Thursday, December 04, 2014

West Virginians, do you have input about the future of senior services?

The WV Bureau of Senior Services is planning for the future and interested in your input. Survey here

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

UPDATED 12/1/14 Silver Alert issued for Belington woman

UPDATE: On 12/1/14 Valerie Kay Robinson's body was found and has been sent to the State Medical Examiner's office.
The Barbour County Sheriff's Department has issued a silver alert for a Belington woman.
Valerie Kay Robinson, 57, of Belington was last seen at 5:30 p.m. at her residences on Centre Street in Belington. Robinson suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Robinson is 5'2”, 140 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a white sweater, black dress pants, a Native American style headband, and was carrying a green purse.
If you have any information on Robinson's whereabouts, please contact the Barbour County Sheriff's Department 304-457-5167.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Public hearings on 17% rate increases for WV electric customers

West Virginians served by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, American Electric Power’s (AEP) operating electric utility providers in the Mountain State can attend a series of upcoming public hearings, as the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (WV PSC) considers approval of a proposed 17 percent rate hike that will impact approximately 476,000 customers in 23 West Virginia counties.

Earlier this year, AEP filed a request with the WV PSC for a $226 million increase in current rates and charges for their West Virginia customers. The filing also includes a requested revision of AEP’s depreciation rates.

The WV PSC will host a series of public hearings on this rate case (WV PSC Cases #14-1152-E-42T and #14-1151-E-D) in five communities:
Bradshaw: Wednesday, Nov. 5
1 p.m. & 6 p.m., Bradshaw Community Center.

Princeton: Thursday, Nov. 6
1 p.m. & 6 p.m., Mercer County Courthouse, 1501 Main St.

Huntington: Thursday, Nov. 13
1 p.m. & 6 p.m., Cabell County Courthouse, 750 5th Ave.

Wheeling: Thursday, Nov. 20
1 p.m. & 6 p.m., Ohio County Courthouse, City-County Complex, 1500 Chapline St.

Charleston: Monday, Jan. 12, 2015
1 p.m. & 6 p.m., Public Service Commission of WV, 201 Brooks St.

The WV PSC will hold evidentiary hearings on the case January 13 – 16, 2015 in Charleston. Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power customers may submit comments online at by selecting the “Submit A Comment” link, or mail public comment to the West Virginia Public Service Commission, 201 Brooks Street, PO Box 812, Charleston, WV 25323. (Reference PSC Case Number #14-1152-E-42T and #14-1151-E-D).

- See more at:

- Thank you AARP WV for putting together this information for publication

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Training: Improving Services to LGBT Older Adults

The WVU School of Social Work in partnership with the WV Bureau of Senior Services and SAGE Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders is offering a day-long training:

Improving the Quality of Services and Supports Offered to LGBT Older Adults by Aging Network Providers

November 7, 2014
Monongalia General Hospital Conference Center, Mylan Room, Morgantown, WV
Approved for 8 Social Work hours,7.5 LPC hours,9 Nursing hours, and 8 Gerontology Practitioner Certificate hours (4 hours Social Policy and Aging and 4 hours Psychosocial Processes and Mental Health)

Cost: $85 (early bird rate of $76.50 by October 10, 2014)

Kathi Boyle, Coordinator of Older Adult Services at PERSAD Center in Pittsburgh, PA will be the trainer for the workshop. Ms. Boyle is a certified trainer through the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging
*Participants will understand the culture, specific health risks, and health disparities impacting the elderly Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) population.
*Participants will learn how to expand and change current policy and practice areas to ensure safety, quality and inclusiveness of services for this population
*Completion of the training includes agency listing in a searchableonline database for LGBT consumers at

For more information or to register, go to and click on the Registration Form link. You'll need to fill in the information about this particular workshop, the form is generic for all the workshops offered this year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WVU Festival of Ideas present 97 yr old photojournalist John G. Morris

October 8, 2014
7:30 p.m.
The Erickson Alumni Center

John Godfrey Morris is the most influential photo editor of his generation. His work with Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, among many other influential photojournalists, can be seen in the iconic images from Life, Ladies’ Home Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and National Geographic that define the visual memory of the 20th century. At 97 years old, he hasn’t slowed down, spending his time as a freelance writer and editor working for peace.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Senior Legal Aid's Greatest Hits

We've served over 12,000 senior West Virginians over the past 15+ years. We've gotten questions about a broad variety of civil legal issues: consumer, healthcare, landlord/tenant, home ownership, family law, planning for incapacity, disability rights, elder abuse, nursing home, Social Security and other benefits, even paternity. From soup to nuts. I don't think we've ever gotten exactly the same question or problem twice.

But there are a few answers and advice that keep coming back, at least to prevent future problems if not solve the current one. Here are a few of those old chestnuts:

  1. Don't sign anything you don't understand or haven't read carefully. It might seem obvious but people do it and call us with the regrets. If you don't feel comfortable reading it yourself, get somebody your trust to read it for you. If you're being pressured to sign without carefully reviewing, it's probably a bad idea, don't do it.
  2. Neither the credit card company nor their collection agents can garnish your Social Security. So there's not likely any reason to keep talking to them when they call after you've already told them you can't afford to pay the bill. There's nothing you can say that will change that situation. The debt won't go away merely because you can't pay it, but they won't get paid if what little you get each month and have is protected by law from collections.
  3. When filing a complaint focus more on the solution than the problem. The more specific you can be about what you want to have happen now the more likely you are to get it. Rather than rehashing what already happened, what they did that wasn't right, trying to figure out why people do things you don't like, try making it easy for somebody to say "Yes, let's do that, that's a reasonable solution."
  4. Don't pay people up front for work, pay after the work is satisfactorily completed. Reputable contractors have credit they can use for materials. Disreputable ones don't. The lowest bidder on the job is not likely to do the best work.
  5. Get it in writing. Not only will it help prove your case if a problem arises, it prevents a lot of problems. When you each see the specific terms of an agreement you might realize, that's not what I thought you meant, or I didn't realize there would be these other costs, too.
  6. The law can't make a bad _________________ (landlord, boss, neighbor, etc.) into a good ____________________ (landlord, boss, neighbor, etc.). The law is mostly designed to get you compensated if somebody harms you, and you can prove it, and they have resources to pay. The law does not prevent people from lying, being mean, doing stupid things, violating your rights, or all the other bad things people do to each other. Only the Magic 8 Ball knows why people act the say they do. "They can't do that, can they?" Apparently they did, so yes, they can. The question I can answer better is how can you exercise your right to make it stop and try to get them to pay you for the damage.

Oh, there are so many more of these, maybe it merits a Part Two post sometime. Til then, here's hoping your neighbors, bosses, landlords, in-laws, merchants, banks, and spouses treat you with the kindness and respect you deserve!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Happy 10th Birthday, Aging & Law in WV Blawg!

Make a wish, blow out the candles, we've reached the double digits! It's hard to believe it's been 10 years that we've had this blawg going, but here we are. Looking forward to the next 10! Thank you to every reader, and special thanks to our community partners for your continuing support: the WV Bureau of Senior Services, Northwestern Area Agency on Aging, Upper Potomac Area Agency on Aging, Metro Area Agency on Aging, Appalachian Area Agency on Aging, the federal Administration on Aging, each of the 55 county senior center programs, the Aging and Disability Resource Centers, WV SHIP, the Alzheimer's Association, AARP, Legal Aid of West Virginia, Northern West Virginia Center for Independent Living, the West Virginia Advocates, WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities, the Regional Long-term Care Ombudsman, the West Virginia State Bar, and many more.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Special Thanks to the WV Fund for Law in the Public Interest!

West Virginia Senior Legal Aid (WVSLA) has had the great fortune of hosting two Public Interest Fellows this summer. The WV Fund for Law in the Public Interest (WVFLIPI) provided the funds to pay two students from WVU College of Law to work for us full-time for 10 weeks. They will be finishing up their Fellowships next week, and we will be sad to see them go! They have done fantastic work for senior West Virginians this summer.

They are finishing up elderlaw projects to make sure the information we offer to our individual clients and on our website and in publications is accurate, relevant, and understandable. This includes the annual update of our Frequently Asked Questions publication and the creation of a new legal guide for LGBT senior West Virginians. Creating and maintaining these resources wouldn't be possible without the great work of our Fellows.

In the past 2 months our Public Interest Fellows have helped us serve the legal needs of 156 individual senior West Virginians from 42 counties across the state. 98 are female, 58 are male. 128 live below 200% of the federal poverty line, 73 live below 100% of the federal poverty line. 24 were over 80 yrs old, 48 were between 70 and 80, 84 were between 60 and 70 years old. 6 were victims of financial exploitation. Legal issues clients presented included insurance, planning for incapacity, torts, problems with drivers licenses, nursing home rights, landlord/tenant, home ownership, taxation, long-term care Medicaid, Medicare coverage denials, grandparent rights, spousal support, divorce, utilities, warranties, dealing with debt and collections, and more.

We reviewed documents, drafted documents, negotiated with adverse parties, assessed for eligibility for benefits, gave referrals for representation, provided printed legal information, and gave personalized legal advice to answer legal questions and resolve legal problems.

Thank you to WVFLIPI and to Brown Holston and Laura Lee Partington for helping all these WV seniors protect their homes, their incomes, their access to healthcare, and their personal autonomy.

Monday, July 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

free webinars on post-DOMA legal changes

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

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

Social Security and SSI Post-DOMA: Changes for Same Gender Couples?
DATE: Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Presenter: Gerald McIntyre, NSCLC Directing Attorney
Register at

Medicare & Medicaid Post-DOMA: Changes for Same Gender Couples?
DATE: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Presenters: Georgia Burke, NSCLC Directing Attorney, TBD
Register at


Monday, June 30, 2014

Transfer on Death Deed available in WV

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the the new statute at

Friday, April 04, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 03, 2014

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

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

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

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

You can find additional information at

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Congress extends QI program again

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

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

You can find more information about the Medicare Savings Programs at

Friday, February 21, 2014

WV Legislature Crossover Day Next Week

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

You can check the status of bills that interest you through the legislature's website and any bill that has not made it to 3rd reading in its originating house will be dead for this year.

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

Friday, January 10, 2014

Understanding Medicare Webinar Jan 14

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

Monday, January 06, 2014

State Legislature opens 2014 session on January 8

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

Download a state legislative calendar for 2014 here

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

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

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

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

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

For more information see the fact sheet from the DOL's Wage and Hour Division

Federal Guidance for banks about reporting financial exploitation

From the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today:

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

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

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

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

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