Tuesday, April 18, 2023

DHHR Announces LIEAP applications will be accepted April 24 through April 28, 2023

WV Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Announces Energy Assistance Program for Low-Income Residents

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) announced applications for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) will be accepted beginning Monday, April 24, 2023, and ending at the close of business on Friday, April 28, 2023, or until funds are exhausted. The federally funded program assists eligible state residents in paying home heating bills.

Eligibility for LIEAP benefits is based on income, household size, and whether the household is responsible for paying its heating bill. To qualify, households must meet all program guidelines, which include an applicant’s annual income being at or below 60 percent of the State Median Income. In situations where a heating emergency exists, applicants must be seen by a DHHR worker.

Applications may be obtained at local DHHR offices, community action agencies, or senior centers operated by an Area Agency on Aging. Applications are also available online at www.wvpath.wv.gov.

All applications must be received by DHHR or postmarked by April 28, 2023. Completed applications should be delivered or mailed to the DHHR office located in the applicant’s county of residence. A list of local offices may be found at https://dhhr.wv.gov/bcf/Pages/MapList.aspx or by calling 304-356-4619. Mailing the application to any other office or a utility company may delay the receipt by DHHR and prohibit the processing of the application.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

WV Women's History

In observance of Women’s History Month, important stories are being told.

How did it happen that women started working as union coal miners in West Virginia? It wasn’t easy.

In the late 1970s, a concerted effort was made through the United Mine Workers of America and the Coal Employment Project, a non-profit organization that advocated for women’s inclusion in industrial mine workforces.

Those involved fought discrimination that working women encountered and organized around working-class women’s issues.

Their stories are being preserved through the Women Miners Oral History Project and will be archived in the Feminist Activist Collection at West Virginia University’s West Virginia and Regional History Center, a component of the WVU Libraries.

More information about the ground-breaking efforts of those who dealt with economic and social justice issues, health concerns, and professional development challenges for women in our state and nation is needed. From the 1960s on, more and more was happening, but not without significant organizing, planning and follow-through in all fields.

For those who were or know of feminist activists in our region, their records, mementos, photos and other items related to their efforts should be preserved. Contact Lori Hostuttler at the Feminist Activist Collection via lori.hostuttler@mail.wvu.edu or 304-293-3536 to learn more.

With everyone’s help, the Collection will be able to provide researchers, students and our communities with the “big picture” about how the activists who made history did it.

This post is from Deb Miller, Esq.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

ATTENTION: Transition to 988 for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The WV DHHR received a federal grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in order to prepare for the transition of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to a new three digit number (988), which will be effective of July 16, 2022. These funds will contribute to WV’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call center which will answer calls that come into the Lifeline, this also include the Veterans Crisis Line.

Effective July 16, 2022, the 988 dialing code will replace the current hotline number, 1-800-273-8255. West Virginians in need of help should continue to call this number until July 16, 2022. This Lifeline accepts calls from anyone experiencing suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress.

The state of WV is in the top five states for its National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call center answer rates, answering at least 90% of calls within West Virginia. According to Christina Mullins, Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health, “Roughly 75 to 80 percent of calls help de-escalate and provide support without further crisis intervention needed." According to the National Institute of Mental Health, elder adults make up 12% of the population, BUT they make up 18% of suicides. Men that are 65 and older face the highest overall rates of suicide.

We care about our seniors and West Virginia Senior Legal Aid is dedicated to providing legal assistance that promotes the mental health of every senior. Any senior West Virginian age 60 or over who may need legal advice can call us at 1-800-229-5068 to speak to a lawyer for free.

contributed by Katie McCausley, Public Interest Law Fellow at WVSLA

Friday, July 01, 2022

Mountaineers Aging with Pride: WV Grandparents of LGBTQ Youth

President Biden issued an executive order on June 15, 2022 that promotes LGBTQ+ equality policies. The executive order addresses discriminatory legislative attacks by charging HHS with expanding healthcare for LGBTQ+ patients, creating initiatives to raise awareness about “conversion therapy” and clarifies that it cannot be supported with federal funds, supporting LGBTQ+ children and families through eliminating discriminatory barriers in housing, education, caregiving, and juvenile justice, and other steps promoting equality for the LGBTQ+ community.

The executive order charges the Department of Health and Human Services to launch a new plan to partner with state child welfare agencies to improve outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth in other’s care, increase training for child welfare personnel on best practices for supporting LGBTQ+ youth, and other goals to promote LGBTQ+ youth development.

According to Bonnie Dunn, WV Grandfamilies’ Extension Specialist, West Virginia ranks second in the United States for the percentage of grandparents responsible for their grandchildren, number 1 is Arkansas. There are over 7,000 children in foster care in WV, more and more grandparents are having to step into the parenting role.

A strong bond with grandchildren is important, yet statistics show that older generations still have a harder time accepting LGBTQ+ families. But it's time to be a part of the change, and we at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid are part of that change as well. President Biden’s executive order is one step in a chain of events towards equality. However, there is still a long way to go. Any senior West Virginian age 60 or over can call us at 1-800-229-5068 to speak to a lawyer for free about legal issues with raising your grandchildren, LGBTQ+ discrimination, or any civil legal matter.

You can read more about President Biden’s executive order at the following link:

contributed by Katie McCausley, Public Interest Law Fellow at WVSLA.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Mountaineers Aging with Pride: Employment & Housing Discrimination Against Transgender People

Approximately 14 percent of the 1.5 million Americans who are transgender are adults over age 65. Initiatives and programs that are meant to address the disparities and challenges seniors face are often forgotten and underfunded.

Specifically, employment and housing discrimination take a significant toll on LGBTQ+ seniors. 70 percent of transgender adults who are over 65 have reported that their gender transition was delayed to avoid discrimination in the workplace and other employment settings. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (2011), 90 percent of those responding to the survey has experienced discrimination at work and 24 percent had even lost their jobs because their employer was not comfortable with their gender identity. Housing discrimination is also an issue. The same survey found that 19 percent of those responding to the survey had been denied a home/apartment because they were transgender and 11 percent had been evicted. Health and aging disparities experienced by transgender seniors are brought about through layers of discrimination, including through employment and housing. Employment and housing are just two examples affecting transgender seniors, but working to fix this obstacle is a step by step process.

West Virginia is one of the 29 states that does not have a statute to ban LGBTQ+ discrimination in employment settings. However, last year a WV transgender man won a case through our Human Rights Commission, Livingood v. Public Defender Corp., that sets precedent for protection of LGBTQ+ individuals against discrimination in the state of WV. Although this is a big step for transgender rights in WV, there is still a lot to be done.

West Virginia Senior Legal Aid is here to provide legal assistance to ALL West Virginia seniors. We want to make sure LGBTQ+ senior West Virginians know and can exercise their legal rights. Any senior West Virginian age 60 or over can call us at 1-800-229-5068 to speak to a lawyer for free and to be treated with respect by all our staff.

contributed by Katie McCausley, Public Interest Law Fellow at WVSLA

Friday, June 17, 2022

Mountaineers Aging with Pride: Social Security Administration creates new LGBTQ+ web portal

Social Security and Medicare are two critical supports for most older Americans and older West Virginians, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. There are also some unique legal issues that LGBTQ+ seniors can face regarding eligibility for these benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has created a new web portal and some new information sheets targeting LGBTQ+ beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries.

Specifically there are some US Supreme Court cases that establish the rights of individuals in same-sex couples who have been wrongfully denied legal marriage, which can be the door that leads to eligibility for benefits. You can read more about how these cases have changed who can be eligible in this new fact sheet from SSA https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-17-019.pdf

SSA's new LGBTQ+ web portal, also available in Spanish, was published this month in celebration of Pride. Like other pages on the SSA website it is likely to continue to expand. https://www.ssa.gov/people/lgbtq/

We still have a long way to go to create real equity and fairness. West Virginia Senior Legal Aid is dedicated to providing legal assistance that promotes the autonomy of every senior, and we seek to do a better job servin LGBTQ+ senior West Virginians who can use our help. Any senior West Virginian age 60 or over can call us at 1-800-229-5068 to speak to a lawyer for free and to be treated with dignity and respect by all our staff.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Mountaineers Aging with Pride: Elder Abuse Among LGBTQ+ Individuals

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. June is also PRIDE Month. As we take this time to recognize all elders that have been and are currently experiencing abuse, let us also recognize specifically LGBTQ+ elders that have experienced physical, sexual, mental, emotional, financial, and other types of abuse.

In a study done in 2001 by D’Augelli & Grossman, 416 LGB elders (transgender elders were not included in the study) age 60 or older, it was found that 65% of those elders had experienced some type of abuse because of their sexual orientation. In another survey done in 2009, 3,500 LGBT elders (55 or older), 8.3% of them reported to be abused or neglected by a caretaker because they were an LGBT individual and 8.9% were blackmailed or financially exploited. (Frazer, 2009)

Mistreatment and discrimination of LGBT elders happens in long-term care facilities, too. Facility staff might refuse to accept LGBT resident’s power of attorney, deny visitors, psychologically abuse a resident, or even a failure to provide proper medical care. A study published in 2011 by National Senior Citizens Law Center with the collaboration of others, reported LGBT individuals, or someone they knew, was denied medical treatment because of their perceived sexual identity. 46% reported that they or a loved one was not comfortable self-identifying with medical staff. This has resulted in LGBTQ+ elders being “recloseted” because of fears they have for their health and safety as an LGBTQ+ individual in a long-term care facility. Those who are residing in long-term care facilities have the same rights to be free from discrimination as people living in the community.

There are numerous reasons why LGBTQ+ seniors may struggle to seek help after abuse. Many LGBTQ elders grew up in a homophobic environment, so they can be prone to hide their sexuality or gender identity. There are some people who experience guilt and shame and legal discrimination. An example of legal discrimination would be discouraging elder LGBTQ+ victims from getting out of abusive relationships because they have little to no legal rights to the money and assets between them and their partner.

West Virginia is not the exception. We are included in the numbers. Everyday seniors in West Virginia are experiencing physical, sexual, mental, financial, and emotional abuse. We at WV Senior Legal Aid are here to help seniors prevent and remedy abuse in West Virginia. If you are 60 years or older and a resident of WV, call us at 1.800.229.5068 to talk to an attorney for free.

contributed by Katie McCausley, Public Interest Law Fellow at WVSLA

Monday, June 13, 2022

Mountaineers Aging with Pride: LGBTQ+ Individuals Aging Solo

The United States is a country where elder care is primarily the responsibility of partners and adult children. According to SAGE, LGBTQ+ elder adults are TWICE as likely to live alone and FOUR TIMES as likely to not have children. With that being said, LGBTQ+ seniors are more likely to struggle with successfully aging into their communities. This obstacle also stems from possible years of discrimination, therefore LGBTQ+ seniors are hesitant, or even afraid, to reach out and access the support and resources that are essential for them to flourish as an aging adult.

Aging adults rely on spouses, children, and sometimes other relatives to take the workload of caring for them as they age. A U.S. Census Bureau report showed that out of the 47.9 million informal caregivers in the United States, 89 percent of those individuals are caring for a family member. However, our laws do not always provide protection for aging for all types of individuals and families.

As we enter into PRIDE month, it is the perfect time to recognize that many LGBTQ+ seniors may be facing the aging process alone, therefore we think it is important to be prepared and informed about aging on your own. There are steps that can be taken in the aging process that increase the likelihood your wishes will be respected in later life. Steps include, but are not limited to, creating and updating your powers of attorney for healthcare and finances, guardianship and representative payee advance designations, and letters of intent. We at WV Senior Legal Aid care about seniors aging in West Virginia and can help answer your questions about your plan for aging well. If you are 60 years or older and a resident of WV, call us at 1.800.229.5068 to talk to an attorney for free.

contributed by Katie McCausley, Public Interest Law Fellow at WVSLA

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Early voting for the 2022 WV primary election begins today and continues through Saturday, May 7

Early voting for the 2022 West Virginia primary election begins today and continues through Saturday, May 7. All 55 counties in West Virginia offer early voting and if you have never taken advantage of the opportunity, this may be the year to try it out. Early voting is a good way to assure your vote will count if your polling place has changed because of this year’s redistricting, or if you have had other changes, such as a street address or name change. Poll workers can help you update your status during the early voting period, a service which isn’t available on election day.

You may find that you are in a different state senate district, house district, or voting precinct this year. Every 10 years district lines are redrawn based on the results of the United States census. Districts must have close to equal populations and can’t discriminate based on race or ethnicity. Since districts were redrawn to account for population losses and shifts, your polling place may be an entirely different place than it was in the past.

The good news is that early voting not only allows you to avoid the potential waiting in line you might find on election day, but many counties have several convenient early voting polling places.

When you early vote, the procedure is the same as voting on election day. You go to the early voting polling place, tell the poll worker your name, and show valid, non-expired identification. It doesn’t necessarily have to have your picture on it. Many forms of ID are acceptable including your voter registration card, Medicare or Medicaid card, birth certificate, hunting or fishing license, bank card, and of course driver’s license, passport, or military ID. There are also exemptions to the requirement for identification, one of which is that the poll worker has known the voter for at least 6 months.

If you are registered as unaffiliated (an Independant) instead of a member of the Democrat, Libertarian, Mountain, or Republican party, then you must ask for the party’s ballot of your choice. Otherwise, you will be limited to voting for non-partisan issues such as different kinds of bonds or levies, and non-partisan offices like judge and board of education. It is important to remember when you identify yourself as unaffilliated/Independent, you have to say that you want a Democrat, Republican, Mountain, or Libertarian ballot. The poll worker is NOT supposed to say anything to you to help you remember this.

Information on the status of your individual voter’s registration, on the voting districts for the primary election, polling places, early voting locations (and times they are open), sample ballots, voter identification information, and more is available online at GoVoteWV.com or follow this link: https://sos.wv.gov/elections/Pages/GoVoteWV.aspx. If you can’t or don’t want to use the online tools, then you may also call your county clerk to ask for this information.

Monday, April 25, 2022

National Crime Victims' Rights Week

This week is National Crime Victims' Rights Week. If you have been the victim of a crime, you deserve justice. You can talk to a lawyer for free about your rights at WV Senior Legal Aid if you are a senior West Virginian age 60+. If you know a senior West Virginian who you think may have been victimized, please give them the number and encourage them to call for advice. WV Senior Legal Aid 1-800-229-5068.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

West Virginia Elections: Primary May 10, 2022, voter registration deadline April 19, 22

We have a primary election coming up Tuesday, May 10, 2022. Since we had a substantial redistricting in our state legislature many registered West Virginia voters may find their state delegate and senate district lines have changed.

The House of Delegates now has only single-member districts, so any district that previously had multiple delegates has been changed so you will only be able to vote for and elect a single delegate this year. You can find out about your new district information using the address tool on the WV Secretary of State's website govotewv.com.

You have only until April 19, 2022 to register to vote in this primary or to change your voter registration for this primary. You can make changes to your voter registration, including your party affiliation, also through that same website govotewv.com.

There are a few ways you can register to vote. 1. You can apply online at that website. You'll need your WV drivers license or state-issued ID number. 2. You can mail in a paper application to your county clerk. You can download the application on that website or contact your county clerk for a copy. 3. You can register in person at a variety of places including your county clerk's office, the DMV, and disability services organizations.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Celebrating Women's History Month

In observance of Women’s History Month, West Virginia Senior Legal Aid salutes a vital historic preservation effort to commemorate feminist activist endeavors that have changed our world.

Focusing on West Virginia’s feminist activists is the purpose of a new collection of information, documents and artifacts that is growing ever larger at WVU‘s West Virginia Regional & History Center. See why it’s important at https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/collections/west-virginia-feminist-activist-collection

“Don’t Throw It Out” was an online session held in March 2021 to explain the purpose of the West Virginia Feminist Activist Collection. It will chronicle the Mountain State’s participants in the women’s rights movement and establish a searchable online base for oral histories, appropriate records, and items relating to the ground-breaking efforts on economic justice, social justice, health issues, professional development and other areas of concern.

Whether a person organized a rally, set up issue development sessions, marched in a protest or was a female pioneer in her professional field, that information can become a part of the collection. Feminist activism took many forms, and all were needed.

Event posters, handwritten documents, newspaper clippings, photos, mailings, and any other items that relate to the women’s movement as it played out in West Virginia are welcome. Some examples are shown on this website: https://wvrhc-feminist-archives-a-curated-selection.webnode.com/.

For those who can recommend a person to be profiled for the archives or have documents and items that could be added to it, please contact Lori Hostuttler at 304-293-1116 or lori.hostuttler@mail.wvu.edu. This is history that should not be forgotten!

Monday, February 14, 2022

Valentines Day Romance Scam Reminder

Senior West Virginians are targets for romance scams. The scammers are so good at convincing you that their love is real, even when it is really just a relationship designed to get you to give them your money, or unknowingly participate in a money mule scheme.

There are a few clues that can help identify when your true love on the internet is not true at all.

  • They are far far away. Never close enough for a visit, and when they do plan a visit there is always a last minute excuse they can't make it.
  • It happened so fast. Real relationships take time, but scammers make you believe it is love at first internet sight, they'll instantly say you are soulmates and use lots of honey and babe terms of endearment fast.
  • They just need a little money for something sudden and important. Usually they want it a very specific payment method, like through a gift card or Western Union. Then the demands get bigger and switch, like to a money mule scam.
  • True love is not jealous. If your far away sweetheart starts getting upset with you and jealous because you talk to other people including your friends and family, that is a big red flag something is not right. Don't ignore it. Being hot and cold with you and making you worried you'll upset them is called gaslighting. It is designed to push you to do things you wouldn't do if you if you were feeling calm and had time to think.
  • Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from romance scams:

  • Don't ever give your online/telephone sweetheart your bank information, social security number, or other personal details like your mom's maiden name, the street you grew up on, your first car model, etc.
  • Be ready to say NO to requests for money, no matter how urgent or reasonable it sounds.
  • Stop. Hang up. Walk away for a minute. Think. Don't feel pressured to do anything in a rush, urgency is a classic tactic of scammers.
  • Tell someone you trust as soon as you get a feeling something is not right. This can be very hard. It can be embarrassing. But someone you really know you can trust can be the lifeline that saves you from making a small loss into a huge loss.
  • If you are at least 60 years old and a West Virginian you can call and talk to a lawyer for free about scams, financial exploitation, or any civil legal problem or question. 1.800.229.5068.

    Saturday, February 12, 2022

    Black history is West Virginia history

    In observance of Black History Month, West Virginia Senior Legal Aid remembers those brave people who decided to challenge the many inhumanities of slavery in America.

    Virginia’s population before the Civil War included the largest number of enslaved people in the country at that time. Slavery was legal in 15 states before the Civil War.

    The mountainous areas that would become West Virginia also included slave-owning people. Abolitionists lived within Virginia’s borders as well. They and African Americans were committed to helping enslaved people on their torturous and dangerous journey to freedom.

    The Underground Railroad had, by necessity, to be a very secret organization. Operating from the 1830s through the end of the Civil War around the country, no formal records were kept or photos taken of the people or process.

    Those making this perilous journey to freedom were not given maps or provisions. If they were fortunate enough to find a road leading north, northeast or northwest and could appreciate that was the best direction to go, they stood a better chance.

    Should they try to hitch a ride on a wagon? Even if it were driven by a black man, what if the driver turned them in? How would they know where they were safe from capture? How would they get enough food to keep on traveling? Nighttime was their friend for moving around, but their lack of familiarity with an area would be a great danger to them.

    the Ramsdell House in Ceredo WV
    For those who escaped from whatever plantation or farm and were able to reach the small town of Ceredo along the Ohio River, there was aid. Built by Zopher Ramsdell in 1858, his two-story brick house contained a place to hide before crossing into Ohio, a free state. A trap door in the floor of the home led to a crawlspace and cellar for shelter.

    Oral histories have confirmed that the home was a last stop on the Underground Railroad before freedom.

    Ramsdell and a number of others had moved from New England to Ceredo for the purpose of participating in the Underground Railroad. The anti-slavery group established the town in 1857. A shoemaker by trade, he built a shoe and boot factory in the area. Ramsdell House is now a museum open for free tours.

    “Aunt Jenny” was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Between Parkersburg and Belpre, Ohio during the 1840s, she aided runaway slaves fleeing through the area by notifying agents across the river of their presence and gathering information about slave catchers who would earn a bounty for each captured slave.

    Historians believe that Aunt Jenny was a Black woman named Edna Sutton. Her brave efforts have been commemorated on a historic marker in Point Park in Parkersburg.

    On WV Rt. 18 near New Milton in Doddridge County is the two-story brick home of Deborah and Jepthah Fitz Randolph. Members of the Seventh Day Baptist religious denomination, the Fitz Randolphs were abolitionists and were known for opening their home, built in the late 1840s, as a temporary stop for runaway slaves.

    The home is in private hands today and still stands as a testament to the will of those who risked their own lives and freedom to help, at any time of the day or night, those who were desperate to live as free people.

    All of those mentioned here lived to see the end of slavery and West Virginia becoming the nation’s 35th state, a free state, in 1863.

    This article is contributed by Deb Miller

    Tuesday, January 11, 2022

    QR code and cryptocurrency scamming

    New year, new scam spins. The FTC is warning that there are some fresh ways that scammers are separating you from your money this year and they are using QR codes and cryptocurrency.

    First, you get a call or a message from maybe a government agency (an imposter, of course), or perhaps a romantic interest you met online. They convince you to send money for some urgent purpose. They stay on the phone with you directing you to a local crypto ATM machine.

    Then after you buy some crypto currency at the machine they send you a QR code. You scan the QR code with your phone and the crypto goes straight to their address.

    And your money is gone. Fast.

    Remember, no government agency will demand payment in a call. No government agency will request payment in crypto. You haven't won any prize, and your online love interest is not who they say they are if they are asking you for money.

    Recognize the warning signs, talk about them with your friends so we all know what is out there, and before you give your money to anyone STOP, hang up, and take just a minute to calmly think about it.

    If you are a West Virginia resident age 60 or over you can talk to a lawyer in private for free about scams, money, planning, or any other legal issue at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid 1.800.229.5068.

    Monday, January 03, 2022

    Fraud Alert: Don't click on texts about vaccine status and drivers license validation

    From the WV Department of Health and Human Resources:

    The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) has received reports of individuals receiving spam text messages asking them to validate their driver’s license through the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    No such message has been generated by DHHR and should be immediately deleted. Do not click on the link provided in the text message.

    The spam text message reads: “West Virginia Covid-19 Vaccine Driver License Waiver Validation. Validate your details below” (with a clickable link). It then states, “Department of Health l State of West Virginia. Text “STOP” to stop msg.”

    An additional spam message reads: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in partnership with the West Virginia State DMV requires an immediate validation of your Covid-19 status. This is a waiver validation update and a compulsory one-time validation for all West Virginia residents.”

    DHHR will never ask for personal information via text message."

    Don't click on any of it, don't reply to any of it, and delete the text messages if you get them. Tell your friends about this scam so they recognize it before they get scammed by it.

    If you are at least 60 years old and a West Virginia resident with concerns about this scam or any other legal question or problem you can talk to a lawyer for free at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid 1-800-229-5068. Have a safe new year!

    Wednesday, November 10, 2021

    Thank you senior West Virginia veterans! WV Senior Legal Aid is open on Veterans Day to serve.

    West Virginia Senior Legal Aid will be open on Veterans Day 11/11/21. We thank our senior veterans for their service and are here to serve your legal needs. 1.800.229.5068 http://seniorlegalaid.org

    Tuesday, October 19, 2021

    Heads Up: Medicare Annual Enrollment now through December 7, 2021

    >Over 439,000 West Virginians are Medicare beneficiaries. There is a lot to know about Medicare. Here are a few tips for figuring what you need to do during this annual enrollment period:

    1. If you didn't enroll in Medicare when you were first eligible your opportunity to enroll is now.
    2. If you want to make changes or switch plans for Part D prescription drug coverage your opportunity is now.
    3. If you want to leave original Medicare provided by the government and go to a Medicare Advantage Plan provided by a private insurance company, or switch back from an advantage plan to original Medicare, the time is now.
    4. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what you should do now, and there is a lot to know. You can get assistance from trained Medicare counselors through the West Virginia SHIP program (877) 987-3646. 
    Be careful not to enroll in something that you don't understand or aren't confident is right for you. Recognize that if you enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan you are leaving original Medicare. For some beneficiaries this makes sense and for some it does not, so get good advice from a neutral trained counselor. It's not wise to rely only on the advice offered by a sales agent from an insurance company.

    One important difference between original Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans: your preferred doctor and your preferred hospital both accept original Medicare, but advantage plans only cover doctors and hospitals within their plan networks.

    Be aware of the source of the information you are using, and consider the motives and biases of the source. Old tv and sports stars are not doing commercials for the government, they work for private insurance companies selling products.

    Last tip: don't wait until the last minute to seek help during this Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. If you get good quality advice in time to think about your options you are more likely to make the best choice for yourself and get properly enrolled in what you need.

    Friday, July 16, 2021

    Are conservatorships really that Toxic? Britney Spears is using her voice to show what a Circus it has been for her.

    The news about Britney Spears in court trying to take back control of her life and money has raised questions about guardianship, conservatorship, legal rights to make your own choices, and how you can take back control.

    Q: What is #FreeBritney?

    A: #FreeBritney is a hashtag that has been used to garner attention regarding Britney Spears and the conservatorship she is under. This movement has been going on for quite some time, but has gained much more popularity in recent months as Spears has expressed to the court that she wants to regain control of her own life.

    Q: What is a conservatorship?

    A: Guardianships and conservatorships are governed by state law, so the definitions can vary by state. In West Virginia, a guardian is a person appointed by the Circuit Court who is responsible for the personal and medical decisions of a “protected person” (someone who doesn’t have the capacity to take care of themselves). A conservator is a person appointed by the court who is responsible for managing the financial affairs of a protected person. The same person can fill both roles or the court can assign the roles to two different individuals. Sometimes only one or the other is necessary to be appointed. Read the entire state statute here.

    Q: Why is Spears under a conservatorship?

    A: Beginning in 2007, Britney experienced erratic behavior in public that resulted in her mental stability to be questioned, not only by those close to her, but by her fans and the general public. In 2008, Britney’s father, James Spears, successfully petitioned a California court to appoint him as her conservator, which under California law meant Britney no longer had the legal right to make her own personal, medical, and financial decisions. Because the court granted his petition, James Spears controlled Britney’s personal and medical decisions (who she had contact with, where she lived, when she visited her children, and, most infamously, decisions about her birth control) while he shared control of her finances with a court appointed co-conservator, attorney Andrew Wallet. In 2018 the conservatorship was modified, and from that time until the present, James Spears shares control of Britney’s finances with Bessemer Trust, an estate management firm, while a court appointed professional, Jodi Montgomery, controls her personal and medical decisions.

    Q: Will the conservatorship last forever?

    A: Conservatorships in most states are usually ordered to be permanent, though the protected person or another individual can later petition for termination or change if the circumstances that led to the conservatorship have changed. Only a court can determine the answer to this. Beginning in 2007, Britney experienced erratic behavior in public that resulted in her mental stability to be questioned, not only by those close to her, but by her fans and the general public. In 2008, Britney’s father, James Spears, successfully petitioned a California court to appoint him as her conservator, which under California law meant Britney no longer had the legal right to make her own personal, medical, and financial decisions. Because the court granted his petition, James Spears controlled Britney’s personal and medical decisions (who she had contact with, where she lived, when she visited her children, and, most infamously, decisions about her birth control) while he shared control of her finances with a court appointed co-conservator, attorney Andrew Wallet. In 2018 the conservatorship was modified, and from that time until the present, James Spears shares control of Britney’s finances with Bessemer Trust, an estate management firm, while a court appointed professional, Jodi Montgomery, controls her personal and medical decisions. uested a hearing regarding her conservatorship. During a California probate court hearing in June, Spears was able to directly address the judge via telephone. Spears told Los Angeles probate judge Brenda Penny she is “not happy” and “traumatized.” (Full transcript here). In July, the court ruled Spears has the right to hire her own attorney in the case. Depending on what the court decides, it could go on Until the World Ends. But it sounds like Spears will seek an attorney to help achieve her goal of ending the conservatorship.

    Q: Are guardianships/conservatorships always a bad thing?

    A: No. For an adult who is not capable of managing money, medical, or personal decisions well enough to maintain a safe life a good guardian or a conservator can provide that help. But a guardianship or conservatorship should be the last resort imposed by a court only if lesser restrictive options cannot adequately protect the person. Sometimes an informal team of friends, family, and others is all that is needed to help a person maintain independence safely. Supported decision making can avoid the need for guardianship and conservatorship for many people.

    If you are at least 60 yrs old and a West Virginia resident and have questions, you can talk to an attorney for free at WV Senior Legal Aid, 1.800.229.5068.

    contributed by Alexis Schneider, Public Interest Law Fellow at WVSLA

    Wednesday, June 16, 2021

    Juneteenth: You are not free until you know you are free

    Many of us never learned in school about Juneteenth. We may have learned about General Lee's surrender at Appomattox or President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation as the end of slavery in America, but for many African Americans it would actually be two and half years that they were freed.

    In Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865 federal troops arrived to take over Texas and impose General Gordon Granger's order No. 3 that all slaves were free and had equal rights.

    This day has been celebrated as Jubilee Day or Freedome Day in various places since then, but now nationwide we celebrate it as Juneteenth.

    No matter what the law says, if you don't know you have rights you don't really have rights.

    West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has enacted a proclamation making Juneteenth a paid holiday for state workers, to be celebrated this year on Friday, June 18. https://governor.wv.gov/Documents/2021%20Proclamations/Juneteenth-%2006-17-21.pdf

    At West Virginia Senior Legal Aid we celebrate liberty and justice on Juneteenth, and everyday we strive to continue the fight for racial equity in our state and across the country and the world.