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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

LaGrange Honoring Veterans on Memorial Day

A Memorial Day program Monday in La Grange will honor Oldham County residents who died while serving their country.  The service starts at 9:50 a.m. at the veteran’s memorial on the corner of Main Street and Ky. 53 in historic La Grange.

The Oldham County Band will perform prior to the service, and the Oldham County Singers will perform during the program.  The guest speaker will be Air Force Maj. Gen. Carl Black, a University of Kentucky graduate.  Names of Oldham County residents who died in service will be read aloud, and there will be special recognition of others who served in the U.S. Forces.

The program is open to the public and is organized by the Oldham County Post No. 39 of the American Legion.

Courtesy: Courier-Journal.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Documentary for WWII Vets Coming in November

Dtm
 

Can you help spread this important message?

This story is incredible. A two-minute video about World War II veterans.  The video is a trailer to a documentary that will come out in November. The more we can show interest in the trailer (i.e. views), the more Americans will get to see the film.

Link to the video:  http://media.causes.com/1060527?p_id=175378540


Friday, April 15, 2011

UofL Autism Center Dedication Ceremony Today

The University of Louisville’s new Autism Center will be officially dedicated in a ceremony Friday morning.  The center, announced in 2008, was created to focus research, education and care to better help people on the autism spectrum. Officials have called it a one-stop resource.

The center is located at 1405 E. Burnett Ave., Kosair Charities and U of L are partnering to create that location through a charitable lease of a facility at the Kosair Charities Centre. The value of the lease is more than $2 million over the next 15 years, officials said.

Scheduled to attend the 11 a.m. dedication are U of L President James Ramsey; Jerry Ward, chairman of the board of Kosair Charities; Blake Haselton, interim dean of the U of L College of Education and Human Development; Dr. Edward Halperin, dean of the U of L School of Medicine; and Scott Brinkman, former state representative and parent of a son with autism.
Courtesy Courier-Journal.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

VA PENSION BENEFITS

I (being Whitney Wilson) just finished obtaining my required continuing education credits to maintain my VA accreditation.  While sitting through the seminar, it dawned on me I have not posted much about VA benefits on the blog, and this is a perfect opportunity to do so.

OVERVIEW OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (“VA”):

Veterans Affairs has 3 branches:

1. Veterans' Health Administration

2. National Cemetery

3. Veterans' Benefits Administration

 

Walsh & Wilson focuses on Veterans' Benefits.

 

TYPES OF VETERANS’ BENEFITS:

There are 2 types of veterans’ benefits:

1. Disability Compensation: get compensated for a "service connected" disability, an disability related to your service.

2. Pension Benefits: get a pension, plus maybe additional allowances, for non-service connected disability.

 

Walsh & Wilson focuses on Veterans' Pension Benefits.

 

VA PENSION BENEFITS:

The VA offers a Basic Pension as well as two (2) allowances in addition to the Basic Pension. 

BASIC PENSION:

A veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran, can qualify for the Basic Pension by meeting the following requirements:

1. Service: 90-days active duty, at least 1-day during wartime, with a discharge other than dishonorable

2. Disability: over 65 automatically meet this requirement; under 65 has to prove permanently, totally disabled.

3. Income and Net Worth: please read below for more information on this requirement

The Basic Pension amount depends on whether you are the veteran or surviving spouse, your income, and whether or not you have one or more dependents (a spouse qualifies as a dependent).  The current maximum Basic Pension amounts are:

Vet, without a dependent: $985/month

Vet, with a dependent : $1,291/month

Surviving spouse without a dependent:  $661/month

Surviving spouse with a dependent: $829/month

Each additional dependent after the first one: $168/month

ALLOWANCES:

In addition to the Basic Pension, a veteran (or surviving spouse) may qualify for an additional "allowance".  There are 2 additional allowances, Housebound and Aid & Attendance.  A veteran (or surviving spouse) can qualify for either, but not both.

1. HOUSEBOUND ALLOWANCE: in additional meeting the requirements for the Basic Pension, the veteran (or surviving spouse) must also be unable to leave the house.  This has been interpreted to mean unable to leave the house for employment purposes.  It does not mean the individual never leaves the house, it just means the individual rarely leaves the house, has difficulty leaving the house, requires assistance to leave the house, and because of these difficulties is unable to maintain employment.

The Basic Pension with Housebound Allowance amount depends on whether you are the veteran or surviving spouse, your income, and whether or not you have one or more dependents (a spouse qualified as a dependent).  The current maximum Basic Pension with Housebound Allowance amounts are:

 Vet, without a dependent: $1,204/month

Vet, with a dependent : $1,510/month

Surviving spouse without a dependent:  $808/month

Surviving spouse with a dependent: $976/month

Each additional dependent after the first one: $168/month

 2. AID & ATTENDANCE ALLOWANCE: in addition to meeting the requirements of the Basic Pension, the veteran (or surviving spouse) must require assistance with at least two (2) activities of daily living (“ADL”).  This may include dressing, bathing, toileting, or feeding.  In the alternative, the Aid & Attendance allowance is granted when the veteran (or surviving spouse) requires a protective environment, such as if the individual has a history of falling, is forgetful, or has diminished mental capacity.  The VA does not require the individual to be living in an assisted living facility in order to qualify for this allowance, in-home care is allowed.

 The Basic Pension with Aid & Attendance Allowance amount depends on whether you are the veteran or surviving spouse, your income, and whether or not you have one or more dependents.  The current maximum Basic Pension with Aid & Attendance Allowance amounts are:

 Vet, without a dependent: $1,644/month

Vet, with a dependent : $1,949/month

Surviving spouse without a dependent:  $1,056/month

Surviving spouse with a dependent: $1,224/month

Each additional dependent after the first one: $168/month

 NOTE: There are some other rules that apply to specific situations that can impact the amount of pension benefits.  For example, a veteran married to another veteran can provide a larger benefit.  Also, the pension benefit will be reduced if the individual receives Medicaid and has no dependent(s).

 

 INCOME AND NET WORTH REQUIREMENTS:

No one qualifies for any pension benefits without meeting the net worth and income requirements. 

1. INCOME:

The income requirement is easy…household income (including income of the veteran, spouse, and any dependents) must be less than the household’s regularly recurring unreimbursed medical expenses.  If the income is more than the unreimbursed medical expenses, the benefit will be reduced dollar for dollar, up to the maximum benefit amount.  Here is an example:

Veteran with no dependents has $3000/month income and $2000/month unreimbursed medical expenses.  The income is $1000/month more than unreimbursed medical expenses.  If the veteran applied for the Basic Pension, he/she would not qualify because the basic pension for a veteran with no dependent is $985/month.  If the veteran applied for the Basic Pension with Housebound Allowance, he/she would qualify for $204/month ($1,204 – 1000 = $204).  If the veteran applied for the Basic Pension with Aid & Attendance Allowance, he/she would qualify for $949/month ($1,949 – 1000 = $949).

2. NET WORTH:

The net worth requirement is more complicated because the VA has not set a specific limit on this.  The net worth limits fluctuate based on age and health of the veteran and the veteran’s spouse.  Generally speaking, the veteran should have a net worth less than $30,000.  If an applicant applies for VA pension benefits with a higher net worth and gets denied, the net worth has to be reduced and then the applicant has to re-apply.  That results in several months worth of pension benefits being lost.  Net worth is the area where you need an experience attorney who can navigate this field and structure your assets appropriately to help you meet the VA’s vague rules.  This can be accomplished through the use of trusts, promissory notes, annuities, gifts, and other tools.

 

Please, give Walsh & Wilson a call if you have any questions about VA Pension Benefits.  We can help.


Friday, April 1, 2011

2 Adult Protection Bills Signed Into law; Medicaid Budget Balanced

On Wednesday, March 23, 2011, Gov. Steve Beshear signed two measures into law aimed at better protecting elderly and vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.  At the time of the signing, he praised the laws as “a step forward in safeguarding our seniors.”

House Bill 52, sponsored by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, bars people convicted of abusing or neglecting vulnerable adults from managing the affairs of their victims by acting as a guardian or power of attorney. It also prohibits them from inheriting from their victims or serving as executor of their estates.
 
The other adult protection bill Beshear signed is HB 164, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville. It creates uniform guardianship standards and allows Kentucky to recognize those of other states that have a similar law.
 
One measure that failed to get through the legislature was a bill to create a registry of people found to have abused or neglected adults, similar to the state’s a child abuse registry. That bill passed the House but died in the Senate.
 
On March 25, 2011, Governor Beshear signed HB 1, a bill to balance Kentucky's Medicaid budget, but only after making several vetos.  The vetos remove cuts to education as well as other provisions, leaving what amounts to his original proposal for dealing with the program’s funding shortfall.  That plan is to basically borrow $166.5 million from next year's Medicaid budget and then make up next year's shortfall by moving Medicaid to a managed-care system.  When the legislature reconvenes, the House is expected to approve the vetos and the bill, as vetoed, will become law.

Friday, March 25, 2011

KY Legislature Passes Medicaid Funding; Beshear Promises Vetos

The Kentucky House approved a Senate version of a bill to resolve the state's Medicaid budget shortfall — part of a strategy to get the bill to Gov. Steve Beshear so he can veto provisions he and the House deem unacceptable.  The move would allow Beshear to delete cuts to education funding and other changes made by the Senate, leaving only the language from his original proposal that shifts state money into this year's Medicaid budget.

The House vote was 86-2. The “no” votes were cast by Reps. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, and Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger.  After the vote, House Bill 1 was returned to the Senate, where President David Williams, R-Burkesville, signed it and sent it to Beshear.  The Senate then adjourned until April 6, when lawmakers will return to consider Beshear’s vetoes.  If the House, as expected, votes to sustain them, the vetoes will stand.
 
Beshear sent a letter of support to House leaders that Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, read aloud on the House floor before the vote.  “You have my absolute commitment to honor the principles you and the Senate Democrats have stood for throughout this session,” Beshear's letter said.
 
The Senate has contended that Beshear can’t achieve the efficiencies he promises to balance the Medicaid budget. It proposes instead to make cuts across state government, including education, to compensate for the shortfall. 
 
On Thursday night House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, stepped down from the speaker's platform to make a rare speech from the House floor in which he assured members that Beshear had promised him that he would veto the Senate's spending cuts to state programs.  By voting for the Senate's version of the bill, Stumbo told members, “You're voting to protect education.”  He said the unusual maneuver was necessary because lawmakers must pass a bill that balances Medicaid before April 1 to avoid what Beshear has said would be 35 percent cuts in rates paid to Medicaid providers. Such a move, Stumbo said, would damage rural health care providers.
 
House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown urged House members to vote for the bill, saying that small health care providers will be spared devastating cuts on April 1 and education funding won't be cut. However, Hoover said he opposed adjourning the House Thursday night.  But Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, told members, “If we're voting for something, let's mean it. ... Let's not do it as a sham.”
 
Earlier in the day the Senate passed a version that Stumbo had deemed “unacceptable” because of provisions that include the education cuts.  House leaders said the current special legislative session — costing about $64,000 a day — can end as soon as Williams signs HB 1 and sends it to Beshear.  The Senate vote for its version of HB 1 was 22-15, with all Democrats voting against it. All Republicans except Sen. Carroll Gibson of Leitchfield, who did not vote, supported the plan.
 
The revised Senate proposal would allow the legislature to restore the funding cuts to education if money becomes available next year.  The Senate acted after its budget committee, earlier in the day, approved the new version of HB 1 by a vote of 13-5, with the five no votes coming from Democrats.  The Senate plan makes funding cuts of 0.355 percent in the current fiscal year for nearly all state programs, other than base public school funding and postsecondary education. And it makes cuts of 1.74 percent in the 2011-12 fiscal year, beginning July 1, to all areas other than public schools, which would be cut by 0.812 percent.
 
In dollar terms, the bill would cut base public school funding by $23.5 million and postsecondary education by $23 million in 2011-12. The cuts to all of state government would be about $101 million.
However, the bill says the cuts in the next fiscal year to schools and postsecondary education will be delayed until Jan. 30, 2012.  That would allow the 2012 General Assembly to rescind them if the Beshear administration can establish that it has achieved its target for savings through a new “managed care” approach to delivering Medicaid services.
 
The Senate bill assumes that Beshear will be able to achieve half of the $139 million in savings he has promised during the 2011-12 fiscal year to Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor and disabled that serves about 820,000 Kentuckians.  If an independent accounting firm, to be contracted with by the legislature, reports by next Jan. 2 that Beshear has saved more than that, the bill says “it is the intent of the General Assembly” to use that money to rescind any cuts to education.
 
Another key provision in the new Senate plan is that it would ban any more unpaid furlough days for state employees as of the date the bill becomes law. 
 
Williams, like Beshear a candidate for governor this year, said again that he doesn't believe the administration can achieve the Medicaid savings it has pledged next year through managed care.
“The crazy aunt in the attic here in Frankfort is that everyone knows the governor cannot accomplish these cuts to the level he says he's going to,” Williams said.
 
Sen. Bob Leeper, a Paducah independent and chairman of the budget committee, said after the panel’s vote that the Senate version takes a more “conservative approach” regarding the savings the administration claims it can achieve next year in Medicaid.  “We believe that's prudent,” he said. “In January, if the savings aren't realized, we would be in a dire situation.”
 
Thursday was the 11th day of a special legislative session called primarily to balance the Medicaid budget.  Beshear called the session because lawmakers failed to pass a Medicaid bill during the regular session, which ended March 9. 
 
Courtesy, Courier-Journal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Medicaid Funding Compromises Passed by the KY House

The Kentucky House overwhelmingly passed a bill Monday afternoon to resolve the state's Medicaid shortfall without cutting state funding for education.  But it may not be popular with either Senate President David Williams or Gov. Steve Beshear, House Speaker Greg Stumbo admitted.

House Bill 1, the product of a week of negotiations between Democratic and Republican House leaders, passed 94-4 and now goes to the Senate. The four “No” votes were cast by Republicans.  “The governor's probably not going to be happy with this; he probably would have preferred his version,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonburg. “I would say Sen. Williams probably would have preferred his version.”
 
Indeed, Beshear released a statement later saying his original proposal remains “the most responsible approach.” But he added: “I am glad to see that they agree with me that we should not balance the Medicaid budget on the backs of our schoolchildren and college students.”
 
Williams, of Burkesville, was not immediately available for comment.  But Senate Majority Floor Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said of the House compromise: “It got passed quicker than Sherman went through Georgia. Now as to the substance of the compromise, we haven't seen it. We were not consulted on it.”  Stumbo said he expected the Senate won't accept the House version and that it would end up in a House-Senate conference committee this week. 
 
Under the House compromise approved Monday, Beshear would be given a chance to show that his plan to save Medicaid dollars is working. But he must report to the legislature by Aug. 15 showing the Medicaid savings he expects to achieve in the 2011-12 fiscal year.  If the savings fall short of balancing Medicaid, the compromise bill requires Beshear to make across-the-board spending cuts on Oct. 1 to make up the difference. But public schools, universities and a few other selected areas would be exempt.
Parts of the compromise attempt to address non-Medicaid budget issues raised in the Senate's proposal.
 
For example, the compromise requires the governor to still cut $169 million from state government in 2011-12 by trimming recurring expenses, not one-time cuts. Beshear would not be permitted to furlough state workers to achieve those savings.  The compromise bill passed the House with much more support than Beshear's proposal, which passed during the regular legislative session by a vote of 80-19. House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, called it “a very good approach to solving the issue.”
 
Rep. Jim DeCesare, R- Rockfield, complained during the House debate that while the compromise was explained during House party caucuses, members did not have a chance to see the bill until just before the floor vote.  And Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, had several problems with the compromise. “How's the governor going to demonstrate those savings?” Lee asked. “Who's going to score those savings?”  Rep. Joe Fischer, Fort Thomas, and Rep. Tom Kerr, R-Taylor Mill, cast the other no votes. 
 
Courtesy Courier-Journal.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Special Session Called Over Medicaid Budget

Gov. Beshear has called a special legislative session, to begin Monday, to deal with problems in the Medicaid budget.  He said at a news conference that he would ask lawmakers to fix a problem that “will cause at least 30 percent rate cuts to Medicaid providers such as hospitals, nursing homes, doctors, pharmacists and mental health care providers.” 

He also said Senate President David Williams, a candidate for governor who opposed the governor’s Medicaid plan during this year’s regular legislative session, which will conclude later Wednesday, was “putting petty politics and his personal ambition before the needs of Kentucky families.”  There was no immediate response from Williams.

The Senate convened late Wednesday morning, using the 30th and final day of the 2011 General Assembly.  The House adjourned Tuesday night until March 21 — a day it can no longer use in view of the Senate’s decision to meet.  The Senate’s action meant lawmakers will be unable to complete work during the regular session on the Medicaid budget legislation.

Disagreement over filling a shortfall in this year's Medicaid budget has dominated the final days of the session.

 

Courtesy Courier-Journal.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Legislature Unable to Reach Agreement on Fixing Medicaid Budget

Two days of House-Senate Medicaid budget negotiations crashed Tuesday night, and it appeared the 2011 General Assembly would end chaotically without an agreement — a prospect that Gov. Steve Beshear warned could have dire consequences.

Senate President David Williams said his chamber would meet Wednesday, using the session’s 30th and final day, and that its leaders would be open to further negotiations with the House.  But if the Senate does meet, any negotiations would be aimed at producing an agreement only for a special session.  That’s because the House adjourned late Tuesday night until March 21 — the date that was to have been the session’s final day under the original legislative calendar.  Thus, with the Senate meeting Wednesday, the House would be unable to approve any agreement in the unlikely event one were reached. House Speaker Greg Stumbo did say House leaders would be available for negotiations Wednesday.
Gov. Steve Beshear warned that if the legislature fails to act he will have to immediately slash Medicaid reimbursement rates paid to health care providers by 30 percent, which he said would result in some hospitals and other providers closing their doors.  “This includes all of the small county hospitals, the nursing homes,” he said. “It will cause the closings of some of these small county hospitals, I'm told, and that will rest upon the head of those in the Senate who would not take action.”

Before the Senate announced that it would meet Wednesday, the governor said he opposed the idea of a special session.  “There is no reason for a special session,” he said. “They've got plenty of (time) to resolve these issues.”
The Senate’s decision to use the session’s final day on Wednesday means lawmakers will forfeit the chance to override any vetoes by Beshear.  That decision, communicated in a phone call from Williams to House Speaker Greg Stumbo, caught leaders of the Democratic-controlled House by surprise and angered them.  Stumbo, who called the decision unprecedented, said he expressed concern to Williams that one chamber convening would prevent lawmakers from being able to override vetoes since no session days would remain.

And in a fiery floor speech, House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook said the Senate's proposed action “makes a mockery of the system.”  The legislature's business isn't finished, he said, “and when you don't get your way, you don't pick up your ball and go home.”

Senate Republican Floor Leader Robert Stivers said members would return Wednesday and complete whatever business they had left. He said members would be available all day for House leaders to discuss a compromise on the Medicaid issue.

Williams noted that by meeting Wednesday, and adjourning at the end of the day, the legislature is saving taxpayers $68,000 a day for the 12 days lawmakers would be paid if the session didn’t end until March 21.  “We have come to the conclusion that if we cannot reach an agreement with them (House leaders), why do we stay here and cause the people to stay here and incur $800,000?” Stivers said.

Williams made it clear that the Senate isn't backing away from its position on the Medicaid issue, and he laid the groundwork for a special session that he said should be called only after the House, Senate and Beshear reach an agreement.  “If we reach an accord, with the House and the governor, we can come back in special session for five days,” he said, noting that taxpayers would save money even if Beshear calls them back into session.

But Beshear said that shortly after the session ends, letters would have to go out to Medicaid providers, telling them that their reimbursements will be slashed by 30 percent, which he said could cause layoffs and worse.  He stressed that those in his administration “stand ready to work with the Senate.”
During talks near the end of the session's next-to-last day, each side blamed the other for the stalemate.
Six negotiating sessions over two days ended Tuesday evening with the two sides walking away from the table in frustration.  “We believe it would be fiscally irresponsible,” Williams, R-Burkesville, said of the budget-balancing proposal by Beshear that is supported by the Democratic-controlled House. 
 
“This should not have elevated to a political discussion. This should have been a discussion based upon the facts,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “And the facts are overwhelming” that the Beshear-House plan will work.

At issue are two different approaches to House Bill 305, which would shore up the funding shortfall facing the state’s Medicaid health-care program for the poor and disabled.  The Beshear-House plan would solve the problem by moving $166.5 million, appropriated for the program in 2011-12, into the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.  Beshear has said the resulting hole in next year's budget will be filled by savings resulting from an enhanced “managed care” approach to Medicaid.
The Republican-controlled Senate says Beshear cannot — and will not — achieve those savings. The Senate has approved an approach that would cut state spending across the board, beginning in the fourth quarter of this year.  To fail to make definite cuts now, the Senate argues, would lead to much more serious budget problems next year.

Through negotiations that sometimes grew heated and often saw long, silent pauses, each side made compromise offers.  In general the House proposed to put certain anticipated state surplus funds into a reserve, which could be held to cover any shortfall Beshear fails to achieve next year in Medicaid savings.
The Senate proposed smaller cuts than it originally advocated last week. Williams proposed Tuesday a cut of 0.316 percent to programs except schools and universities this year, and a cut next year of 1.58 percent to all areas except schools, which would be cut by 0.65 percent.

But Stumbo said repeatedly that the House doesn’t believe there's a need to cut spending now.  Williams disagreed and pushed unsuccessfully for the House to accept other aspects of the Senate plan, such as reducing how much debt Beshear should be allowed to restructure on grounds that it raises costs in future years even though it saves money in the current budget.

If the legislature takes no action, Williams said Beshear will have to find a way to deal with the Medicaid funding shortage. 
“The governor still has the budget authority to meet the Medicaid expenditures now, and he'll just have to find that money,” Williams said.  But a failure to act causes other problems.

Williams said one non-controversial aspect of the bill would have transferred about $19 million from the 2011-12 fiscal year for universities to the current year to assure additional federal grant money for elementary and secondary education.  And Stumbo said the failure to transfer funds from next year to this one will cost the state about $12 million in federal Medicaid revenue because of a higher matching rate paid by the federal government this year.
The constitution requires that this session last no more than 30 days and must adjourn by midnight March 30.  If the Senate convenes Wednesday, as planned, it will be the final day of the session.  As for the hope of resolving the deadlock by the session's final day, Stumbo said, “I would hope that the Senate would go back and review the evidence ... and would reconsider their position.”  Said Williams: “We still hope that they (House members) change their minds.”
 
Courtesy Courier-Journal.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Legislative Update

Two measures aimed at protecting elderly and vulnerable adults won final approval Friday from the General Assembly.

But with only three days left in the current legislative session, a bill to create a registry of people who abuse adults — a priority for advocates for the elderly and disabled — remains stalled in the Senate.

House Bill 101, to create a registry similar to the one the state maintains for child abusers, is still before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And Sen. Tom Jensen, the London Republican who is chairman of the committee, said he isn’t sure whether it will pass this session,

He said Senate leaders are still trying to determine which bills to pass in the remaining time available.

Advocates argue that an adult registry would better protect those who, because of age or disability, are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by caregivers. Even though the session is nearly over, they are still working on behalf of HB 101.

“I am always hopeful that people will do the right thing,” said April DuVal, executive director of the Council on Developmental Disabilities, an advocacy group in Louisville. “Politics shouldn’t get in the way of protecting people who are vulnerable.”

The two bills approved Friday are House Bill 164, designed to streamline Kentucky’s guardianship standards, and HB 52, to prevent people convicted of abusing adults from inheriting from their victims or managing their affairs.

HB 164, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, will allow Kentucky to recognize legal guardians from other states. It also would allow states that have adopted similar reciprocity laws to recognize guardians from Kentucky.

And HB 52, sponsored by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, bars anyone convicted of abusing or financially exploiting an adult from serving as a guardian, power of attorney or executor for the victim, as well as from gaining an inheritance.

Gov. Steve Beshear has said he supports and will sign the bills.

Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, who supports the adult abuse registry, said she thinks it remains hung up because of concerns by some lawmakers that people placed on the registry wouldn’t get due process. However, the bill provides for an appeal procedure similar to that of the child abuse registry.

The Courier-Journal reported in a three-day series last year that reports of abuse or neglect involving elderly or disabled adults are rising rapidly and that many alleged perpetrators are not prosecuted for criminal offenses because victims are too elderly or impaired by problems such as dementia to testify.

The registry would list those persons found by Kentucky Adult Protective Services to have abused, neglected or financially exploited adults. Alleged perpetrators would have the right to appeal, and no one would be placed on the registry until appeals are exhausted.

Meanwhile, advocates noted that a recent federal study found 92 percent of nursing homes employed at least one person who has been convicted of a crime. And that, they contend, shows the need for better background checks on people who care for vulnerable adults.

The federal study, released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that 5 percent of nursing facility employees had at least one criminal conviction.

Lawmakers filed a half-dozen bills this session aimed at better protecting adults, including one by Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, to require all nursing home employees — including food service workers and custodial staff — to undergo background checks. Currently only direct care staff, such as nurses, must undergo such checks.

But that bill never got a hearing in the Senate.

DuVal said an adult abuse registry might be a way to catch at least some nursing home workers found to have mistreated adults.

“It’s just a basic protection for older people and disabled people,’’ she said.

The legislature also continues to work on filling a $166.5 million gap in the Medicaid budget.  The House and Senate have competing plans.  Both sides have vowed to fight each's plan, so a joint committee is expected to be convened.  See the 2 previous posts on this blog for more information about this issue.

 

Courtesy Courier-Journal


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tax Act Brings Changes to SSI / Medicaid Treatment of Refunds, Tax Credits

Many people heard about the last minute deal struck at the end of 2010 to extend tax cuts created by former President George W. Bush.  In my world, the big news was that the $3.5 million estate tax exemption would not only be continued, but actually increased to $5 million.  That law also contained several little-noticed provisions that fundamentally alter how the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid programs treat tax refunds and other tax credits, making it easier for elders and people with special needs to maintain their benefits.

Pursuant to the new law, tax refunds are not considered countable income for SSI or Medicaid purposes. Furthermore, any money received through a tax refund will not be a countable resource for 12 months following receipt of the funds, and SSI and Medicaid recipients will be under no obligation to segregate the funds from their other resources. The same rule applies to tax refunds received prior to an application for SSI or Medicaid, which means that so long as an applicant can point to funds in his account that are traceable to a tax refund during the previous year, those funds will not be a countable resource until the year has passed.
 
The new law also changes the treatment of several other important tax credits. Under previous rules, Making Work Pay, Earned Income, Advanced Earned Income, and Child Tax Credits were all excluded as countable income for SSI and Medicaid purposes, but if the income was retained, it had to be spent within nine months of receipt. Now, the 12-month rule applies to all of these tax credits and, furthermore, First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credits that were previously countable as income and as a resource are now exempt and subject to the same countability rules as the other tax credits.
 
CMS' Informational Bulletin also addresses what happens when an applicant seeking Medicaid long-term care benefits places her tax refund into a trust. According to the bulletin, the law "effectively precludes applying penalties under section 1917(c) of the Social Security Act to individuals who, in applying for long term care benefits under the Medicaid program during the period in which tax refunds or advance payments are not countable either as income or resources . . . dispose of part or all of the refunds or advance payments in a manner that normally would be considered a transfer of assets for less than fair market value."
 
In one more piece of good news, the law applies to any refunds or credits received after December 31, 2009, which means that, in limited cases, applicants who were initially denied SSI or Medicaid benefits due to receipt of a tax refund or credit may actually be retroactively eligible for benefits.
 

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