February 17, 2014 Legislative Highlights

The mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia is, through zealous and effective advocacy and legal representation, to protect and advance legal, human, and civil rights of persons with disabilities; combat and prevent abuse, neglect, and discrimination; and promote independence, choice, and self-determination by persons with disabilities. Contact us at info@dLCV.org or at 1-800-552-3962 for more information.

Advocates who seek better protection for our elder community have seen some legislative successes so far in this session of the Virginia General Assembly.

The House of Delegates Appropriations Committee proposes adding $632,000 to the funding for public guardianship. While guardianship is the most restrictive form of substitute decision-making, it is nonetheless unavailable to many in the elder community because of the expense involved. The public guardian program provides funding for substitute decisionmaking for those below a certain line of income.

Two bills provide clarity about the authority of the Long Term Care Ombudsman. The LTCO is able to investigate complaints and mediate solutions in long term care facilities, such as nursing homes. HB 240 (O’Bannon) and SB 572 (Barker) both clarify that the LTCO can access other facilities, such as assisted living facilities and adult care centers. The bill states that, if an individual is unable to consent to the investigation, the LTCO has access if there is reasonable cause to believe that the legal representative is not acting in the best interests of the individual. Essentially identical bills have been approved by both the House and the Senate.

HB 312 (Toscano) provides for the collection of attorneys fees in a situation where a person has been persuaded to enter into a contract by fraud or undue influence. Advocates believe this will give greater protection to older persons who may be the victims of fraud. The bill was approved by the House.