Thursday, April 16, 2015

Day 6 Report from Iowa Sexual Assault-Dementia Trial

April 16, 2015 was the sixth day of trial in the criminal prosecution for sexual assault, in State of Iowa v. Henry Rayhons.  The prosecution completed its case-in-chief, the trial judge denied defense counsel's motion for judgment of acquittal, and the defense counsel called several witnesses for Mr. Rayhons.  Today's evidence, as described by various media sources linked below, included:

  • Final Witness for the Prosecution:  The state called a state criminologist to explain testing on various items of physical evidence,from the night in question.  According to media coverage of the trial, the criminologist  testified that "she did not find any seminal fluid in the sexual assault kit [on swabs from Donna taken on the night in question] but says that is not uncommon." She testified there "appeared to be a seminal fluid stain in the inside of Donna’s underwear," the same underwear that was alleged to have been deposited in a laundry hamper by the defendant on the night in question. Tests on the stain "detected DNA from [the defendant]."
  • The First Witness for the Defense, the "Roommate:" The woman who shared Donna Rayhons' room in the nursing home the night on question, was reported as testifying that  "Donna had become a good friend. Someone who she could count on to go to activities and speak with."  She is reported to have testified she’s "uncomfortable talking about that day but says she does remember something happening, but only assumed that it was sex on the other side of the curtain."
  • A Clinical Physician (and Assistant Professor of Medicine from the University of Iowa):  The defendant's expert witness is reported as having given opinion testimony to the effect that based on review of evidence, ""I believe Donna would've been more likely to give consent than not."
  • Patricia Wright, a Daughter of Donna Rayhons (called by the Defense): Reported as saying her mother "lit up" whenever Henry Rayhons entered the room.
  • The Son and Daughter of Henry Rayhons:  Describing their relationship with their father, their  father's relationship with Donna, and their own respect for Donna.

As described by the Globe Gazette, there appeared to be especially poignant testimony from one of Donna's daughters, Patricia: 

In July, Donna Lou Rayhons asked her daughter, Patricia Wright, if she had seen Henry. “He can’t come anymore,” Wright remembered her mother saying.

 

“Mom was talking very softly. Much more softly than she usually did and she kept putting her hand to her head. My impression was she was very sad,” Wright told the jury. “Then she would say things like ‘I love him. I love my girls. I love him. I love my girls.’ And she would say that kind of repeatedly.”

As more reports are published from the 6th day of the Rayhons trial, I will try to capture them here with a supplement to this Blog Post. 

UPDATE: Here is a link to a more detailed account of the trial testimony on Thursday from The Des Moines Register, explaining that Donna Rayhons had three daughters, including Patricia, from a prior marriage.  One of the other daughters testified for the prosecution.

April 16, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Comment Window Opens for Proposed Rules re Conflicts of Interest in Retirement Advice

The U.S. Department of Labor has released a new proposed rule intended to protect consumers from conflicts of interest among an array of folks who want to give advice about how and where to invest 401(c) and IRA retirement funds.  The new rule would impose a "fiduciary duty" standard on those advisors, rather than the current, lower "suitability" standard for investment advice.

A DOL press release explains the goal: 

"This boils down to a very simple concept: if someone is  paid to give you retirement investment advice, that person should be working in  your best interest," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "As commonsense  as this may be, laws to protect consumers and ensure that financial advisers  are giving the best advice in a complex market have not kept pace. Our proposed  rule would change that. Under the proposed rule, retirement advisers can be  paid in various ways, as long as they are willing to put their customers' best  interest first."

 

Today's announcement includes a proposed rule that would  update and close loopholes in a nearly 40-year-old regulation. The proposal  would expand the number of persons who are subject to fiduciary best interest  standards when they provide retirement investment advice. It also includes a  package of proposed exemptions allowing advisers to continue to receive payments  that could create conflicts of interest if the conditions of the exemption are  met. In addition, the announcement includes a comprehensive economic analysis  of the proposals' expected gains to investors and costs.

The New York Times covers the new rules in "U.S. Plans Stiffer Rules Protecting Retiree Cash," and notes the history of opposition to this kind of reform from -- surprise, surprise -- the "financial services industry." There is a 75-day window for public comments on the latest proposal.

Perhaps my biggest surprise was the remarkably "consumer friendly" presentation of the proposed change by the Department of Labor on its webpage, beginning with this simple video describing conflicts of interest.   

April 16, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Property Management, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Justice in Aging Is Hiring for Attorney to Join their Health Team in D.C.

Justice in Aging (a 40+ year-old organization, until recently known as the National Senior Citizens Law Center) is "seeking a strategic, dynamic attorney" to join their health team in the Washington D.C. office.  They are requesting applications by May 1, with a target start date of June 1. 

Requirements include: 

  • A J.D.
  • At least 7 years of experience working for a consumer, legal, association, or other non-profit in a similar capacity
  • Creative thinker with experience developing and implementing new advocacy projects to fill existing and emerging needs in underserved communities
  • Capacity to manage multiple projects and people simultaneously
  • Excellent interpersonal skills with demonstrated ability to lead, work as part of a team, and build external relationships
  • Thorough understanding of both national and state legislative and regulatory processes
  • Effective speaking, presentation, and writing skills

For more on the exciting opportunities in this position, see the full "job" posting  on Justice in Aging's website.

April 15, 2015 in Current Affairs, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tighter Rules Loom for Eligibility for Reverse Mortgages

The Washington Post reminds us that changes to federal law for government-backed reverse mortgages, adiopted in 2014, are about to kick in:

"Interested in a reverse mortgage without a lot of hassles? Better get your application in fast. As of April 27, the federal government is imposing a series of extensive 'financial assessment' tests that will make applying for a reverse mortgage tougher — much like applying for a standard home mortgage.

 

***

 

[D]uring the years of the recession and mortgage bust, thousands of borrowers fell into default because they didn’t pay their required property taxes and hazard insurance premiums. On top of that, real estate values plunged, producing huge losses on defaulted and foreclosed properties for the FHA. The losses got so severe that the Treasury Department had to provide the FHA with a $1.7 billion bailout in 2013, the first in the agency’s history since its creation in the 1930s.

 

All of which led to the dramatic changes coming April 27. Applicants are now going to need to demonstrate upfront that they have both the 'willingness' and the 'capacity' to meet their obligations. Reverse-mortgage lenders are going to pull borrowers’ credit reports from the national credit bureaus, just as they do with other mortgages.illion bailout in 2013, the first in the agency’s history since its creation in the 1930s."

For more details see the full Post article at Window Is Rapidly Closing to Get Hassle-Free Reverse Mortgage

Many thanks to Maryland-based Elder Law attorney Morris Klein for sending me this article.  Additional information on "home equity conversion mortgages"is available on the HUD.gov website.

April 14, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Housing, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Day 4 Report on Iowa Sexual Assault-Dementia Trial

On April 13, the fourth day of the trial of State of Iowa v. Henry Rayhons, the prosecution continued presenting evidence in the state's case-in-chief.  Here are links to news sources covering the day's events, including:

  • From KIMT.com: Testimony of a physician from the care facility regarding his opinion regarding  Donna's mental capacity, plus a description of video surveillance of the husband on the night in question, in which "you can see Donna being redirected to her room by Henry, after she had wandered through the halls.  Nearly  30 minutes later, Henry is seen leaving the room [and depositing her underwear in a hamper]."
  • From KIMT's Twitter feed: Excerpts of testimony from nurses and several staff members at the care center, including a report that a Care Center physician testified that "Just like an infant, a person can respond to stimuli. That doesn't involve any consent given."
  • From the Des Moines Register: Reporting that a total of three doctors testified today and that "Dr. John Brady, who is medical director of Concord Care Center, testified that Donna Rayhons had severe dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease. He said any positive reaction to her husband's affectionate advances could be termed a 'primal response,' not a conscious decision to reciprocate."

Further, from the Des Moines Register, an account of the testimony of one of the physicians, a neurologist: "One of the doctors, neurologist Alireza Yarahmadi, disputed any notion that such an Alzheimer's patient could vary greatly in her ability to understand what was going on around her. 'When they're severe, they're going to stay severe,' Yarahmadi testified." 

The trial is expected to continue on Wednesday, April 15 (corrected, after learning no proceedings on Tuesday).

April 13, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Trend in CLEs? Offering Sessions on Mental Health in the Practice of Law

The Washington D.C. Bar Association  has interesting CLE programs.  The D.C. Bar is offering a session this week on Breaking the Silence: Depressing in the Practice of Law:

"The program will discuss the statistics of depression and suicide in the legal profession, the effects of mental illness and what this may look like, how lawyer stress might contribute to depression and anxiety, the causes and symptoms of depression, and how you might support colleagues who are suffering from depression."
Panelists:
  • Denise Perme, LICSW, Manager, D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program, moderator
  • Katherine Bender, PhD, NCC, Programming Director, The Dave Nee Foundation
  • Dan Lukasik, Managing Partner, Bernhardi & Lukasik, PLLC
  • Col. Brett Schneider, MD, Director of Behavioral Health Services, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

The session is on Friday, April 17 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Details about registration and location here

It seems to me that I'm seeing more programming that explores mental health in the practice of law and that seems like a pro-active, healthy trend.

April 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Age is Just a Number (and the Number is "1")

Fun News for Friday:  Golfer Jack Nicholas, the "Golden Bear," wowed the audience and his fellow players (including, apparently, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy) in Augusta, Georgia this week, with an ace on the fourth hole of a Par 3 contest. 

Hole-in-one? Short course or not, at age 75 (heck, at any age), that's impressive and inspiring! 

April 10, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

PA Governor's Executive Order Raises Questions re "Unionizing" Home Care Workers

On February 27, Pennsylvania's new governor, Tom Wolf, issued Executive Order 2015-05 regarding "participant-directed home care services."   

The order reportedly reflects the Governor's interest and support for home care for seniors and persons with disabilities, while also recognizing potential issues such as low wages or absence of benefits, high turnover, inconsistent quality or lack of standards.  The order:

  • Creates a Governor's Advisory Group to advise the administration on "ways to improve the quality of care delivered" through publically funded home care service programs;
  • Recognizes a "representative for Direct Care Workers for the purpose of discussing issues of mutual concern," while also authorizing a procedure for "election" of the representative; and
  • Establishes a "Direct Care Worker List" of all workers paid through state programs, and further permits "an employee organization that has as one of its primary purposes the representation of director care workers" to petition the state to represent a particular unit of direct care workers.

As set forth in recent media reports, the Executive Order has met with resistance from some quarters, including those who are challenging the order as unlawfully permitting "unionization" of home care workers.  On April 6, 2015, a complaint seeking injunctive relief from implementation of the executive order was filed in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court by a home care worker and his long-time client, a "quadriplegic adult with muscular dystrophy receiving care from the [state administered] Attendant Care Services Act.." The complainants are reportedly represented by "The Fairness Center, a conservative public-interest law firm."

April 9, 2015 in Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sad Trial Begins in Iowa for Husband Charged with Sexual Abuse of Wife with Dementia

Today, April 8, is the scheduled day for jury selection to begin for the trial of State of Iowa v. Henry Rayhons.  We've written about the charges here and here, but to summarize, Mr. Rayhons, now age 79, was charged last year with "sexual assault" on his wife, Donna Rayhons (78 at the time), who was residing in a nursing home with Alzheimer's.  Iowa law has several different ways in which a "sexual act without consent" between a "husband and wife" can constitute "sexual abuse in the third degree."  See Iowa Code Section 709.4(2).

Here, because the husband and wife were not "cohabitating," a conviction would appear to depend on the state's ability to prove that the sex act was with a person suffering from a "mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent." It appears the state takes the position that "consent" was impossible because Mrs. Rayhons had been diagnosed with a mental defect, the advanced stages of Alzheimer's.  Further, it appears the state expects to prove that her husband was aware of the diagnosis, and further, that at some point before the evening in question, he "agreed" she was incapable of giving consent because of her condition.  But at the core, isn't there still an essential question about whether, assuming the state can prove those statutory elements, the law is intended to prevent a married couple from having "consensual" relations because one partner has Alzheimer's? 

There apparently was no evidence of physical or emotional damage to Mrs. Rayhons, including no evidence of cries for help or protestations on her part. It appears there will be testimony about the close and loving relationship the couple had before the night in question.   It will be interesting -- and sad -- to hear whether there is evidence of a "sexual act."  

The Washington Post's Sarah Kaplan has drawn together a history on the case to this point, including details first reported by Bryan Gruley for Bloomberg News.  At one point the prosecution tried to get a change of venue for the trial -- a very unusual request from a prosecutor -- which the trial court denied. 

I've been hearing from a lot of folks lately about this case, including several medical professionals. I think that after the charges were first announced in August 2014, many people expected the case to quietly disappear, especially as Mrs. Rayhons has passed away, and her husband, then a state legislator, had retired from office. 

Yesterday, I had the interesting experience of being interviewed for a KABC radio show in Los Angeles by "Dr. Drew." It was pretty clear that with his background, board certified in internal medicine and a clinical professor of psychiatry at USC, Dr. Drew Pinsky was troubled by the possibility that a medical diagnosis could, without more, be treated as prohibiting legally effective consent to sexual relations. (A guardian was appointed for Mrs. Rayhons, but those proceedings were begun after the night in question.)  As Dr. Drew commented during the radio show, even in advanced dementia, there may be core functions that a person continues to be able to enjoy and therefore seek, including eating, drinking and ... intimacy.   

April 8, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"Informal" Arrangements for Home Care? What's the Downside? Here's One...

When it becomes impossible for a loved one to stay at home without help, one decision that families made need to face is whether to use an agency, or hire one or more individuals outright. Agencies are usually more expensive (at least on paper). But direct hires of home aides can raise other questions, including how to handle state and federal income taxes and documentation, insurance, transportation (read: more insurance questions), coverage for holidays, sick leave, overtime, and more.  You start off thinking this is short term help; the reality is it can last much longer....

But there is still one more question that may not be on the family's radar screen, until it is too late.

If the informal home care arrangements eventually don't suffice, perhaps because of increasing frailty and care needs, what happens when the individual's money is gone and there is a need for Medicaid-paid care?  

As explained in a recent Michigan Court of Appeals case, "informal" arrangements for home care may trigger ineligibility for Medicaid-paid care based on state rules or policies implementing federal law.

Continue reading

April 4, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

AARP Reports on the Struggle to Overcome Unemployment for Older Job Seekers

The AARP Public Policy Institute has recently published an Insight Report (March 2015) on older workers and unemployment following the recent economic crisis.  The report draws upon surveys of persons aged 45 to 70 affected by unemployment during the last 5 years.  The primary focus of the analysis is on "reemployment," including what strategies were used in successful efforts to find jobs. 

Lots of interesting information here.  Even though the rate of unemployment is lower for older workers, those losing their jobs later in life stayed unemployed longer than younger job seekers, and their recovery jobs reportedly paid less.  Some of the findings, however, are of equal relevance to younger job seekers.  One set of responses was especially sobering, on a question about possible working life regrets:  

"When asked whether there was anything they wished they had done differently over their working lives or careers to better position themselves for dealing with unemployment, 52 percent said 'yes.' The most common answer —65 percent — was a wish that they had saved more money. Also of note, 48 percent wished they had gone back to school to complete or get another degree, and 38 percent wished they had chosen a different field. The unemployed and the long–term unemployed were more likely than the other groups to wish they had chosen a different field. Those who elected that regret also tended to be younger (56 percent were ages 45 to 54)."

Many thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn at George Washington Law for alerting me to this report, and sending a link to related Wonk Blog coverage of the study from the Washington Post  -- lots of well-explained graphs from an oral presentation that accompanied the launch of AARP's written report. 

April 1, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Impact of Play (It's Not Just for Kids)

While driving home from the grocery recently, I happened to catch "Press Play," a TED Radio Hour broadcast on the importance of play. It was such an interesting program that I ended up taking my groceries for another couple of spins around the block so that I wouldn't miss a segment!  

One interview was with researcher Dr. Stuart Brown, who described his early work with (and about) criminals, including at least one mass murderer.  While no single factor accounted for behavior, he noticed that in some of the worst histories, there was a distinct lack of opportunities for childhood imagination and healthy play.  He brought this forward into research with the general population, with observations about the role of play throughout life, even for persons with deep dementia. He and other researchers on the program were convincing, to wit, that play, involving pure fun and engagement with others, stimulates the brain in important ways.

Continue reading

March 30, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Games | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 27, 2015

NOT Elder Law, But It Is CRIMINAL Law

As reported in the ABA Journal, "A New Jersey lawyer has been sentenced for 10 years in prison for her part in a scheme to steal $3.8 million from 16 elderly victims:"

Prosecutors say the group took control of the finances of their victims by forging a power of attorney or obtaining one under false pretenses. They then added their names to the victims’ bank accounts and transferred the victims’ funds into accounts they controlled. As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Lieberman has agreed to pay $3 million in restitution and testify against her co-defendants. 

Here are more details.  And here. And here. And here And according to one news source, the attorney actually served on the New Jersey Supreme Court's Ethics Committee while already engaged in misusing client funds.  Hat tip to retired New York Attorney Karen Miller, now living in Florida, for sharing a link to the ABA Journal article on this sad set of facts.

March 27, 2015 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How Old Are You? No really, How Old Are You?

 

I thought it fitting to end the week with a recent story from the New York Times.  You know that old saying  that goes something like this "you are only as old as you feel"? Well according to Social Security, a whole bunch of us are a lot older than we are.... The A.P. ran an article on March 16, Flawed Social Security data say 6.5M in US reach age 112. The article notes that the reality is only about 42 people in the world are that old. So what about the other 6.4+ million others?  According to the article, lack of death certificates can be a partial explanation.

But Social Security does not have death records for millions of these people, with the oldest born in 1869, according to a report by the agency's inspector general.

Only 13 of the people are still getting Social Security benefits, the report said. But for others, their Social Security numbers are still active, so a number could be used to report wages, open bank accounts, obtain credit cards or claim fraudulent tax refunds.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Government Affairs held a hearing on  SSA and death records on March 16, 2015. The solution is a bit more complicated than you might think, according to the article. Think about paper records and how time consuming it is to convert them to electronic records.  Social Security is concerned about whether 6.5 million people are alive or not, but  "the inspector general's report did not verify that any of the 6.5 million people are actually dead. Instead, the report assumed they are dead because of their advanced age." An SSA official was quoted as saying "our focus right now is to make sure our data is as accurate and complete as it can be for our current program purpose,... Right now, we're focused on making sure we're paying beneficiaries properly, and that's how we're investing our resources at this time."

March 27, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pennsylvania's New Pro Rep Rules Target Financial Accountability for Lawyers, Including Restrictions re Sales of "Investment Products"

New rules supplementing Pennsylvania's Rules for Professional Conduct, adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in late 2014, are intended to require greater accountability by lawyers for handling of client funds, including sums temporarily deposited in IOLTA accounts.  The rules became effective on March 1, 2015. As we reported on this blog earlier, including here and here, the changes were an important response to disturbing instances of individual attorneys who stole client funds -- in the aggregate amounting to millions of dollars -- that they had purported to "invest" for the clients. 

On March 25, I had the interesting task of serving as a moderator for a meeting hosted by the Elder Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association to explore the implications of the new rules.  Panelists included attorneys Stephen K. Todd and David Fitzsimons who have each served on the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board. They were involved in either the drafting or implementation stages for the new rules. Also helping to set the stage were two additional panelists, practicing elder law and estate planning attorneys, Linda Anderson from the east side of Pennsylvania and John Payne from the west side of the state. 

The audience included attorneys from a range of practice areas around the state, as well as Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd.  The dialogue following the panelists' opening remarks was robust, demonstrating support for the increased standards for record-keeping and safe-keeping of property, as well as enhanced powers for the Disciplinary Board to investigate suspected misconduct and demand accountability and disciplinary compliance. 

Many of the comments and questions focused on a single new rule, reportedly the first in the nation, that addresses the role of lawyers with respect to "investment products," defined to include annuity contracts, life insurance contracts, commodities, investment funds, trust funds or securities. 

The key provisions of new Rule 5.8 provide:

Continue reading

March 26, 2015 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How Well Do You Understand Social Security? Here's a Book to Help.

A new book about Social Security has been getting some buzz since its release last month. Get What's Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out  Social Security is published by Simon & Schuster and authored by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Phillip Moeler & Paul Solman. Here is an excerpt from the publisher's website

Learn the secrets to maximizing your Social Security benefits and earn up to thousands of dollars more each year with expert advice that you can’t get anywhere else. Want to know how to navigate the forbidding maze of Social Security and emerge with the highest possible benefits? You could try reading all 2,728 rules of the Social Security system (and the thousands of explanations of these rules), but Kotlikoff, Moeller, and Solman explain Social Security benefits in an easy to understand and user-friendly style. What you don’t know can seriously hurt you: wrong decisions about which Social Security benefits to apply for cost some individual retirees tens of thousands of dollars in lost income every year.  How many retirees or those nearing retirement know about such Social Security options as file and suspend (apply for benefits and then don’t take them)? Or start stop start (start benefits, stop them, then re-start them)? Or—just as important—when and how to use these techniques? ...

The New York Times ran an article about this book on March 13, 2015. The Social Security Maze and Other U.S. Mysteries discusses the book as well as the intricacies of Social Security. Those of us elder law profs who cover Social Security in our classes know how complex it can be.  As the article illustrates, it is more complicated than even we thought.

Given that there are 2,728 core rules and thousands more supplements to them according to the authors, it pays, literally, to seek out a guide...

The book’s success is also, however, symptomatic of something that we take for granted but should actually disgust us: The complexity of our financial lives is so extreme that we must painstakingly manage each and every aspect of it, from government programs to investing to loyalty programs. Mr. Kotlikoff’s game has yielded large winnings for his friends and readers (and several dinners of gratitude), but the fact that gamesmanship is even necessary in the first place with our national safety net is shameful.

The lead author explained how he came to this point "[s]oon, Mr. Kotlikoff was developing a computer model for various payouts from the government program and realized that consumers might actually pay to use it....From that instinct, a service called Maximize My Social Security was born, though it wasn’t easy to do and get it right. 'We had to develop very detailed code, and the whole Social Security rule book is written in geek,” he said. “It’s impossible to understand.'” The article goes on to illustrate some complexity by using as example health savings accounts and discuss why a well-intentioned law has become so complicated.

We all know it is a complicated program, so it's great to have another resource available to help explain everything. The book is available in hard copy or as an e-book either from the publisher or other book sellers.

March 25, 2015 in Books, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 23, 2015

On Being - With Alzhemier's

On Being, a program broadcast on NPR and via podcast, has an new episode on "Alzheimer's and the Spiritual Terrain of Memory" with many touching moments.  The summary is as follows:

"Alzheimer's disease has been described as 'the great unlearning.' But what does it reveal about the nature of human identity? What remains when memory unravels? Alan Dienstag is a psychologist who has led support groups with early Alzheimer's patients, as well as a writing group he co-designed with the novelist Don DeLillo. He's experienced the early stages of Alzheimer's as a time for giving memories away rather than losing them."

The website offers poems and essays from the writing group.

March 23, 2015 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 20, 2015

NYT's Self-Portrait of an Aging Doper

The cutline for the recent New York Times opinion piece on "How I Buy Weed" caught my eye: "Most of us customers are in late middle age. Soon we'll be in knee braces, panting up the stairs to our dealer's apartment."   

Several years ago, a student in my Elder Law course proposed to write his paper on "medical marijuana for seniors."  I was skeptical, and pushed him fairly hard on the law and science.  (I admit I wanted to make sure this wasn't a bit of a hobby topic for him, bridging all of  his upper division paper courses -- I didn't want this paper to be the latest in a series on "Anti-trust implications of marijuana sales," "First Amendment implications of marijuana use," "U.C.C. implications for marijuana sales," etc.)  But my concern was met fairly and the well-written and researched final paper earned an appropriately high grade.  Some time later, I received a request for a job reference for him as our graduate, from an organization in a western state that was advocating medical marijuana.  He got the job. It was the easiest reference I have ever written -- and, by the way, the state in question now has legalized medical-use marijuana.

So it was with bemusement that I read the New York Times article -- and the colorful comments posted in response.  Sometimes it is surprisingly easy to find "elder law" related items for this Blog! 

March 20, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ABLE webinar

Have you seen the number of articles that have been released about ABLE accounts?   Here's a chance to learn more:  the ABLE National Resource Center has announced a free webinar on ABLE on March 26 from 2-3:30 edt.  This is a collaboration between ARC, National Disability Institute, Autism Speaks, National Down Syndrome Society, and the College Plan Savings Network. According to the website, Understanding ABLE will cover the facets of ABLE, implementation updates and time for Q&A. To register, click here.

March 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Medicaid, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

NAELA Submits Comments on Proposed VA Regs re Eligibility for Benefits

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) recently submitted detailed formal comments to proposed VA rules affecting asset tests for eligibility for Veterans benefits. They begin:

NAELA welcomes the effort to try to make the eligibility criteria for pension and other benefits administered by VA objective and transparent, but we believe that these proposed regulations, if implemented, would cause substantial harm to wartime Veterans, their spouses, and dependents and will not solve the serious issue of unscrupulous organizations taking advantage of potential beneficiaries by selling inappropriate annuities or trusts.

 

In addition, we express the serious concern that the proposed rules 3-year look-back period and transfer of assets penalty exceed statutory authority, opening up VA to future litigation and causing additional uncertainty for Veterans and their families.

For the full NAELA submission, see here

March 19, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)