Friday, June 01, 2018

2018 West Virginia Legislative Highlights for Seniors

Yes, the 2018 West Virginia legislature passed the Fiscal Year 2019 budget before adjourning. That felt good after earlier years in which that process so crucial to the state’s welfare was such a struggle.

All links below are to the bill language in a pdf document from the legislature's website.

House Bill 4279 Thanks to this new law, there are now more specific protections for incapacitated adults and nursing home and facility residents against financial exploitation by facility staff, family, caregivers, or others. The Department of Health and Human Resources Adult Protective Services’ staff is authorized to investigate exploitive or fraudulent financial situations for those persons.

It seems that we hear more and more about financial abuse of so many, whether through intentional scams or family schemes.

This law means that those, friend or foe, who are preying on incapacitated adults or those in nursing homes by scamming them out of their money and property will face another hurdle in getting away with it. Adult Protective Services is now charged with initiating investigations and working with other entities, including county prosecutors, to stop the exploitation.

The legal definition of financial exploitation is the unlawful expenditure or unlawful willful dissipation of the funds or other assets owned or paid to or for the benefit of an incapacitated adult or facility resident.

For those who are concerned about someone suffering from financial exploitation or similar abuse, contact the APS staff at the county level or call 800-352-6513.

House Bill 4150 A new law prohibits West Virginia telemarketers from misleading you about their company’s identity when calling and from collecting your identifying information with their electronic resources. That information can be used for further scams.

So if your caller ID screen shows Tiffany‘s NY as the caller (but it is actually from Big Time Rip-off, Inc.), the company has violated the law.

The new law does not appear to apply to out-of-state telemarketers but hopefully will have a deterrent effect on such deceptive practices anyway.

An upcoming government study authorized during the session will evaluate ways to improve palliative medical care practices. Also, an assessment of whether changes to the taxation of Social Security income would be appropriate in West Virginia was discussed but did not pass.

House Bill 4035 Palliative care is specialized medical treatment for those with a serious illness, focusing on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of what is often the most significant illness the person has faced. The overall goal of the care is to improve the quality of life for patients and families. A Palliative Care Advisory Council will be made up of healthcare professionals in this field, consumer advocates and other end-of-life professionals.

House Concurrent Resolution 115 Currently, a majority of states do not tax their residents’ Social Security benefits. Others tax them at a lower rate. Only West Virginia and four other states tax the benefits like the federal government does. Recognizing that those collecting Social Security may face many serious financial concerns, especially a lessened ability to earn extra income, a joint committee would discuss retirement security issues and evaluate the impact of any taxation change on future budgets.

Senate Bill 397 One other new law--it is illegal now to claim that a pet is a service animal unless it has been certified or claim to be a handicapped or disabled person if that is not true. Violation of the law is a misdemeanor.

If you have questions about how any of the new laws will impact you or have other legal concerns, feel free to contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid for assistance. To be eligible for this service, you must be a West Virginia resident at least 60 years old and must be the one to call 800-229-5068. We’re here to help!

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