Tuesday, June 28, 2016

follow FEMA's work in WV

You can follow each step of the progress of FEMA's work assisting West Virginians affected by the floods in Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties on this webpage www.fema.gov/disaster/4273

Monday, June 27, 2016

WV flood victims: protect your identity when using public computers

Many WV flood victims may have lost the use of their primary computers for accessing critical online resources like their own bank accounts, utility accounts, insurance accounts, benefits application, etc.

Beware of identity thieves and fraudsters who prey on disaster victims. If you use a public computer or other person's phone or tablet or computer to access online account information or apply for benefits be extra careful. Know whose computer you are using and don't use any machine from a source that is not safe and credible. Take extra steps to delete all your personal and username/password information when you are done. Then check again to be sure no one can use your credentials to access your accounts again later.

If you are not sure how to protect yourself, don't log in. It can wait.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas counties designated for federal disaster funds

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the State of West Virginia to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides beginning on June 22, 2016, and continuing.

The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in of Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

The President's action makes federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures in Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Albert Lewis has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Lewis said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Follow FEMA online at blog.fema.gov, www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema. Also, follow Administrator Craig Fugate's activities at www.twitter.com/craigatfema. The social media links provided are for reference only.

FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Friday, June 24, 2016

WV Seniors in flooded areas can call for free legal assistance

Seniors age 60+ in every county in WV can call WV Senior Legal Aid 1-800-229-5068 to talk to a lawyer for free. Seniors in counties who have been hit by this week's massive flooding across the state may especially need legal help regarding:

  • FEMA benefits
  • other public benefits
  • landlord/tenant issues
  • insurance claims
  • contractor issues
  • creating new documents for those lost in the flood

Any disaster brings scammers and predators out of the woodwork so communities should be extra vigilant during the recovery. Check out licensing, insurance, and references carefully before choosing a contractor. Don't sign a contract without carefully reading it, don't be bashful about getting advice from a professional or a trusted smart friend before signing or agreeing to pay. Get more than one bid and recognize that the cheapest one may not necessarily be the best choice. Urgency and scarcity are hallmarks of scams, so don't let anyone pressure you into taking a step before you have done your homework.

Same goes for sending donations. West Virginians are generous people who want to help those who need it, and scammers know that. Be sure your donation is going to a reputable non-profit who has a track record of providing effective community assistance.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Elder abuse can include physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse as well as neglect and financial exploitation. No senior is immune; elder abuse happens to seniors across all socio-economic groups, races, abilities, and cultures. It happens in our community. It takes all the eyes of the community to watch for it and take action.

What are the risk factors for elder abuse? Though it can happen to any senior some of us are particularly vulnerable, including those experiencing social isolation, diminishing mental or physical capacities, and the very elderly.

Who are the perpetrators? Sadly our own family members, friends, fellow church members, trusted professionals, and neighbors are often perpetrators of elder abuse.

Why are senior victims unlikely to disclose the abuse? Embarrassment, shame, fear of retaliation, and fear that our vulnerabilities will be used against us to take away our autonomy and rights to make our own choices. Especially when the abuser is family or close friend a victim may also not want the perpetrator to get in trouble. He or she may just want the abuse to stop but not know how.

What should I do if I suspect abuse of a senior in my community? Adult Protective Services is our state's investigation unit for allegations of adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation. You can call day or night to make a report 1-800-352-6513.

What can I do to raise awareness about elder abuse? Talk to your friends, your family, your work mates, your church, fellow group members, about what to look for and how to report it. Write a letter to the editor to help others be aware it can happen to anyone. Keep in touch with older people in your world. Check on an older neighbor or family member or friend. Let seniors know they can trust you to help if they ever need it, that you are a safe person to talk to. Make opportunities for older people to talk to you in private, away from caregivers or other family.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

WV Magistrate Court maximum jurisdiction amount doubles to $10,000

For decades the maximum amount you could sue for in WV Magistrate Court was $5,000. Anything above that you had to file in Circuit Court. This is a significant limitation because Magistrate Court is designed to be consumer-friendly even for those litigants who are not represented by lawyers. Circuit Court, on the other hand, is not designed for folks to navigate through without legal representation. Not to say you can't do it, but for example there are very few forms for use by litigants in that court, whereas there are several forms for Magistrate Court including a general Complaint form that can be used to get you in the door for almost anything the Magistrate Court can hear.

The state legislature this year enacted a bill to double the maximum jurisdiction of our Magistrate Courts to $10,000 beginning in June of 2016. [See SB 274 which as passed March 7, 2016 and becomes effective 90 days from passage.]

This offers West Virginians the option of filing lawsuits in the Magistrate Court that previously they may not have been practically able to file at all. For example, if you pay a contractor $8,000 for a new roof, and the job is done poorly and needs to be repaired, it may not have been feasible for you to pay a lawyer $2,500 to represent you especially since you aren't guaranteed to win, and you may not have been able to figure out how to successfully file and pursue the case on your own in Circuit Court. Now you have the option of filing that case in Magistrate Court by yourself using a fill-in-the-blank form Complaint, or hiring an attorney to file it and represent you in Magistrate Court perhaps for a lower fee than for Circuit Court representation, or hiring an attorney to file it and represent you in Circuit Court. You can still legally represent yourself in Circuit Court, but without some legal background and experience you're likely to have a difficult time succeeding on that path. You wouldn't do surgery on yourself, would you? Sometimes hiring a professional is what it takes to get what you need.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"People don't stop partying because they get old, they get old because they stop partying."

Let us celebrate Older Americans Month today with some timely and sage advice from a couple years ago from Andrew WK, the party messiah who writes a regular party advice column for the Village Voice at http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2014/10/ask_andrew_wk_on_aging.php

October 22nd, 2014

Dear Andrew,

It's my birthday and I feel depressed. I never used to be one of those people that hated telling people their age, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I'm getting old. How do I keep the party going even though I'm old?

Yours truly,
Aging Rager

Dear Aging Rager,

Your fear of not being able to party as you get older isn't uncommon, but it's unwarranted. If anything, the more experience you have at partying, the better you get at partying. The more you understand about what brings you happiness, the more skills you can acquire to bring that happiness about. Living longer makes you better at life.

This is why our elders are so appealing. We realize they've accumulated extremely deep stores of knowledge and wisdom precisely because they aren't 18 years old. We stand in awe as we ponder what insights and secrets they've extracted from the volumes of life they've endured. Similarly, the more time we spend learning who we are in this world, the better we get at being ourselves -- this is how one becomes a master -- this is the great gift of aging.

As with many aspects of a materialistic culture, ethereal ideas like mastery and wisdom are often undervalued. We are made to feel bad about change, appearance, and, most of all, our immaterial inner world. Aging demands that we reckon with overwhelmingly intense ideas about the mysteries of the world, eventually dying, looking different, loss and heartbreak, and the impermanence of everything. But these things are only truly upsetting when we attach too much importance to the material world in which the pain of these ideas dwells, outside of our true inner self.

Our true inner self -- our spirit -- is ageless and never dies. But this concept is so hard to conceive of that we often distract ourselves with little games that seem to give us a place to rest our anxiety and distract us so we don't have to dive deeper into what is really going on inside us. We worry about how we look, our attractiveness, about stuff and objects and pursuits and money and a million other things. And it's totally fine to play these games, as long as we remember that they are only games. They don't define our essence, and they are not why we are here. And when these games begin to distance us from the effortless beauty of existence, they take on a sinister and self-abusive quality. Some of these games are purposely set up to make sure that we can only ever lose -- they only can separate us from ourselves -- playing these games too passionately can kill us even though we outwardly appear to be living. Obsession with youth is just fear.

Besides, when we think back to our younger years, we often tend to exaggerate the good times and block out the bad. There's nothing wrong with remembering things in an idealized way, as long as it doesn't make us lose appreciation for where we stand right now. If we're intent on always comparing our current situation with how things used to be, we are likely to never be satisfied and to dread moving forward into the new and unfamiliar.

There's a difference between "getting older" and "being old." Getting older is just another way to describe the process of being alive. The longer you go without dying, the "older" you become. We can easily understand how aging in this way is a great triumph. Those who have reached old age have truly achieved a remarkable feat of endurance, and we should recognize and respect all that they've experienced and withstood to survive so long. This is why it's equally intense when someone dies much too soon, and didn't get the chance to survive long enough.

The best we can hope for is health and strength and a mind that's able to comprehend, appreciate, and penetrate the world around us, no matter what stage of life we're in. Make the most of the age you are right now, and realize that you still are you, no matter how old you are. Don't buy into the hype about "getting old," because aging doesn't automatically mean life gets worse. That's all guilt-based nonsense usually used to sell products and fantasies that are never as good as they're described -- they're just entertainment. And that's OK. But don't give in to it, or give up and get lazy. Don't fall back on "getting old" as an excuse for not living full-on.

What matters most is using every moment you're alive to become the best person you can be. All of us are children only for a short time. The majority of our life is spent as an adult. And as an adult, we have the tools, the resources, and the physical and mental fortitude to shape the world so that the dreams of our childhood can be realized. The gift of childhood gives us the vision and the gift of adulthood gives us the power. Be glad that you've even lived into adulthood. Be glad that you've even had the chance to have another birthday. Many children didn't get to ever see adulthood. Appreciate yours, and celebrate it in honor of all those who'll never get to have a birthday ever again. And remember...

People don't stop partying because they get old, they get old because they stop partying.

Your friend, Andrew W.K.

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.