Monday, July 21, 2014

Increase in WV civil filing fees and new filing fees as of July 1, 2014

This year the WV Legislature enacted SB 458, a bill that increased various fees payable to by Circuit Court clerks for filing civil actions, effective July 1, 2014. The general civil filing fee in Circuit Court went from $135 to $200. Crossclaims, counterclaims, and third party intervenor motions which never had filing fees before now also require a $200 filing fee. No party is required to pay more than one of these filing fees in a particular action.

The $200 filing fee also applies to some family court petitions. The change does not affect petitions for divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment which still cost $135 to file or petitions for modifications for custody or support which still cost $85.

Magistrate court filing fees did not change, though the new fees apply to motions to remove cases from Magistrate Court to Circuit Court.

Of course, the increases and new fees do not apply to any person who gets a filing fee waived for being low income.

The revenue from the new fees and fee increases goes to the Fund for Civil Legal Services for Low Income Persons.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

free webinars on post-DOMA legal changes

A year after the Supreme Court decision in United States v Windsor, federal agencies have been issuing rules that affect same sex couples regarding programs like Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC) offers this two-part webinar series where participants will learn what’s happened since the decision and what’s still needed to ensure the rights of LGBT same sex couples are fully recognized by the the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Social Security and SSI Post-DOMA: Changes for Same Gender Couples?
DATE: Tuesday, July 22, 2014
TIME: 2:00 PM EDT
Presenter: Gerald McIntyre, NSCLC Directing Attorney
Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6568897339522292225

Medicare & Medicaid Post-DOMA: Changes for Same Gender Couples?
DATE: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
TIME: 2:00 PM EDT
Presenters: Georgia Burke, NSCLC Directing Attorney, TBD
Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1277379983106332161

Monday, June 30, 2014

Transfer on Death Deed available in WV

As of June 5, 2014 West Virginians have a new way to transfer real estate to a death beneficiary without having to go through probate. The West Virginia Transfer on Death Act passed the legislature in the 2014 regular session and became effective 90 days after it was signed by the Governor.

The new law allows an owner to do a deed naming a Transfer on Death beneficiary, and at the owner's death the property passes directly to the beneficiary like it would to a joint tenant. But it's very different from joint tenancy because the beneficiary under a Transfer on Death deed gets no current interest in the property. The interest only transfers at the death of the owner. The owner still retains all his or her ownership rights, including the right to revoke the deed, or transfer or encumber the property.

One important difference between this kind of deed and others is that it must be recorded at the courthouse during the owner's lifetime to be valid. Other deeds must merely be properly executed, and can be stashed in a drawer and still be valid.

This kind of deed is generally much better for a senior who wants to keep all rights and ownership of his or her own home for life, but wants to pass the property to a beneficiary after death while avoiding both probate and Medicaid estate recovery.

Many a senior who has deeded away a joint interest or remainder interest and kept only a life estate in her home has come to regret it when she realizes she is no longer the sole owner of her property, and cannot sell or borrow against the property because of problems with the joint or remainder owners. She has given away part of the ownership of her greatest asset without realizing how it could negatively impact her future choices.

You can read the the new statute at www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=SB3%20ENR.htm&yr=2014&sesstype=RS&i=3

Friday, April 04, 2014

It's legal to write your own will, but here's how it can go terribly wrong

Plenty of WV seniors call WVSLA to ask if it's legal to handwrite your own will. The short answer is yes, it is. But if the reason you are writing your own will is to make sure your estate is distributed a different way than the law would if you died without a will, making your own will is not a safe solution.

When you hire an attorney to do a will for you you are getting more than just a paper with the blanks filled in. The real value of having a lawyer starts with the questions you answer about what you really want, what you really don't want. A good attorney will not only carefully craft a personalized document to prevent what you don't want and secure what you do want, but will likely also bring up considerations that you never even thought about.

Another important role for your lawyer is to be sure the language of the will is legally effective to carry out your wishes, as well as provide for various possible circumstances that may exist at the time of your death. Legal documents generally use the same English language that we all use everyday, but often those words have a totally different legal meaning than our normal everyday usage. You can be well-educated and intelligent and know what a word or term means, but it may mean something else entirely in the context of a legal document.

Using a fill-in-the-blank legal form can be just as dangerous as handwriting your will for many of the same reasons. Check out this case in Florida, as reported in the ABA Journal online yesterday:

Ann Aldrich used an “E-Z Legal Form” when she made out her will in 2004, a decision that proved to be a good choice for two nieces who cited the document’s lack of a residuary clause.
In a decision issued last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled for the nieces, though they weren’t mentioned in the will. The court said money acquired by Aldrich after the will was made out should be distributed under the laws of intestacy, which govern distribution of property for those who die without a will. The reason: The E-Z form did not have a residuary clause providing for the disposition of property not listed in the document. FlascBlog: The Florida Supreme Court Blog reports on the opinion.
Concurring Justice Barbara Pariente saw the ruling as a cautionary tale. “While I appreciate that there are many individuals in this state who might have difficulty affording a lawyer,” Pariente said, “this case does remind me of the old adage ‘penny-wise and pound-foolish.’

One of the commentors on the article gave another great example, where a woman wanted her niece who played piano to inherit her piano, bench, and sheet music, but left the rest of her estate to her church. In her handwritten will she forgot the comma between "piano" and "bench" so the niece only got the bench and the music, no piano! Expensive missing comma.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

HHS announces important Medicare information for people in same-sex marriages

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is now able to process requests for Medicare Part A and Part B Special Enrollment Periods, and reductions in Part B and premium Part A late enrollment penalties for certain eligible people in same-sex marriages. This is another step HHS is taking in response to the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Because of this ruling, Medicare is no longer prevented by DOMA from recognizing same-sex marriages for determining entitlement to, or eligibility, for Medicare.

“Today’s announcement helps to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that all married couples are treated equally under the law,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are working together with SSA to process these requests in a timely manner to ensure all beneficiaries, regardless of sexual orientation, are treated fairly under the law.”

While Medicare is managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), SSA is responsible for determining eligibility for, and enrolling people in, Medicare.

You can find additional information at http://medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/same-sex-marriage.html.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Congress extends QI program again

On March 31 Congress voted to extend the sunsetting Qualified Individual Medicaid Program (QI) for one more year. QI uses Medicaid funds to pay the Part B premium for Medicare beneficiaries whose incomes are between 120% and 135% of poverty and whose resources (assets) are below a certain threshold. QI is one of the Medicare Savings Programs, or benefits designed to help low-income Medicare beneficiaries cover some of their out-of-pocket costs. The Specified Low-Income Beneficiary program (SLMB) pays Medicare's Part B premium for those with incomes between 100% and 120% of poverty whose assets are below are certain threshold. The Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program (QMB) pays Medicare premiums for both Part A and Part B, as well as Medicare deductibles and copayments for people with incomes below 100% of poverty whose resources are below a certain threshold.

The Qualified Disabled Working Individual program (QDWI) pays Part A premiums for certain working Medicare beneficiaries whose incomes are below 200% poverty and whose resources fall below a certain threshold.

You can find more information about the Medicare Savings Programs at www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/help-paying-costs/medicare-savings-program/medicare-savings-programs.html

Friday, February 21, 2014

WV Legislature Crossover Day Next Week

Our state legislature is in regular session through the first week of March 2014. Next week, February 26, the fiftieth day of the session, is also known as "crossover day." It is the deadline by which any bill or must have had its 3rd reading in its house of origin in order to have a chance of passage in the other house. Budget and supplementary appropriation bills are excepted from this rule.

You can check the status of bills that interest you through the legislature's website http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bill_status.cfm and any bill that has not made it to 3rd reading in its originating house will be dead for this year.

One of the issues supported by our 2013 Silver Haired Legislature was the legalization of medical marijuana. HB 4264 as of today has not made it out of the House Health and Human Resources Committee. If it does not get to the floor for three readings by crossover day it will be be dead until next year.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Understanding Medicare Webinar Jan 14

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services National Training Program will host the first 2014 Learning Series webinar on January 14, 2014 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm ET.
  The webinar will provide an overview of Understanding Medicare. Participants will be able to:
   Recognize the parts of Medicare
Compare Medicare coverage options
Understand Medicare-covered services and supplies
  Join the webinar by visiting https://goto.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1026743.
  Webinar audio will be delivered via your pc speakers.  

Monday, January 06, 2014

State Legislature opens 2014 session on January 8

Our state legislature meets in active session for 2 months each year, and the 2014 session begins this week. The committees of both houses meet throughout the year on interim status and you can listen live to those meetings at http://www.legis.state.wv.us/live.cfm

Download a state legislative calendar for 2014 here

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Fed govt shutdown does not stop SS checks, but debt ceiling inaction will

According to a Wall Street Journal article published yesterday the Social Security Administration has begun answering questions posed by the public with warnings that it can no longer guarantee issuance of Social Security benefits after October 17, 2013 if no action is taken to increase the debt ceiling. Apparently this message was crafted after consultation with the US Treasury. There are currently no statements posted on either SSA's or Treasury's websites about the matter, we will update this post as soon as more information becomes available.

To get an idea of the potential impact in our state of this possibility, here are a few stats: in 2011 24% of West Virginians received benefits from Social Security, nearly 444,000 people. It was 9.3% of our state's annual GDP. Many of those beneficiaries have no income other than Social Security. 198,000 people were lifted out of poverty by Social Security benefits.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

US Dept of Labor extends overtime and minimum wage protections to homecare workers

Effective January 1, 2015, most direct care workers will be required to receive federal minimum wage and overtime pay protections. Direct care workers are workers who provide home care services, such as certified nursing assistants, home health aides, personal care aides, caregivers, and companions.

The federal Department of Labor's Final Rule concerning domestic service workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) brings important minimum wage and overtime protection to the many workers who, by their service, enable individuals with disabilities and the elderly to continue to live independently in their homes and participate in their communities. The Final Rule, effective January 1, 2015, contains several significant changes from the prior regulations, including: (1) the tasks that comprise “companionship services” are more clearly defined; and (2) the exemptions for companionship services and live-in domestic service employees are limited to the individual, family, or household using the services; and (3) the recordkeeping requirements for employers of live-in domestic service employees are revised.

This rule makes no changes to the Department’s longstanding regulations concerning hours worked which are contained in 29 CFR 785.10-.45 about when the employee must be paid for time spent waiting, sleeping, and traveling.

For more information see the fact sheet from the DOL's Wage and Hour Division www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfsFinalRule.htm

Federal Guidance for banks about reporting financial exploitation

From the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today:

Seven federal regulatory agencies today issued guidance to clarify that the privacy provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act generally permit financial institutions to report suspected elder financial abuse to appropriate authorities.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act generally requires that a financial institution notify consumers and give them an opportunity to opt out before providing nonpublic personal information to a third party. Today’s guidance clarifies that it is generally acceptable under the law for financial institutions to report suspected elder financial abuse to appropriate local, state or federal agencies.

Older adults can be attractive targets for financial exploitation and may be taken advantage of by scam artists, financial advisors, family members, caregivers, or home repair contractors. Recent studies suggest that financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse and that only a small fraction of incidents is reported. Older adults often are targeted because they have retirement savings, accumulated home equity, or other assets. They also are more likely to experience cognitive decline, which can impair their capacity to recognize financial exploitation and scams.

Employees of financial institutions may be able to spot irregular transactions, account activity, or behavior that signals financial abuse. They can play a key role in preventing and detecting elder financial exploitation by reporting suspicious activities to the proper authorities.

The attached interagency guidance is being issued by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Trade Commission, National Credit Union Administration, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is issuing the document as staff guidance.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Making it harder to vote?

restrictive voting laws in US
Source: http://www.advancementproject.org/issues/voter-protection

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FTC Roundtable on Consumer Protection and New Healthcare Marketplaces

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, will host a roundtable in Washington, DC, on September 19, 2013, to discuss how to empower and protect consumers from scammers with the advent of healthcare marketplaces opening this fall under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Scammers follow the headlines, often seeking to exploit interest in new high-profile programs and developments in the marketplace. This discussion will bring together experts on the ACA, federal and state consumer protection officials, representatives of legal services and community-based organizations, and consumer advocates to discuss key features of the law, state approaches to implementation, and how to help consumers avoid potential scams.

“Consumer Protection and the Healthcare Marketplace” will take place from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the FTC’s Satellite Building Conference Center, Room C, 601 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. The event will be webcast. Space is limited. To register to attend, please send an email with your name and organization to Tracey Thomas at tthomas@ftc.gov.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
MEDIA CONTACT:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2180

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

SSA processing spousal benefits for same-sex couples

On August 9, 2013 the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued a short (and sweet for spouses who have been waiting for their benefits) press release.

“I am pleased to announce that Social Security is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due. The recent Supreme Court decision on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, made just over a month ago, helps to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally, with the dignity and respect they deserve.

We continue to work closely with the Department of Justice. In the coming weeks and months, we will develop and implement additional policy and processing instructions. We appreciate the public’s patience as we work through the legal issues to ensure that our policy is legally sound and clear.

I encourage individuals who believe they may be eligible for Social Security benefits to apply now, to protect against the loss of any potential benefits. We will process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized.”

To learn more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov.

WVSLA encourages anyone who thinks he or she may be eligible for a spousal benefit now because DOMA has been overturned to apply for benefits. There is likely no harm in applying even if you are unsure of your eligibility, and by applying as soon as possible you preserve your claim as SSA continues to develop the specifics of its policies related to same-sex couples. Questions that have yet to be answered by SSA include whether couples legally married in one state but now living in another which does not recognize same-sex marriage, and whether civil unions and domestic partnerships will be considered legally on par with marriage.

Listen live today at 1p to state House Select Committee on PEIA, Seniors, & Long Term Care

Today 8/20/13 at 1p the WV House of Delegates Select Committee on PEIA, Seniors, and Long Term Care meets. You may be able to listen live at www.legis.state.wv.us/live.cfm. On the agenda today is a presentation from the state Bureau for Children and Families on the topic of elder abuse.

Monday, August 19, 2013

cool app for California law enforcement investigating elder abuse

One in ten older Americans experiences abuse or neglect each year. The numbers of abuse reports are growing at the same time that resources for agency responses are shrinking. To help California law enforcement in their work responding to abuse of elders and dependent adults (vulnerable adults with disabilities), the Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect has partnered with the nonprofit Institute on Aging to develop a mobile app guide or "cheat sheet."

Named "368+ Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Guide for CA Law Enforcement" in reference to CA Penal Code 368, this product was developed with advice and assistance generously provided by colleagues from law enforcement, civil law, and medicine.

368+ Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Guide for CA Law Enforcement is now available for Droid devices, iPhones, and iPads. It can also be viewed on your mobile web browser.

For a limited time, this app is available free of charge, thanks to supporters like The Archstone Foundation, San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, and UniHealth Foundation. www.centeronelderabuse.org/368ElderAbuseCA.asp

Friday, August 16, 2013

Golden Years
Source: Nursing School Hub

Thursday, August 15, 2013

SSA no longer requires surgery for gender marker change

On June 14, 2013 the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that it has changed its policy regarding changing your gender marker. If you have transitioned your gender you can get your Social Security record changed to reflect your new gender by providing to SSA at least ONE of the following documents:

  • a valid 10 yr passport with the new gender
  • a state-issued birth certificate with the new gender
  • a court order directing legal recognition of the new gender
  • a signed statement from a license physician (M.D. or D.O.) including specifically that the individual has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to the new gender

Surgery is no longer required to change the gender marker in your Social Security record. "Most people may not see this as a big deal, but transgender people know that this seemingly small technical change will protect their privacy and give them more control over their own lives" said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).

For more information see the SSA policy change here https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0110212200, and see an info sheet from the NCTE about how this policy change effects transgender people here www.transequality.org/Resources/SSAResource_June2013.pdf

Monday, August 12, 2013

Alzheimer's training videos for law enforcement

The IACP Alzheimer’s Initiatives Program has announced the release of a new training video: Responding to People with Alzheimer’s Disease: Best Practices for Law Enforcement. These FREE training videos are great for roll-call type training sessions and can be easily downloaded for viewing.

Please visit www.theiacp.org/alztrainingvideo to register and download the videos. We would also appreciate your assistance in spreading the word about this new resource – feel free to forward this along to your contacts who may be interested.

For additional resources that the IACP provides on this topic, please go to www.theiacp.org/alzheimers. Also, if you would like to order a DVD copy of the video, email alzheimers@theiacp.org.