburse the individual for money or property taken from them, they may be entitled to additional damages for personal losses, such as pain and suffering, humiliation, and emotional distress.
Other Examples of Financial Exploitation in Nursing Homes
In a nursing home or assisted-living facility, a staff member may commit financial exploitation or abuse of a vulnerable adult or an elder by doing any of the following:
- Stealing money or property from the resident’s room
- Exploiting a position of control and power to coax the elder into making financial decisions that benefit the staff member, such as changing their will to include them
- Stealing personal information to commit identity theft
- Taking or misusing an elder’s credit card or checkbook
- Threatening the resident with penalties or negative consequences if they do not hand over money or assets to the staff member or facility
Get Help Today From Our Legal Team
In summary, EIPs sent to any nursing home resident belong to them as issued—regardless of whether they have Medicaid. EIPs do not count as eligible income, and a facility cannot take them without consent. Furthermore, residents are well within their rights to insist the home or facility return their money if it seized their EIP benefits. They can also file a lawsuit for elder financial exploitation and receive compensation for damages.
At Brown & Barron, LLC, our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys understand state and federal laws that impact residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. If a nursing home has taken one or more stimulus checks from you or a loved one who is a resident, please contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.