Monday, May 02, 2016

Dearly Beloved. . .Prince's death offers elderlaw lessons

Prince died without a will, as you may have heard. The state law of Minnesota determines who inherits from his estate, and lots of lawyers will likely make lots of money fighting over the details. Had he made it to age 60 and lived in WV he could have been eligible to talk to an attorney for free at WV Senior Legal Aid about estate planning (and other civil legal issues, for that matter).

Here are a few things you can do as a West Virginian of any age to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  1. Determine who inherits if you die without a will and get a will if that's not who you want to inherit your estate. The law of Intestate Succession is what determines who your heirs are if you die without a will. This is a matter of state law, and if you are a West Virginian when you die without a will our law from WV Code §42-1-1, et seq applies. Generally if you are legally married your spouse will inherit from you, and your kids may share, too, if your spouse is not their parent. There's a lot more to it than that, of course, and here's a brochure that explains it in a little more detail.

    If the law of intestate succession would leave all or some of your estate to someone you do not want to inherit from you, then you need a will. Yes, you can legally handwrite a will in WV or make your own from some fill-in-the-blank paper you get at some office store, but even though they may be legal wills they will probably fail if challenged. If you are trying to cut someone out of your will you are very unlikely to succeed by writing your own will, that's what lawyers are for. You are paying a lawyer not just for the piece of paper, but for making sure every single comma will survive a legal challenge by the disgruntled person you are cutting out of your estate. A fairly simple will costs a few hundred dollars. If it's not worth that much to you, write your own, and good luck with that, Cowboy. You won't be around to see if worked anyway.

  2. Wills and probate estates are public information after you die. Want your estate to be a totally private matter? Then you need to set up a trust. Trusts are substantially more expensive than wills, and can be very flexible planning tools that you can use to protect your assets during your lifetime as well as after you die. If you have lots of assets or perhaps a loved one with special needs who you want to benefit from you assets but with some restrictions or protections, a trust is the ticket. You may get some tax benefits, too. But don't be scared into creating a trust if you don't have lots of $ or special needs because only multi-million dollar estates are subject to inheritance tax anyway, and probate is just not usually a big deal in WV, so not worth spending thousands to avoid in most circumstances.

  3. Review and update your estate plan periodically. Things change. People die. Divorce happens. Grandkids get born. Priorities change. Your plan is may have been great when you got the documents done, but years or changes later if may actually be worse than just letting intestate succession distribute your estate. If you have done good planning don't get too complacent, pull those documents out every year or so, or anytime important changes happen in your life, and review to be sure they still reflect your wishes and asset picture.

  4. Plan for living with disability, not just dying. Almost all of us will live some portion of our lives with diminished capacity, whether physical or cognitive. We cannot predict whether or when, but if you lose your ability to make decisions about your money, your healthcare, or your life, or lose the ability to take care of yourself who will help you? You can plan in advance by executing advance directives like medical power of attorney or financial power of attorney that let you authorize people to have certain specific and limited authority and access on your behalf. If you don't plan and you lose important capacities to care for yourself it may end up in a guardianship or conservatorship hearing in court and a judge will decide who gets authority for you. Your spouse or child does not have any automatic authority for you in the event of your incapacity, that's a popular myth, so if you want to be the one to choose your decisionmaker plan now while you still can.

Want to talk to a lawyer about any of this? WV seniors 60+ can call us and talk to a lawyer for free. 1-800-229-5068.

This post was adapted from the following article by Danielle and Andrew Mayoras from www.nextavenue.org/celebrities-4-estate-planning-mistakes--and-what-they-can-teach-you/

Friday, April 29, 2016

Proving age discrimination in employment just got a little easier for some in WV

The West Virginia Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment against older people which it defines as workers over age 40. Yikes, yes, it really says 40, kids. Though the law may make you feel old before your time it recognizes the fact that ageism can make it harder for folks over 40 to get hired, get the same opportunities in the workplace, and keep their jobs than younger workers. The protected class of 40 and over is defined the same way in federal anti-discrimination law.

Until the Knotts v. Grafton City Hospital case was decided just this month a worker had to show that he or she was replaced by a worker under age 40 (someone from outside the protected class) to prove a case of age discrimination in employment. But the WV Supreme Court unanimously overturned that requirement and adopted the "substantially younger" rule which allows that a case of age discrimination can be made even if the comparative worker is over age 40 so long as he or she is substantially younger than the plaintiff.

Justice Ketchum delivered the Court's opinion. The decision aligns West Virginia's law with a US Supreme Court case from 1996 (O'Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp).

Landlord Tenant law in WV needs reform

The law that applies to landlord and tenant matters is primarily state law, though there are layers of federal law in play for HUD tenants, USDA tenants, etc. Our state statute for landlord and tenant is found at WV Code §37-6-1, et seq. Check it out.

One thing you'll notice right away is that it is disorganized making it hard to find any particular thing, and lots of things are just not addressed at all. Next you'll see some archaic language like "distraint" and "detainer" and several sentences that a grammar teacher probably couldn't diagram.

You may also find that though there was a new provision added just a few years ago neatly and sensibly laying out the law and procedure related to security deposits, most of the statute is almost 50 years old and behind the times.

It's time for this ancient, archaic, statute to get comprehensively reformed. The Uniform Law Commission promulgated a comprehensive landlord tenant statute in 2015 and it's time we take a look at it. This is not law, it is not even proposed law in West Virginia, it is a draft of a law that could be offered in any state legislature across the country. The Uniform Law Commission describes itself thus: "The Uniform Law Commission provides states with non-partisan, well conceived, and well drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law." [Though I think they are missing a couple of hyphens, I'm sure you get the point.]

What's new and better about this draft statute? Many things, including lots of clear duties for both landlords and tenants, specific timelines, remedies for violations, fee shifting for prevailing party, protections for domestic violence victims, etc.

Behold, the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of 2015 as proposed by the Uniform Law Commission www.uniformlaws.org/Act.aspx?title=Residential%20Landlord%20and%20Tenant%20Act%202015

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

MoneySmart week: learn to prevent financial exploitation

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has some free materials to help seniors learn to protect themselves from financial exploitation, a huge problem that can impact seniors of any stripe. You can download a 55 page participant guide to their training on the subject here http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201306_cfpb_msoa-participant-guide.pdf

Monday, April 25, 2016

MoneySmart Week! Blaze a Trail to Securing Your Finances

Happy MoneySmart Week! Next month is Older Americans Month with the theme Blaze a Trail, so here's a groovy info sheet to celebrate both:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Free program in Wheeling on Medicare fraud

Altenheim Resource & Referral Services is hosting a free program on Fighting Medicare Fraud on Thursday, April 28 from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm. Special guest speaker will be Marcia Meeks, the WV State Health Insurance Information Program Director and the Director of the Medicare Fraud Patrol in West Virginia. Marcia is with the WV Bureau of Senior Services in Charleston, WV.

The program will be held at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1343 National Road, Wheeling WV in the downstairs Fellowship Hall. (There is an elevator for those who need it – just come in the main entrance in the rear of the church and the elevator is immediately on the right.) Parking is available at the church. Refreshments will be served.

"Fraud is a big problem in many areas of our lives today. People call us claiming to be IRS representatives, Microsoft technicians, and banking agents. Others call to try to scam us saying they are from our credit card companies or from Social Security. Medicare is no different. People and businesses will try to bill your Medicare for services you did not receive. These scams costs millions of dollars and compromises the Medicare system."

Come to the program and learn how to fight Medicare fraud and learn what to do if you’ve been a victim. The program is free and open to all who are interested!

Reservations are required for this program. Reserve your seat by Wednesday, April 27 at 12 noon. Call 304 243-0996 for reservations and more information.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Obama celebrates 4/20 by signing the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act!

President Obama has signed the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016 into law today.

From the Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee: "For more than 50 years, the Older Americans Act has helped people live the lives they want, with the people they choose, throughout their lives. Through the aging services network, it has helped older adults continue to work, play and volunteer in their communities, to the great benefit of all. Because of the Older Americans Act, neighborhoods and organizations across the country are able to continue to draw upon the wealth of knowledge that comes only with life experience.

The OAA underpins a promise to preserve the right to live independently, with dignity, making everyday decisions according to our individual preferences and goals across our lifespan. This promise is more important than ever. In a few short years, more than 77 million people will be over the age of 60, and more than 34 million people – mostly family and friends – will be supporting a loved one who is over 60. These numbers will continue to grow for the next several decades.

The OAA affects everyone – older adults, people who help support them, and all of us who hope to one day grow old. I am delighted to see its reauthorization, and I am deeply grateful for the renewed commitment to preserving the rights of all people, for the full course of our lives."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Elders Day for Democracy Spring at the US Capitol

Today is Elders Day in the Democracy Spring protests at the US Capitol. Democracy Spring is a movement to get big money out of politics and ensure free and fair elections. They are holding nonviolent sit-ins in DC this week and recognize the power of older people by naming today's actions Elders Day.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

2016 state legislation that matters for seniors

The regular two month session of the West Virginia legislature ended in mid-March. They did not successfully pass a budget, and will have to come back for another session to address that and deal with the nearly $100 million shortfall projected.

They did, however, pass over 250 bills, including notably bills prohibiting union security agreements (as are prohibited in 25 other states), eliminating prevailing wage, enabling ridesharing businesses like Uber and Lyft, restricting abortion, and unrestricting the carrying of concealed deadly weapons.

Here below are brief summaries of selected bills that passed that will likely particularly impact WV seniors:

SB 274 doubles the maximum dollar amount jurisdiction for cases in the Magistrate courts. After the law becomes effective in June the Magistrate Court will be able to hear cases up to $10,000. Before the max jurisdiction was $5,000, so if you wanted to sue someone over, say, a home contractor who charged you $8,000 and didn't do the job properly you would have had to sue in Circuit Court which as a practical matter requires representation by an attorney. Magistrate Court is a kind of small claims court that is designed for citizens to be able to navigate without having to be represented. Of course representation gives you a better chance of having your legal interests best protected, but paying an attorney $2,500 to sue for $8,000 may not be feasible or sensible for every case or litigant. This law improves access to the courts especially for low-income people for important claims.

SB 702 says that if a will says real estate is to be sold and proceeds to go to heirs the title to that property passes to those heirs if the executor of the estate still has not sold the property within 5 years of the death of the decedent. When a probate estate drags on and is not closed within 5 years this allows heirs to get title to property of their inheritance without having to continue to wait.

HB 4235 is also about probate estates. This law reduces the time window for claims to be presented for payment by an estate from 90 days to 60 days, also speeding up the time heirs can expect to receive their inheritance.

HB 4013 requires voters to present ID at the polls. Any document issued by state or federal government that includes the voter's name can satisfy the requirement, and the document does not have to include a photo. So, for example, a Social Security card or a Medicare card could suffice. If the voter does not present a valid identifying document the law provides that an adult (including a poll worker) who has known the voter for at least 6 months can sign an affidavit of the voter's identity which could allow the voter to cast a provisional ballot. So don't forget your ID when you go to the polls starting in January 2018 when this law takes effect.

HB 4309 increases penalties for criminal financial exploitation and creates a civil cause of action for financial exploitation of an older person (age 65+) or incapacitated person. The civil action also provides the judge may freeze the assets in question and issue injunction in the case, and the law provides that the defendant may have to pay attorney fees for the plaintiff.

HB 4517 limits the ability of an agent under a financial power of attorney to take self-benefiting actions unless the instrument explicitly provides authority the particular action.

HB 4417 increases the amount of wages protected from garnishment to 50 times the hourly federal minimum wage per week. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25/hr times 50 is $362.50, so if you have a judgment against you and your wages are being garnished to satisfy it you can protect the first $362.50 each week from garnishment. This is about wages, not income from Social Security which is generally protected from garnishment (with a few exceptions like for child support, taxes, federal student loan debt, etc.) by federal law. Before only 30 times the hourly federal minimum wage was protected weekly, so this is a substantial increase to protect low-income people.

HB 4739 clarifies procedures and duties related to life insurance providers and claims, and among other things creates a duty for insurers to at least annually check the Social Security Master Death Index for insureds and to deliver life insurance proceeds for dead policy holders that are not claimed to the Unclaimed Property division.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Minigrants to create Dementia-Capable Communities in WV

From the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services:

Connecting the DOTS (Dementia-Capable Outreach, Training and Supports) in WV: Community Grant Opportunity (Through a grant from the Administration on Aging: Creating and Sustaining Dementia-Capable Service Systems for People with Dementia and Their Family Caregivers)

Eligible applicant: Any West Virginia community that meets the criteria below. For the purpose of this grant, community is defined as a group of people who live in the same area (town, neighborhood) and/or groups that share common interests (Ex: faith communities, provider agencies, organizations, businesses), who want to work together to improve their community’s ability to provide services to individuals with dementia and their families.

Purpose: To improve quality of care and increase access to comprehensive, disease appropriate services for individuals with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia and family caregivers in pilot communities across the state. Funding available: Sixteen mini-grants of $10,000 per grantee, awarded in two rounds of grants.

Round One: The WV Bureau of Senior Services intends to fund up to eight community mini-grants in June 2016. Each grantee will receive $5,000 the first year of the grant period and another $5,000 for year two of the grant. A local in-kind match is required.

Round Two: The Bureau of Senior Services intends to award at least eight additional two-year mini-grants in November 2016. Announcement and application will be available in September.

Project timeline: The expected award date for Round One is June 29, 2016. This is a two-year project.

Scope of activities and outcomes:

Grantees must address the following objectives:

Improve knowledge and skills of family caregivers, provider agencies, and community gatekeepers.

  • Host the Savvy Caregiver training (a multi-week, evidenced-based training for family caregivers of individuals with dementia that increases caregiving skills, knowledge, confidence and understanding and decreases caregiving’s adverse effects). Respite will be provided.
  • Identify agencies, organizations and businesses that could benefit from dementia-capable training.
  • Work with the DOTS Team to ensure that frontline employees at referring agencies have the knowledge and tools to connect families to the best available resources.

Develop dementia-capable pilot communities that will effectively serve and support individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia and their families.

  • Form a community coalition; conduct a dementia-capable community needs assessment (provided); develop a work plan based on the results of the assessment that includes a direct service component.
  • Implement the work plan with the assistance of the DOTS Leadership Team; evaluate outcomes and put measures in place to sustain effective change.

Application components and deadline: Each application must include a project narrative, project budget and budget narrative, including description of in-kind match. Round One application deadline is May 27, 2016.

Grant reviewers: A grant review team, comprised of members of the DOTS Leadership Team, will advise the WV Bureau of Senior Services on grant applications and awards.

To request a grant application or for more information: Please contact Nancy Cipoletti, WV Bureau of Senior Services, 304-558-3317 or nancy.j.cipoletti@wv.gov.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Budget Finance in New Martinsville in Ponzi scheme investigation

A Ponzi scheme in New Martinsville WV appears to have included nearly 800 victims who have been bilked out of tens of millions of dollars. Over 500 of the victims were West Virginians, about 150 Ohioans, and several from other states. Many of the victims are older people and middle income folks who came in to some money through the recent development of shale gas in the areas near the Ohio river including Wetzel, Tyler, Marshall, Pleasants, Wood, Ritchie, Doddridge, and other counties.

The case is being investigated through partnerships of several federal and state entities including the FBI, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, the IRS, the US Postal Inspector, the WV Auditor's office, the WV Division of Financial Institutions (WVDFI), the Wetzel County prosecutor's office, and others.

The alleged perpetrator, owner of Budget Finance in New Martinsville, lives in Ohio. The company had been in business in New Martinsville for decades, was trusted among members of the community, and had been in both short-term lending and real estate rental businesses as well as investments.

According to investigators at a town hall meeting of victims held in New Martinsville on March 15, 2016, the story began to break in October 2015 when some Budget Finance investors became concerned when told they could not withdraw their funds on deposit right away. The first official to start looking into it was the Wetzel County prosecutor Tim Haught who quickly reached out to the President of Budget Finance for information and to remind her of her obligation under state law to have a local office open at least 4 days weekly. When he did not get a satisfactory response he contacted state finance regulators who began investigating. Soon federal law enforcement was also included in the investigation, and the case is still in the investigation phase now.

At the meeting on March 15 victims were told several important things about the status of the case:

  • The US Attorney's office for the Northern District of WV who would normally have jurisdiction over the case has some kind of conflict of interest regarding the matter so the US Department of Justice has assigned the US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio to investigate and lead the prosecution. He said he has been doing law enforcement legal work for over 40 years and this is the biggest case of this case he has seen.
  • Several different federal and state law enforcement and regulators repeated that victims are likely to get only "pennies on the dollar" as there appear to be very little assets available to return to them.
  • Charges have not yet been brought, and there is likely a 5 year statute of limitations on several possible kinds of charges, but the US Attorney expects to bring charges in 2016 and avoid delay.
  • There are various tax implications on the theft loss and victims will not likely receive 1099 or other forms from Budget Finance for tax year 2015. The Taxpayer Advocate from the IRS is available to victims and their tax accountants to answer questions about filing taxes for this year and amendments for previous years related to the theft.
  • The reason the scheme had not been detected earlier by regulators is that no one at Budget Finance had any kind of license or registration to sell investments. Though the lending business was licensed and regularly audited by WVDFI no state authority had any idea the investment business existed, and therefore no one had a duty to audit or regulate it for consumer safety.

  • One of the reasons this kind of scheme was able to be perpetrated on such a large scale and for so long is that this business was trusted in the community. Had anyone ever contacted the WV Auditor's Office to ask if they were in good standing to sell investments there would have likely been an investigation prompted. But no one ever made that call. Community member investors were receiving high interest returns and regular payments so no one had a complaint. Had anyone recognized that these high rates were too good to be true and started checking it is likely the scheme would have been thwarted before it could get this large.

    WVSLA is available to any WV victim of this scheme age 60 or over who has legal questions or problems. We cannot provide tax advice but we can offer legal advice and information for resulting debt, housing, benefits, or other issues.

    for more information see articles in the Charleston Gazette from December http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/20151212/hundreds-of-investors-likely-victims-of-suspected-wva-ponzi-scheme and the Wheeling Intelligencer from November www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/647272/New-Martinsville-Budget-Finance-Closes-Abruptly--No-Explanation.html?nav=510

    Friday, March 18, 2016

    Hey WV Grandparents: Get $100 in Smart529 by registering before baby's first birthday!

    SMART529, West Virginia’s College Saving Plan is introduces the Bright Babies program to help families begin saving in their child’s first year. Open a new account and the program will make a $100 contribution to your grandchild’s college savings.

    For more information go to www.smart529.com/cs/Satellite?pagename=College_Savings/Page/CS_CommonPage&cid=1287794310134

    Wednesday, February 24, 2016

    Bill would disproportionately impact senior WV voters

    WV Seniors take note: a bill, HB 4013, that imposes new barriers to voting has passed our state House of Delegates and is currently in the Senate Judiciary committee.

    "For elections after January 1, 2018, the person desiring to vote shall present to one of the poll clerks an identifying document meeting the requirements of subdivision (1) of this subsection; and, the poll clerk shall inspect and confirm that the name on the identifying document conforms to the name in the individual's voter registration record and that the image displayed is truly an image of the person presenting the document."

    Seniors and people who do not drive are among those who are more likely to be prevented from being able to vote if this measure passes since they are less likely to have a drivers license, the most likely form of identification that will be used by successful voters. At WV Senior Legal Aid we have served several senior West Virginians who have moved here, many moving back home to retire after careers spent in other states, and have had trouble producing the necessary documentation to get a drivers license in WV. Because of the new identity documentation requirements post-USA PATRIOT Act getting or renewing a drivers license has become more difficult. It is not uncommon for seniors who may have had drivers licenses for decades to not be able to fulfill these documentation requirements. For example, many people in their 60's, 70's, and beyond have never had birth certificates. Older women may also have trouble getting Social Security cards with their married or divorced names on them. Past practices at the Social Security administration allowed people to get new cards for name changes without documentation or changing the name in their Social Security record. New policies don't permit that, so women who changed their names may have to produce documentation from decades ago, pre-internet and pre-computerization, including divorce decrees or other court ordered name changes.

    You can see the text of the bill here http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=HB4013%20SUB%20ENG.htm&yr=2016&sesstype=RS&i=4013 and the status of the bill here http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_history.cfm?INPUT=4013&year=2016&sessiontype=RS.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2016

    Who is J. R. Clifford?

    One of West Virginia's greatest lawyers. This African-American civil rights pioneer was born in 1848 near what is now Moorefield WV. He fought for the Union Army in the civil war at age 15. He attended Storer College in Harper's Ferry. In 1882 he started publishing the Pioneer Press.

    In 1887 he was admitted to the bar by the West Virginia Supreme Court and in 1898 he won equal rights in education for black West Virginians in the landmark case Williams v. Board of Education. This was 50 years before Brown v. Board of Education brought those rights to the rest of the country.

    Clifford went on to help found the Niagara Movement in 1906, a precursor to the NAACP.

    It's Black History month and we at WVSLA celebrate our state's rich history of leading the south toward political equality and justice for African Americans. Thank you J. R. Clifford!

    For lots more information check out the J. R. Clifford project online at www.jrclifford.org/index.html

    Wednesday, February 17, 2016

    2016 Federal Poverty Guidelines

    Eligibility for many benefit programs is based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines which are updated annual by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The 2016 guidelines were published in the federal register on 1/27/16 Here below is a chart showing the annual and monthly income guidelines:
    2016 Federal Poverty Level Guidelines
    Family Size 100% Annual 100% Monthly 135% Monthly
    1 $11,880 $990 $1,336
    2 $16,020 $1,335 $1,802
    3 $20,160 $1,680 $2,268
    4 $24,300 $2,025 $2,733
    5 $28,440 $2,370 $3,199
    6 $32,580 $2,715 $3,665

    Friday, February 05, 2016

    FTC enhances IdentityTheft.gov

    FTC announced enhancements to IdentityTheft.gov – the federal government’s free, one-stop resource to help people fix problems caused by identity theft.

    IdentityTheft.gov makes it easier for victims of identity theft to report it and recover from it. New features on the site allow people to:

    • Get a personal recovery plan that walks them through each step
    • Update their personal plan and track their progress
    • Print pre-filled letters & forms to send to credit bureaus, businesses, and debt collectors

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016

    WV Legislative session begins today, State of the State address tonight

    Today is the first day of the state legislative session which ends in March. Tonight at 7p Gov. Tomblin will present the State of the State address which you can watch live on WV Public Broadcasting, or stream live online. If you tweet about it with the hashtag #WVSOTS16 your tweets will be aggregated at https://twitter.com/hashtag/WVSOTS16. For more information about coverage of the event see http://wvpublic.org/post/watch-gov-tomblin-delivers-2016-state-state

    2016 LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR

    First Day - January 13, 2016: First day of session. (WV Const. Art. VI, §18)

    Twentieth Day - February 1, 2016: Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review bills due. (WV Code §29A-3-12)

    Forty-first Day - February 22, 2016: Last day to introduce bills in the Senate. Senate Rule 14 does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills, and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.

    Forty-second Day - February 23, 2016: Last day to introduce bills in the House. House Rule 91a does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills, and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.

    Forty-seventh Day - February 28, 2016: Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.

    Fiftieth Day - March 2, 2016: Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin. Does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills. (Joint Rule 5, paragraph b)

    Sixtieth Day - March 12, 2016: Adjournment at Midnight. (WV Const. Art. VI, §22)

    See the WV Legislative Calendar for 2016 here www.legis.state.wv.us/Bulletin_Board/calendar_2016.cfm

    WV Future of Aging and Caregiving Taskforce (WVFACT) Legislative Priorities 2016

    WVFACT Coordination and Communication Workgroup Sets Priorities for 2016

    Letters Sent to West Virginia's Legislators

    Shortly before the holidays the Coordination and Communication workgroup, a sub-group of the West Virginia Future of Aging and Caregiving Taskforce (WVFACT), composed and sent letters to state leaders to seek their support on issues identified as priorities.

    The letters informed legislators of the issues that the group felt should be of special concern in the coming year for the care of our ever-growing senior population. These concerns mirror many of the goals and initiatives being addressed by AARP-WV in 2016.

    As stated in these letters, WVFACT strongly support and ask for our leaders' attention for:

    • Increased availability of respite for caregivers and a caregiver tax credit;
    • Work place flexibility laws and regulations that provide more paid and unpaid sick leave; to include state improvements to the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): covered employers, covered employee eligibility, length of leave, type of leave allowed;
    • Post CARE Act Passage- to put a process in place to ensure the provisions passed last year in the CARE Act are occurring;
    • Protect against a significant reduction in the numbers of individuals served, or eligible to receive, Medicaid or state-funded home- and community-based services as demonstrated by a budget bill/regulation, state plan amendment, or waiver;
    • Increase the number older people who receive home- and community-based services;
    • Adopt or improve navigation systems (ADRCs, single points of entry, options counseling, etc.) that facilitate choice of setting, establish conflict-free care coordination, or utilize uniform assessment tools;
    • Increase consumer-directed care, home health, and personal care services;
    • Adopt or amend state-managed LTSS programs to improve access, coordination, and integration of LTSS and greater involvement of family caregivers;
    • Full Implementation of the Home Care Registry passed several years ago.

    The West Virginia Future of Aging and Caregiving Taskforce (WVFACT) is a project of the WV Partnership for Elder Living (WVPEL, Inc.) www.wvpel.org; AARP-WV http://states.aarp.org/region/west-virginia/and other partners.

    Monday, December 21, 2015

    Grandmothers raising grandchildren and poverty

    Though a recent paper about poverty and failure of the social safety net in grandparent households studied primarily urban and black families, some of the issues identified apply to grandmothers in rural mostly white West Virginia, too. Particularly the difficulties grandmothers raising grandchildren face regarding affordable childcare, the challenges of trying to work to feed the family while caring for young children, and the barriers to benefits and services for both grandmother and grandchildren in informal custody arrangements are all issues faced in SGH's (skipped-generation households) here, too.

    The paper points out that grandparent-headed households increased 22% since 2000. And whereas many of the urban grandmothers in the study are stepping up when their children are incarcerated, here in West Virginia an adult child's drug abuse, whether the child is incarcerated or still on the street, often results in the grandchildren heading to grandma's for what might first appear to be a temporary visit that never ends.

    The paper correctly concludes that both policy development and expanded delivery of quality, accurate information to grandparents raising grandchildren about eligibility for services and benefits for their newly-expanded households would both help relieve the pressure for these families.

    You can read the paper (by LaShawnDa Pittman, Assistant professor of American ethnic studies, Department of American Ethnic Studies, University of Washington) online for free at http://www.rsfjournal.org/doi/full/10.7758/RSF.2015.1.1.05">www.rsfjournal.org/doi/full/10.7758/RSF.2015.1.1.05

    Monday, November 23, 2015

    Medicare A & B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2016

    CThe premium for Medicare Part B is calculated by outpatient utilization figures from the year before. Because beneficiaries used the services more than anticipated in 2015 the Part B premium for 2016 will increase will increase for many beneficiaries from $104.90 to $120.70.

    But because there will be no cost of living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits a federal "hold harmless" provision will allow Medicare beneficiaries whose premium was the $104.90 in 2015 (not the increased premium for higher incomes) and have their Part B premiums deducted from their Social Security. For beneficiaries who have Medicaid paying their Part B premiums there will be an increase but the beneficiary won't be affected since Medicaid will pay it.

    Medicare A & B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2016

    Part A (hospital) Beneficiary pays:
    Hospital Deductible $1,288/benefit period
    Hospital Copay $322/day for days 61-90
    $644/day for days 91-150
    Skilled Nursing Facil Copay $161/day for days 21-100
    Part A Premium $411/month for those with fewer than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
    $226/month for those with 30-39 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
    Part B (doctor, outpatient services, etc.) Beneficiary pays:
    Annual Deductible $166
    Part B Premium for those with incomes below $85,000 or $170,000 married couple $104.90/month – for those beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare prior to 2016, whose premium is taken out of their monthly Social Security benefit
    $121.80/month – for those beneficiaries not collecting Social Security benefits, those who will enroll in Part B for the first time in 2016, and those who have their Part B premiums paid by Medicaid
    Most covered Part B services 20%