January 2019 –
As the President of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, I am proud to lead an organization that has passionately served the aging and disabled populations for the past 25 years. Moreover, I’m grateful to announce the appointment of Clarence Richardson to serve as our first Chapter Director.
As we continue to address the many needs of our constituencies, our Chapter’s goals center on the following:
Ensure that our dynamic Chapter remains a powerful and innovative voice in the fields of Elder and Special Needs Planning. Additionally, we will continue to foster strong coalitions with those agencies and organizations that recognize the institutional shortfalls in delivering public benefits to our most vulnerable communities. We welcome the opportunity to join and support numerous other organizations and providers in addressing tomorrow’s challenges, today (continuing the efforts of our past Presidents Karen Johnson and Laura Silver Traiger).
Encourage each and every member to shape public policy by way of sharing their individual experiences as practitioners and offering new ideas to advance our mission. I recommend all members visit our website for information about our committees. In addition, I urge members to become active participants at the Advocacy Committee chaired by Patricia Keane Martin which meets immediately prior to our educational dinner meetings. Within Advocacy we have several work groups tailored to members’ interests including: Public Policy, Litigation, Special Needs, Residents’ Rights, and Annuities. Given the fluidity associated with Elder Law and the diversity among our members, these meetings allow for both a collegial and informal atmosphere which allows every participant a chance to address and implement legislative initiatives and evolving caselaw in their practice.
As public policy and advocacy remain a principal tenet of our chapter, we will continue to sponsor legislation with the guidance of our lobbyist, Nomita Ganguly. Building upon last year’s success in preserving Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits, we will re-file our bill preserving the ability for individuals over 65 throughout the Commonwealth to fund pooled trusts. Similarly, we will also re-file an Act to Support Equal Access to Community Care for Elders and the Disabled (formerly known as the PACE and Other Waivered Services bill) with the goal of expanding the Frail Elder Waiver to persons whose income is over the 300% of the Federal Benefit Rate through cost-sharing. As much as we focus on the substantive implications of Medicaid policy, there will also be a concerted effort to clarify the procedural due process rights which should be afforded to every applicant and/or member receiving MassHealth benefits.
I look forward to working with our members, the public, and other organizations to make this a successful and productive year for our communities!
Spring 2019 –
As our Chapter strives to build upon its member value, I am pleased to report our 25th annual MassNAELA Elder Law Institute was held at Boston’s Federal Reserve Bank on March 29, 2019. Our President-Elect, Attorney Paula Almgren chaired this program which featured such topics ranging from an in depth look at Spousal Refusal cases to New opportunities in VA Pension Planning. The strength of this program resides with our members/attendees who are an intricate part of the dialogue with our panelists. A must have in any practitioner’s toolkit, I encourage all members to attend the annual Institute given its continued success and benefit to the elder law community.
With the convening of the 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, our Public Policy and Advocacy Committee has submitted seven different pieces of legislation which, if passed, will improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. I also would like to thank our members who assisted the Chapter in finding legislative co-sponsors and advocates who share our vision. A summary of these bills can be found on our website under “Advocacy Initiatives.” Whereas much of our legislative success depends on outreach, it is imperative that our individual members make the effort to contact their State Senator and State Representative in support of these bills. For more information, I encourage members to contact our committee chairs, Attorneys Susan Levin and Patricia Keane Martin; both of whom serve as an invaluable resource to our Chapter.
In keeping with a time-honored tradition, our 7th Annual Past Presidents Council Dinner featured almost all of our Past Presidents in attendance. Although somewhat of a misnomer the dinner is actually an evening of robust and insightful exchange of new ideas with what I affectionately term the “braintrust” of our Chapter. I look forward to working with our Board of Directors in the months ahead to further expand the reach of MassNAELA along with implementing the many substantive suggestions from some of our longest tenured officers.
Although the scope of our webinars, Institute, and listserv participants provide an in-depth analysis of case law, regulatory framework and procedural recommendations, our programming committee enables our chapter to have bona fide expert panelists for topics which are often less explored. The monthly dinner meeting is yet another tremendous resource for every practitioner and affiliated advocates who are interested in keeping “current” with a continuously evolving elder law environment in both the public and private sectors.
As one of the largest Chapters in the country, MassNAELA strives to provide steadfast leadership under the umbrella of elder law. Our constituencies include seniors, the disabled, and their families; all of whom depend on our counsel and advocacy to protect their rights and those of future populations.
Summer 2019 –
One of the strengths of our chapter resides in providing comprehensive programming at our dinner meetings. Although our webinars, elder law institute and listserv function as invaluable member resources, our programming committee focuses on unique topics. While there are many pressing legal issues within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, it’s not all that uncommon to encounter clients who reside in a community that borders another state, or those who reside in that border state at an assisted living or nursing facility. Some may have second homes in other states. When “crossing borders” it’s imperative to understand how common practice areas intersect from state to state. Our June dinner meeting features a diverse panel of practitioners licensed in other states who will share their knowledge on multi-state issues.
Given the ever-increasing designation as a specialty, there is always room for growth in our chapter to better serve the elder and disabled populations. New associates and student interns who practice in this area are encouraged to join MassNAELA and further develop their knowledge and acumen with the field of elder and special needs law. In addition to their candor and collegiality, we have many active members and past presidents who literally laid the groundwork for what is now known as Elder Law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
With a quick transition from Spring to Summer, MassNAELA has a busy advocacy agenda as hearings on our legislative bills are scheduled at the State House for July 9th. This year’s legislative priorities center in broadening the level of care and financial for seniors and the disabled; residing in both the community and at long term care facilities. Much our legislative success depends on the cumulative effort of our public policy committee and the many work groups which fall under that umbrella. However, equally beneficial are the numerous individual cases whereby an unjust hardship or inadequacy in the current regulatory structure adversely impacts an individual dependent on public assistance benefit such as MassHealth.