Wednesday, August 16, 2017

WV Supreme Court's first black Justice Franklin D. Cleckley dies at age 77

We at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid are sad to hear that former WV Supreme Court Justice, WVU law professor, scholar, author, mentor, and cherished colleague Franklin D. Cleckley died on Monday 8/14/2017.

Cleckley was appointed as Justice to the WV Supreme Court of Appeals in 1994 by Gov. Caperton, making him the first black justice in WV history.

Professor Cleckley was my Criminal Procedure professor at WVU College of Law. I got a D+ in there and I worked hard for it. He had the amazing ability to compare and contrast like 8 cases at a time. I could barely keep the facts for 3 cases straight in my head, much less consider the nuance of tricky Constitutional jurisprudence going on across those opinions. In my humble opinion he was brilliant.

For more about Professor Cleckley see this article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail www.wvgazettemail.com/news-cops-and-courts/20170815/cleckley-first-black-person-on-wv-supreme-court-dies-at-77

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

WVSLA Celebrates LGBT Pride Month!

We recognize that West Virginia seniors who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender are an important part of the fabric of our culture. We seek to serve the legal needs of LGBT senior West Virginians, and hold ourselves to a high standard of competence regarding your unique legal issues.

Thank you for your contributions to our state's rich history! We celebrate with you this month.

Friday, April 28, 2017

$151M settlement in January 2014 WV water crisis

A $151 million settlement has been proposed to resolve a federal court class-action lawsuit over the January 2014 water crisis in West Virginia that impacted over 200,000 people.

There will be a "simple payment" option for class members and another option for members who seek specific additional damages amounts (like medical costs, replacement hot water heater, etc.). The class includes everyone who lived in a residential dwelling (homeowners and renters) supplied with tap water from West Virginia American Water’s Kanawha Valley Treatment Plant on Jan. 9, 2014; all businesses, non-profit and governmental entities that received tap water from that same plant on that date; and everyone who was regularly employed as an hourly-wage earner by those businesses.

Any class member who wants to opt out of the settlement will have to do so before a deadline that will be announced by the court.

Residential households in the class who use the simple payment option would get under the settlement $525 + $170 for each additional resident.

For more information see http://wvwaterlitigation.com/

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Most ID theft victims don’t need a police report. . .

by Seena Gressin
Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC

When it comes to reporting and recovering from identity theft, the FTC is simplifying the process by eliminating the need for a police report in most cases.

How does it work? When you report identity theft using IdentityTheft.gov, you’ll answer some questions about what happened. IdentityTheft.gov then uses your information to create the tools you need to begin your recovery, including:

  • a personal recovery plan
  • pre-filled letters to send to merchants, banks, and others affected by the identity theft, and
  • an “Identity Theft Report,” which is your official statement about the crime.

In most cases, you can use your Identity Theft Report in place of a police report to clear your account and credit records of transactions that resulted from the identity theft. That’s because when you use IdentityTheft.gov, you’re reporting the crime to the Federal Trade Commission, a federal law enforcement agency. Just like when you file a police report, you’re legally obligated to tell the truth to the best of your knowledge, and subject to criminal penalties if you don’t. That makes your Identity Theft Report powerful evidence that you’re telling the truth.

By reducing the need for police reports, IdentityTheft.gov helps you get started on your recovery quickly, and helps free local police to focus on public safety. Still, contact the police to report identity theft if:

  • you know the identity thief, or have other information that could help a police investigation
  • an identity thief used your name in a traffic stop or any encounter with police, or
  • a creditor, debt collector, or someone else affected by the identity theft insists that you produce a police report.

To learn more about identity theft, browse the FTC's recovery steps, or visit the FTC's Privacy and Identity page for prevention tips.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Broadband Internet for WV?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Crossover Day in the WV Legislature is March 29

The 50th day of our 60 day regular legislative session is known as Crossover Day. Any bill that has not had its third reading in its house of origin is dead. This year that day is March 29, Wednesday.

You can see from any bill's status page on the WV Legislature's website whether it has made it past that hurdle www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bill_status.cfm

If there are bills that matter to you as a WV citizen now is the time to contact your senators and delegates to voice your opinions. Adjournment for the regular session is midnight April 8, 2017.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

CFPB fines Experian $3M

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action today against Experian and its subsidiaries for deceiving consumers about the use of credit scores it sold to consumers. Experian claimed the credit scores it marketed and provided to consumers were used by lenders to make credit decisions. In fact, lenders did not use Experian’s scores to make those decisions. The CFPB ordered Experian to truthfully represent how its credit scores are used. Experian must also pay a civil penalty of $3 million.

“Experian deceived consumers over how the credit scores it marketed and sold were used by lenders,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Consumers deserve and should expect honest and accurate information about their credit scores, which are central to their financial lives.”

Enforcement Action

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB is authorized to take action against institutions engaged in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices, or that otherwise violate federal consumer financial laws. Under the consent order, Experian must:

  • Pay a $3 million penalty: Experian must pay a civil money penalty of $3 million to the Bureau’s Civil Penalty Fund.
  • Truthfully represent the usefulness of credit scores it sells: Experian must inform consumers about the nature of the scores it sells to consumers.
  • Put in place an effective compliance management system: Experian must develop and implement a plan to make sure its advertising practices relating to credit scores and on Internet webpages that consumers access through AnnualCreditReport.com comply with federal consumer laws and the terms of the CFPB’s consent order.

The full text of the CFPB’s Consent Order against Experian is available here: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201703_cfpb_Experian-Holdings-Inc-consent-order.pdf

Friday, February 03, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: WV civil rights hero J R Clifford

"John Robert Clifford was West Virginia’s first African-American attorney, a newspaper publisher, editor and writer, a schoolteacher and principal, a civil rights pioneer, a founding member of the Niagara Movement (forerunner to the NAACP), a Civil War veteran, and a graduate of Storer College.

In 1887, Clifford was admitted to the bar by the West Virginia Supreme Court. In 1898, Clifford won a landmark civil-rights-in-education case before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals: Williams v. Board of Education. The Tucker County School Board of Education tried to cut the public school year for African-American students from nine months to five months, while the students in the “white school” continued to receive the full nine-month school year. Clifford encouraged the teacher, Carrie Williams, to continue teaching for the entire nine months and, together, they filed a lawsuit against the school board for her back pay. In the end, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the decision to provide equal educational rights to African-American students in West Virginia. All this occurred well over 50 years before the landmark “Brown v. Board of Education” decision and was one of the few civil rights victories in a southern state’s highest court before the turn of the century."

For more information about this West Virginia civil rights hero see www.jrclifford.org.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Update: New Martinsville Ponzi scheme perpetrator sentenced to 10+ years

The perpetrator of a massive Ponzi scheme in Wetzel County WV has been sentenced to 10 years and one month in federal prison. Over 800 victims lost over $30 million in the mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering scheme we reported here in March 2016 http://seniorlegalaid.blogspot.com/2016/03/budget-finance-in-new-martinsville-in.html

Unfortunately most victims will never get much if any of their money back. For more information about the sentencing see www.theintelligencer.net/news/top-headlines/2017/01/woman-sentenced-in-wetzel-county-budget-finance-ponzi-scheme/

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Jury Duty Fine Telephone Scam

West Virginians beware of a call saying you owe a fine for failing to appear for jury duty, and threatening jail if you don't pay by money order. Such scam has recently been reported in the Huntington area.

Any government agency, state or federal, is unlikely to ever deliver any information about fines or fees by telephone. If you ever receive a call from a government agency you can ask for the information to be sent to you by mail. Caller ID is easily faked, so don't rely on that as credible.

When seniors tell other seniors about scams they have heard about it helps everyone in the community to recognize scams more readily and avoid them. If you tell two friends, and they tell two friends, etc.

For more information about the jury duty scam check out this article from WCHS Channel 8 http://wchstv.com/news/local/old-phone-scam-is-using-a-new-twist.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

WVSLA opposes racism and seeks to serve WV seniors of color

In response to recent statements published on social media by the senior services provider in Clay County, WV, the Board of Directors and staff of West Virginia Senior Legal Aid wishes to reiterate our commitment to serving senior West Virginians of color and reaffirm that we do not condone racism in any form. Using the law to promote equality is an essential part of our mission and any examples and/or perceptions of discrimination on the basis of race in our state deserve our focused attention.

Given that the Older Americans Act, by law, targets its services to those in the greatest economic or social need, with particular attention to low-income minorities, rural residents and those with limited English proficiency, it is imperative that ALL providers within the network offer and provide services without actual or the perception of, discrimination. We do not and will not support any action in the senior services network that is inspired by racism or that sends the message that seniors of color are not welcome and deserving of all the services our network has to offer. Our message is that West Virginia Senior Legal Aid seeks to reach out to and serve with excellence the legal needs of our state’s seniors of color. Our doors are especially open to seniors whose rights have been violated, and we promise to zealously advocate for the individual rights of every senior West Virginian of color who seeks our services. You are important to us.

We welcome your input about how we can do a better job reaching out to and serving seniors of color in our state. We seek to partner with anti-racist groups around the state to enhance our capacity and learn how to deliver the best possible services to minority seniors.

As we enter a new year, the Board of Directors and staff of West Virginia Senior Legal Aid wish to assure ALL West Virginia Seniors that we are here to serve you, regardless of your race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic, educational or disability status AND we uphold your right to receive services from other senior service providers without prejudice.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Price of US national parks lifetime Senior Pass may go up dramatically, get yours now

If you are at least 62 years old you can get a Senior Pass (formerly the Golden Age Pass) "A $10.00 lifetime pass that provides access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies, with up to 100% of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services," according to the US Geological Survey where you can purchase the pass.

But Congress has passed H.R. 4680: National Park Service Centennial Act (track it here www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr4680) and the senate passed a companion bill on December 10 which changes the price of the lifetime pass to track with the America the Beautiful Pass which is currently $80. The legislation is likely to be signed quickly by the President and the price increase may take effect immediately.

You can purchase the Senior Pass online (for $20 which includes the $10 pass price and a $10 online processing fee), by mail (also $20), or in person ($10) at locations listed here (scroll way down for locations in WV) https://store.usgs.gov/pass/PassIssuanceList.pdf. For more information and links to purchase go to this USGS page https://store.usgs.gov/pass/senior.html.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Medicare A&B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2017

The 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 2017 will increase will increase for most beneficiaries to $134.00.

Medicare A & B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2017

Part A (hospital) Beneficiary pays:
Hospital Deductible $1,316/benefit period
Hospital Copay $329/day for days 61-90
$658/day for days 91-150
Skilled Nursing Facil Copay $164.50/day for days 21-100
Part A Premium $413/month for those with fewer than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
$227/month for those with 30-39 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
Part B (doctor, outpatient services, etc.) Beneficiary pays:
Annual Deductible $187.50
Part B Premium for those with incomes below $85,000 or $170,000 married couple $109/month – for those beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare prior to 2016, whose premium is taken out of their monthly Social Security benefit
Most covered Part B services 20%

Social Security amounts for 2017

Social Security beneficiaries will receive a COLA (cost of living adjustment) of .3% for 2017.

Social Security beneficiaries who are still working while receiving benefits will be subject to the following Retirement Earnings Test Exempt Amounts for 2017: If you are under your full retirement age the maximum you can earn without getting your benefits reduced up to $16,920/yr ($1,410/mo). For every $2 you earn above that limit your benefits will be reduced by $1. During the year that you reach full retirement age $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $3 in earnings above the limit of $44,880/yr ($3,740/mo). After you reach full retirement age there is no limit on earnings, you can receive your full benefits and still work.

Social Security Disability beneficiaries will be subject to the following thresholds in 2017: Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) for Non-Blind beneficiaries will be $1,170/mo, and for Blind beneficiaries will be $1,950/mo. The maximum you can earn during a Trial Work Period in 2017 will be $ 840/mo.

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefit amount will go from $733/mo in 2016 to $733/mo in 2017. One lottery ticket, good luck.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Today is World AIDS Day

Older West Virginians are not immune to HIV infection. One exposure can become a transmission. The World Health Organization recommends every sexually active adult get tested annually. Learn more about aging and HIV from the CDC www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/age/olderamericans/

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Racism has no place in WV aging services

As a West Virginian and as Executive Director of West Virginia Senior Legal Aid I am sad and angry to see news reports of racist statements published in social media by a county senior program director and a mayor in our state.

I hope that our network of aging services providers in West Virginia stands up against racism in any form, especially in the delivery of services to older West Virginians. I can promise you that at WV Senior Legal we welcome with open arms the opportunity to serve senior West Virginians of color, and look forward to continuing to fight discrimination on the basis of race in every corner of our state.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Budget Finance Ponzi scheme victims right to be heard at sentencing

The perpetrator of a $30 million Ponzi scheme has pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. Donna Brown faces up to 20 years and $250,000 on each charge. There were over 800 victims, and most were West Virginians.

Victims of the scheme have the right to be heard at the sentencing hearing. In order to exercise that right any victim who wishes to speak or have a statement read at the hearing must contact the court by January 17, 2017. For more information and specific details on how to exercise your victim rights at sentencing see www.justice.gov/usao-sdoh/page/file/905451/download.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Arrest Made in $31M New Martinsville Ponzi Scheme

Donna Brown has been arrested for wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering for the Ponzi scheme she was running through her New Martinsville investment company Budget Finance. 800 victims lost their investments in the $31 million dollar scam. For more info see http://wtov9.com/news/local/arrest-made-in-31-million-investment-scam

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Financial Exploitation and Law: What's New?

New legal tools for financial exploitation prevention and intervention in WV:

1. The Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA) of 2012 www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/Code.cfm?chap=39b&art=01#01
Reform of financial powers of attorney includes statutory form, specified duties of agent, specified events that trigger termination of the authority, presumed durability, obligations of 3rd parties to honor, and lots more!

A new cause of action to petition court to examine agent transactions www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=39b&art=01§ion=116#01
And attorney’s fees if agent found to have violated duties www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=39b&art=01§ion=117#01

For more information about Financial Powers of Attorney in WV check this brochure out http://www.seniorlegalaid.net/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=37&Itemid=26

2. A new civil cause of action to get assets back after financial exploitation of elderly or incapacitated person
www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=hb4309%20ENR.htm&yr=2016&sesstype=RS&i=4309 (the code section will actually be §55-7J-1, et seq. Because another bill that passed also proposed to be a new §55-7I-1, et seq.)

3. The Transfer on Death Deed, a planning tool allowing you to deed your real property interest away but only upon your death, avoiding the need for probate and avoiding Medicaid estate recovery and uncompensated transfer of assets penalty. UNIFORM REAL PROPERTY TRANSFER ON DEATH ACT. §36-12-1 www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/Code.cfm?chap=36&art=12#12

For more information about the Transfer on Death Deed see this blog post http://seniorlegalaid.blogspot.com/2014/06/transfer-on-death-deed-available-in-wv.html

As Yogi Berra said, “the future ain’t what it used to be.”

Friday, July 22, 2016

Assistive Technology grants for individuals, apply by October 1

Do you or your family member need assistive technology and do not know where to turn? PATHS, the Partnerships in Assistive TecHnologieS, is a non-profit group dedicated to increasing awareness about and access to assistive technology (AT).

What is assistive technology (AT)? AT is anything that helps you or a family member do something. Eye glasses help us see. Velcro helps us tie our shoes instead of using laces. It is anything that makes life a little easier and helps independence.

PATHS is taking applications for those who need AT in the state of West Virginia. Many people need AT but affording devices can be difficult for some people. PATHS is offering awards of up to $550.00 worth of equipment/devices to qualified individuals. Please note: The total cost of the device(s), including any taxes and shipping and handling, cannot exceed $550.00. PATHS cannot “pool” the grant money with others. For example, PATHS cannot pay $550.00 towards a $700.00 purchase, and you or another source pay the difference. The total cost of the product(s) cannot exceed $550.00; this price must include all device extras, such as software.

How do I qualify? A person of any age and disability may apply. You (or a family member) must need AT to help foster independence at home, school or work. You must have no other funding sources to buy the devices. Proof you have no other funding sources will be required along with a completed application (i.e., denial letter from insurance provider, family support, etc.). If the individual is receiving services from the WV Department of Education (public school or the Birth to Three program) PATHS cannot fund assistive technology devices that should be covered in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP).

When are applications due? Applications must be postmarked by October 1, 2016

For more information and application see http://pathswv.com/grants.html.