Our entire elder law team considers it a privilege and high honor to be able to assist the elderly and those with disabilities in navigating the long-term care system. With this privilege comes great responsibility.
As an attorney, my duty is to advocate to the best of my ability for each individual client. However, as I have previously stated, I believe there is more I can and should do. There are serious problems with access to quality long-term care. Potential future cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid programs will cause advocacy to rise in importance. I believe my duty is not to work exclusively within the existing system. I must work to change the long-term care system for the better.
The challenge is putting aside the day to day work for each individual client and figuring out where to start. Acting is the hard part. Doing nothing is not an option. As we are in a unique position to make a difference, I believe we must act.
How do we advocate in our elder care law practice? Here are some examples:
- We were the first elder law firm in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area to have geriatric social workers as part of the elder law practice. We currently employ four geriatric care coordinators who focus on insuring that our clients receive the best possible care in the least restrictive setting.
- I am a member of the Jimmo Implementation Council. The Council is composed of Medicare beneficiary advocates, providers, and policy-makers to discuss, analyze and advance the implementation of the Jimmo v. Sebelius Medicare “Improvement Standard” settlement. The Council’s goal is to allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive the maximum coverage for skilled nursing care. I am scheduled to travel to Washington for a meeting on March 30, 2017.
- A bill is pending in the New Jersey State Legislature to exempt up to $500 per month in gifts from being considered as part of the Medicaid five-year look back. I was involved with drafting the bill along with having the honor of testifying before the NJ State Assembly in favor of the bill.
- I led a committee on the unauthorized practice of law that resulted in the NJ Supreme Court issuing a May 2016 advisory opinion on the scope of practice of “Medicaid Advisors.” While there is nothing improper with having a third party assist in the preparation of a Medicaid application for long-term care, the concern is whether these Medicaid assistance companies are engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and therefore harming consumers.
- I traveled to the Netherlands in November 2016 as part of an Elder Law delegation to learn innovative ideas of how the Dutch provide services to those with dementia.
- On behalf of the state elder law bar, I regularly meet with state legislators and Medicaid regulators to alert them to issues affecting seniors and those with disabilities.
- We regularly present to long-term care professionals, financial professionals and attorneys to update them on changes in the law and how they can assist in advocacy of behalf of seniors.
- We sponsor a monthly caregiver support group in our office.
- We sponsor programs for seniors and veterans through the Alzheimer’s Association and Jewish and Family Children’s Services of Southern New Jersey.
- Our staff regularly attends national conferences and teaches other elder law firms how to engage in advocacy.
Advocacy is hard work. However, something strange happens when you decide to act to attempt to improve the lives of seniors and those with disabilities. Fulfillment and job satisfaction creep in. What can be more fulfilling than acting in accordance with the things we value most? We were given a gift, and with this gift comes tremendous responsibility and opportunity. Our goal is to continue to use this gift to make a positive difference for those we are charged with advocating for.