The Benefits of Referring Elder Abuse Clients For Civil Legal Assistance

The Benefits of Referring Elder Abuse Clients For Civil Legal Assistance


LORI: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us. I’d like to welcome
you to this webinar, “The Benefits of
Referring Elder Abuse Clients for Civil Legal Assistance,” being brought to
you today by the Elder Justice Initiative
and the Office of Victims of Crime Training and
Technical Assistance Center. As with all technology, we may at some point
experience a momentary lapse in the webinar session. In the event of a
problem, please be patient. Remain with us. The webinar
should resume shortly. We do want to take
a moment here at the beginning to make
sure that everyone is properly
connected and you can hear us, can see the closed captioning, and everything is
working properly for you. If you do have an issue, please feel free to send
our technical specialist Kayla a private chat message. The chat feature is down on the lower right part of your screen. You can also use the
chat throughout the webinar to send in questions
for our presenters to field at the end
of the webinar today. If you cannot access
the chat and would like to communicate with
us, you can send Kayla an email at [email protected] We’d like to note
that we do record the EJI webinar series, so today’s session
is being recorded. We make those
recordings available on the OVC TTAC
training website and also the Elder
Justice Initiative website for viewing later or by your
colleagues who couldn’t join us. We would encourage you to share that once
those become available. At this time, I’m going to
turn things over to our host, Yolanda Campbell, who
is a trial attorney at the Department of Justice
Elder Justice Initiative. Yolanda? YOLANDA: Thank you, Lori. Everyone, thank you
for joining us today. As many of you,
hopefully, already know, the Elder Justice Initiative
supports and coordinates the Department of
Justice’s enforcement and programmatic efforts
to combat elder abuse, neglect, and
financial fraud in scams that target older adults. And as part of this effort, we have been hosting
a series of webinars. Today’s webinar is
intended to provide you with information on how and
whom to make referrals for civil legal assistance
and the numerous ways in which civil legal assistance
can aid older victims. And we are very fortunate
to have two great speakers with us today, Bill
Benson and Jennifer Goldberg. Our first speaker, Bill Benson, is the managing principal
of Health Benefits ABCs. He has worked in the
aging field for more than four decades at the local,
state, and national levels, including as
state LTC ombudsman, senior congressional staffer, political appointee
at U.S. HHS, and as NAPSA’s National Policy
Advisor since the late 90s. Our second speaker
today is Jennifer Goldberg. Jennifer serves as directing
attorney at Justice and Aging where she provides
leadership for the National Center on
Law and Elder Rights and develops and implements
initiatives that improve access to health care and
long-term services and support for
low-income older Americans. Prior to joining
Justice and Aging and NCLER, Jennifer spent 14
years at Maryland Legal Aid, most recently as
director of advocacy for elder law and health care. I’m going to turn
it now over to Bill. BILL: Thank you
very much, Yolanda, for the introduction,
and particularly, thank you for hosting this webinar. I want to express
our appreciation at the National Adult
Protective Services Association to the Elder Justice Initiative
at OVC for hosting this; and also want to thank the Administration for Senior Living for their
support for this effort. I know Hillary Dolland
is on the line from ACL. I am the managing
principal of Health Benefits ABCs, but I’m
wearing my hat as the National Policy Advisor to the National Adult Protective
Services Association. I want to say just a
little bit for a moment, if I could, about APS. I’m going to
move this slide here. NAPSA, the National Adult
Protective Services Association, was founded in 1989 to serve
as a national association — the only national association — for Adult Protective
Services professionals. Those run the gamut from state EPS administrators
to county administrators, to frontline
workers and investigators. The principal role of
NAPSA is to strengthen Adult Protective
Services nationwide through education,
research, and advocacy. I also want to mention
that NAPSA is the home to the National Institute on
Elder Financial Exploitation, which was created
several years ago. NAPSA hosts an
annual conference. It’s the only national
conference that takes place with respect to elder abuse, bringing together
not just folks from Adult Protective Services,
but from all disciplines with an interest in this topic. We always conclude
our conference with a one-day summit
sponsored by NEFE, with respect to
financial exploitation. A bit about Adult
Protective Services, and I’m guessing there
are a fair number of folks on the line who
are familiar with APS. It’s worth mentioning
that they are probably familiar with APS
in their own states. I think that’s an
important point here, because there’s a lot of
variation from state to state. However, in most states,
Adult Protective Services serve those age 60 and over, as well as adults ages
18 to 59 with a disability as defined under state law. In all states, APS investigates complaints that
come from the community. In about half the
states, APS is authorized to investigate complaints
that come out of long-term care facilities — nursing homes
and assisted living facilities. Some APS agencies
are state administered. The majority are, in fact. Then some states have a county-administered
system; and some actually, like North Carolina,
share responsibility. APS essentially serves as the social services
response to elder abuse. APS receives abuse
reports and attempts to remedy or reduce the abuse
to help move along cases that need to go to
referral to others, like law enforcement
or civil litigators; to protect the
victim as much as possible and to enable them
to the extent possible to remain
independent in their home and in their community. APS works closely
with law enforcement, criminal justice, area agencies
on aging, and many others. The reason I’m on this
panel, this webinar today, is that we partner — we being NAPSA — along with the
other organization I’m with, Health Benefits ABCs, and California Advocates
for Nursing Home Reform or CANHR, in San
Francisco, California, on a project to try to educate
Adult Protective Services workers about the
role of civil law; what civil
litigators can do, particularly with respect to
financial exploitation cases. That was really the
emphasis of our work, and I’ll elaborate on
that in the next few minutes. We had essentially
a threshold question. What does Adult
Protective Services do when it encounters or suspects that financial
abuse has occurred? Do they contact
law enforcement and, if they do, then what? Then the second is do
they suggest a civil attorney to address the matter;
and if they do, then what? To get us started with this
joint initiative with CANHR, we conducted two surveys. We did a survey of
Adult Protective Services in California. California is a
county-administered system, so each county runs their own Adult Protective
Services program. We surveyed all of the county
APS programs in California. We essentially were asking
them what their practices are, what their experiences
with referrals, and use of the civil litigation process on
financial exploitation cases. Of California’s 58
counties, 24 responded. The average number of
reports from those 24 counties received, in total across
the spectrum of the types of complaints or reports they
get, was almost 4,500 — 4,448. Of those, the
average number of reports that alleged financial
abuse or exploitation, it was in the vicinity of
about one-third — 1,570. What we found through the
survey is that case outcomes — what happened as a result of the report to
the extent they knew — were more likely to result
in financial consequences for the perpetrator — penalties
of one kind of another — than in
restitution for the victim or criminal consequences
for the perpetrator. Getting a little bit more
into the California survey, referrals that were
made and reports alleging financial exploitation, we found
that the most common referral the programs would make
would be to law enforcement. The least likely place
they would make a referral to would be a civil attorney,
particularly to the civil bar. Now I want to make a
distinction that I know will come up here a little bit later. We did find that
APS quite frequently makes referrals to
legal services programs — publicly funded
legal services programs or legal aid programs, particularly those
that serve older people. But in general, they do make
a fair number of referrals. In terms of the
private bar itself, we found they did not make many referrals
to civil attorneys, and I’ll get into a
bit more about that. We found in California
that they simply did not know how many cases
that were referred to civil attorneys
had successful outcomes. They just essentially were
not tracking that information. Forty percent reported
being neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the handling
of financial abuse cases. They just didn’t know. But 40 percent said they
were somewhat satisfied. We didn’t drill down to find out what exactly that meant. Was that they were satisfied
just because they made the referral; or
did they, in fact, know that they had a good outcome? With respect to being
trained on civil law, from the basics like what
can a civil attorney do for a victim of
financial exploitation? What does restitution mean? How would you get restitution? What laws in the
state will support that? Twenty-one percent in California
said their APS programs provide training on civil
law and restitution, which we were encouraged by; almost 80 percent do not. But 91 percent of APS programs
in California indicated their interest in
having such a training. In addition to our
survey of California APS, we did a national survey
of all states’ APS programs along the same
lines, sending the survey to the state administrators
in each of the states. Twenty-four states, almost half
the states reported as well, responded, as well as Guam. Nationwide, the average
number of reports received were about 11,413, and
the average number of reports alleging financial
exploitation were about 1,600. The percentage of
reports alleging financial exploitation
nationwide were much smaller compared to the overall reports that we found in California. Again, case outcome data
was unavailable for more than 80 percent of responses with respect to was there
restitution, what were the financial consequences for
the perpetrator, and what were the criminal consequences
for the perpetrator. They just didn’t know. Essentially, most
programs report not following a case beyond their own system; so when it’s handed off
elsewhere, not really knowing what the outcome of that is. Now I will do as an aside here, since we did this
survey, thanks to ACL, the Administration
of Community Living, we now have a national
adult maltreatment reporting system, NAMRS, that is
in place that we hope will begin to provide
us much more insight into all of this. Back to the national survey. Referrals in reports
alleging financial exploitation were most likely, again, just like in California, to be made to law enforcement. They were least
likely to refer to a state bar association’s
lawyer referral service. But again, nationwide,
there were a fair number of reports that
were made to Legal Aid. Again, they did not
know how many cases were referred to civil attorneys, whether or not
they were successful. Fifty-five percent were neither
satisfied nor dissatisfied, which suggests
nationally they know less about what
happens to cases that are referred to civil attorneys, with 22.2 percent
saying they were somewhat satisfied with the results. With training,
there is similar results. 30 percent said —
and this is nationwide — said their APS
program provides training on civil law and restitution. Eighty-six percent
of states’ APS programs were interested in
receiving such training. Let me move to the next
phase of this initiative and do this as quickly as I can. The next stage for
us was to begin to, on a pilot basis, train Adult
Protective Services workers and others on civil law —
what the possibilities are; why you would want to do that. We thought this training was particularly important in
California because that’s where California Advocates
for Nursing Home Reform works. It’s also where we found that as our survey results showed, there were actually
a number of counties that had informal
policies in place not to refer to civil attorneys. One county had a
county-based policy that was explicit in saying you may
not refer to civil attorneys. Whatever reasons
are behind that, you can only speculate. But that was formal policy
in this one particular county. We trained a total of
four training programs in Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The idea was to
expose them to actual cases, as well as some
hypothetical cases involving, for the most part,
significant loss of money due to predatory practices,
such as those associated with reverse mortgages,
selling of annuities, other fairly high-end financial forms of
financial exploitation. We wanted to, in
the training, say if you hand it off
to law enforcement, what happens? The conclusion pretty
much is, for the most part, it goes nowhere. If in fact it does
go to law enforcement and police investigate, it goes to the district
attorney and he prosecutes and the person
even ends up in jail, our point was primarily
that the victim is never made whole in any
way, or even in part. They don’t get their money back. The perpetrator might,
in fact, end up in prison in some few cases, but the victim
doesn’t get their money back. If you follow
the civil law route, you may have the
opportunity to be able to get restitution for
the people that you serve. I’m not going to go into
more detail on the training at this point but to say
that reviews were positive, with both saying
that the training would make a difference in
their work in terms of their willingness to make
referrals to the civil bar, their understanding of
why that makes a difference, and why it would
actually help their clients. I would say as an aside,
there is a tremendous need with Adult Protective
Services long-term care ombudsmen and others in
the service providing business to understand what civil
law represents, what it can do, the distinction between
legal aid and litigators. We even talked a good
deal about small claims court, the use of mediation,
all varieties of civil law. We found in two of our trainings
where we give the evaluation — we get to do one
in the fourth one — in two of the three trainings, more than half the evaluators
were unfamiliar with the legal referral
service that is available, that are available in
California for this purpose. It was an unknown landscape
for a lot of these folks. I think I’m going to stop now. I’ve used my allotted time. I will be available
to answer questions, and I’m looking forward to
hearing Jennifer Goldberg, to whom I am
passing off the baton now. YOLANDA: Okay. Thank you, Bill. This is Yolanda Campbell again. I think we have one
poll question we’re going to use in the transition
right now for everyone. If everyone who is listening can just answer the question
on the poll in front of you, and then we’ll give
it a couple of minutes. BILL: Okay, go ahead and
answer the question now. YOLANDA: All right, so it looks
like a lot of people are — is it other legal
or from other legal — no, victim services. JENNIFER: It looks to me
like we have a lot of people with victim services,
maybe about a third of the folks who are
coming in are doing that. And a
significant number of folks who have a legal aid background
and the APS background, as well as a social work
background and other legal. We’ve got a nice broad
range of participants, which is exactly
what we were aiming for on this webinar. I’m so pleased to see that. YOLANDA: Okay, Jennifer,
why don’t you go ahead and share with us what
you’ve prepared today? JENNIFER: Absolutely, and
thank you so much, everyone. I appreciate the opportunity
to participate on this webinar. I want to thank the
Department of Justice and the Elder Justice Initiative
for doing this training. And the National Center on
Law and Elder Rights really appreciates the opportunity
to participate today. I am particularly pleased to join in this discussion. I wanted to start off
just making sure that everybody knows what the National Center on
Law and Elder Rights is. We’re abbreviated
NCLER, so there’s lots of shorthand out
there in the world. If you hear me
saying NCLER, I mean the National Center on
Law and Elder Rights. We’re relatively new. We’ve been going for
about a year and a half now. We provide the legal services in aging and
disability communities with the
resources that they need. We’re really designed to
serve as a one-stop shop. We do training, case consultations,
and technical assistance. Those are all
designed to help those who are serving
older adults with the greatest
social and economic needs understand what the legal rights
of those older adults are and what types of remedies
may be available to them and how they can
access those remedies. I work with Justice and Aging. I’m Justice and
Aging Administer, NCLER, through a contract with the Administration for
Community Living and the Administration on Aging in
particular as part of HDL. That’s who we are, and
I hope that some of you may have used our
trainings before. I’ll talk a little
bit more about them at the end of my section. As I was listening to Bill’s
initial presentation today, it strikes me that a
real threshold question here is why would anyone who
was providing a referral — including Adult
Protective Services, but really a whole
range of different partners in the aging
community and law enforcement, all different areas
of services where people may say what the
person that I am trying to help right now needs may
be civil legal assistance — what is it that civil
legal assistance can provide? One thing is civil
legal assistance provides unique
interventions compared to other types of services
that could be provided; unique opportunities
to help restore victims and mitigate risk for future financial
exploitation, in particular. When older adults
receive civil legal assistance, they are in the driver’s seat. They are the client,
and their goals and wishes are really paramount. This is different from
the criminal system where the older adult is the
witness, not the client. Civil legal assistance
also can provide remedies that aren’t
available in the same way through other mechanisms. On this slide I have a number of those possible remedies. Some of them include
a protective order — ordering the
perpetrator to stay away from the victim, for example; evicting a perpetrator
from the victim’s home. You can potentially get
freezing of bank accounts if someone is subject to
financial exploitation and their bank
account is being drained. If someone is
abusing a power of attorney, and that is the form of
abuse that’s taking place, then a civil legal
attorney can help revoke that power of
attorney to end its power or change the person so
that they can put another person in charge of helping
them with their finances. If someone is
under guardianship, a civil attorney can help
terminate that guardianship if that guardianship is
the source of the abuse. If there’s some
type of contact, a scam that someone has
gotten themselves into, and they’ve been taken advantage of, a civil lawyer can
help rescind that contract, take it back, stop it, and
try to get that person’s money back as some
form of restitution. Those are all a
myriad of different things. That’s just the beginning
of the different types of civil remedies that a
civil attorney can provide that are quite
different than what’s provided on the criminal side or
through other social services. As Bill mentioned, there
are a variety of different ways that people can access
civil legal assistance. One way is
through civil legal aid, through legal aid
attorneys who are primarily helping individuals
who have financial need; some different
types of civil legal aid; they have a variety of
different funding sources. Sometimes they
are funded through Legal Services Corporation,
federally funded that way. Other times they are
funded on a state basis through Title 3B of
the Older Americans Act. That’s a really
critical source because that part of the
Older Americans Act focuses legal services
on older Americans with the greatest
social and economic need. Then sometimes
some legal aid offices are funded
privately through foundations or other private
donors, as well. Each of those different types of civil legal aid providers
have different criteria for them to be
able to help someone. For example, for
people who are funded through the Legal Services Corporation,
they have income and asset requirements of
only being able to help people who have low income
and limited resources. For Title 3B providers —
for attorneys who are funded in that way — then there
is not an income or an asset test, but they do focus
their work on older Americans with the greatest social
and economic need, as I said. All of these civil legal
aid attorneys have specific priorities that are
specific to their office. And Title 3B attorneys,
one of their priorities is elder abuse and exploitation. That’s a priority under
the Older Americans Act and is an area
where attorneys would be particularly interested
in receiving referrals. In addition to civil legal aid, a referral may also be
appropriate to the private bar, which is what Bill was
starting to talk about. Private bar attorneys
may include people who are solo practitioners,
who just hang up a shingle and then decide themselves. It could include a small
firm or a large law firm — a range of different
types of attorneys there. That referral may be
particularly relevant where someone is seeking some type of
civil money damages, because often civil legal aid is less likely to be
able to take those cases. Depending on the
area where you are, there may be specialists
who work specifically on elder law issues and with
older adults as their clients. I recommend that
you contact your local or state bar association to see
whether there are specific — an elder law section or a
specific kind of attorneys — who work on
these types of issues who have identified themselves. Lastly, I wanted to
mention referral services that may be available, such as lawyer referral services
through a bar association or other county
levels where you can refer to a particular phone
number, and then they have a set of
attorneys who have agreed to do some screening
and take cases in that way. Those referral services
can be a great option for referrals because
you’re not then pointed to any particular attorney. You’re just suggesting a way that they can access a
range of different attorneys. When we’re talking about
referrals, there are a number of considerations that people
really need to think through. The first one that I want to
talk about is client consent. That’s really critical. Because often when I
am talking to people who are thinking
about how do they share information or get new
information from their client, they are reluctant to
involve other professionals because of their
duty of confidentiality. Certainly, as an
attorney; and I understand that for many of the professionals, that confidentiality
that you establish with your client is paramount. While we want to make sure that we’re respecting
that confidentiality, we also need to
make sure how can you get through that in
order to get your client all the different
services they may need, including services
that may not be provided by your organization. The first way to do that is just to make sure that
you have client consent. In most situations,
as long as you have the consent of the
client to share information, you can provide
information directly to another professional
to seek assistance for them. In addition to
telling the client you may want to
contact Legal Aid, you can also do
more of a warm cast off and really make
sure that you know where the person is going to. As I said, in terms of
professional obligations, attorneys have very strict
client confidentiality rules. So do many of the
other professionals that are on this call today. Everybody has slightly different
professional obligations. Understanding what those different
professional obligations are and making sure
that you find a way to work through
them so that you can still refer to
someone and get someone the civil legal help
that they need is critical. From my perspective,
the best way to do that is by establishing
relationships, because when you have established a relationship
with another agency, another
professional, another service, then you will be
better able to understand: How does it work when
I refer someone to you? What happens
next in your process? What will you be
able to tell me? Will you be able to
tell me the outcome? Usually for an attorney,
once you’ve referred to them, they’re not going to be
able to share information the client then
tells them unless they get client consent and there’s
an explicit agreement to do so. Establishing what
the parameters of those relationships
are and how you can most productively work
together is really important. That means, among other things, really getting to know who
is available in your community. We’re having a national
conversation right now; understanding what different
types of services are available. There may be specific
services that are available to victims of
crime in your area. There are funding
that’s available through VOCA, the Victims of Crime Act, that more and more legal
services are participating in. That might be
available in your community. There may be other attorneys that are
specializing in this area. There may also be
a senior hotline, or a legal hotline that isn’t
just specifically for seniors, but is more broad, that is an entry point for people
into the civil legal system and can either provide
advice and brief service right through the
telephone in that way, or can also refer clients
to additional legal help, to give them
fuller representation if telephone advice is
not everything they need, if they need more than that. Depending on where you are, there are just a range
of different possibilities. Getting to know who
is the Title 3B attorney for your area under
the Older Americans Act — who is providing
services to older adults, who is providing
services to victims of crime, is there a private bar
elder law section that has interest in this area, what are the range of resources
that you could refer to, and establishing
relationships within those are an important way to
create successful referrals. I want to make sure that I
tell you all about our NCLER website and the
trainings that we have. Our trainings are
provided in webinar form. They’re provided electronically because we’re
serving the whole country. Our website is
NCLER.acl.gov because we’re part of the Administration
for Community Living. On our website
you can learn about our upcoming trainings. We have two training tracks, and we do two trainings a month. One is our legal basics
training, and that is designed for people who are
perhaps newer attorneys learning about issues of
law that intersect with how they serve their older clients; and also designed for
non-attorneys who want to learn about the legal rights of
older adults and how they can spot issues that might be legal, how they can
start addressing them, and the basics that help
them navigate those systems. We provide
training in a wide array of subject matter areas, from
elder abuse and exploitation, like the trainings that
we’re talking about now, to health care and
long-term services and support, consumer law,
housing, income security, a whole range of
different areas, guardianship and
its alternatives, advanced care planning,
and supported decision making. There’s a wide range of areas
that we provide training in, all of which
intersect, in my opinion, with the legal needs that
victims of elder abuse may have. You can access all the materials from our past
trainings, and that includes the webinar
recordings and PowerPoints. We also have a
written document — a written either issue brief
or chapter summary of about five to seven pages that goes
with each of our trainings. If you didn’t make the
training and you don’t have an hour to watch,
to look through it, you can flip through
that and see what you need. You can also sign
up for our email list. Lastly, we provide
case consultation. We do individual consultations
for professionals to talk with them about how they can
best serve their older clients. The email address for
our case consultations is right there —
[email protected] With that, I’m wrapped up, and we’ll go back to our
question and answer session. LORI: All right,
great. Thank you. I think we’re going
to open this up now to Q and A and
everyone who is listening in, I know some of you
have some good questions in the chat pod. If you have any questions,
please submit them now, if you haven’t already. Then Bill and
Jennifer, I don’t know if you want to go ahead and
go through some of the questions we have received. BILL: I can
certainly answer, I think, the first two. The first question is, when is the national
conference provided by NAPSA? This year it will be
August 27th through the 31st in Anaheim, California. That’s August 27 through
31st in Anaheim, California. You can go to the NAPSA website to get information about that. Let me give that to you now. It’s
www.napsa-now — napsa-now.org. You can get
information about registration for the conference
if you’re interested. It is a marvelous conference. It is interdisciplinary
in every facet. We have
prosecutors, law enforcement, litigators, legal
services, and certainly Adult Protective Services,
ombudsmen, and others. The second
question I think, for me is, I have mentioned
the pilot training that we did in California for
Adult Protective Services. The question: Is pilot
training available in other districts such as
the Virgin Islands? If it is, how does the district go about setting that up? I wish I could say we
were doing other trainings under that project,
because I would sign up first to go to the Virgin Islands. But we aren’t doing
other trainings right now under that particular project. We hope to do
that in the future. I would suggest
contacting NAPSA itself about how something
like that might be arranged. If you’re interested, I think NAPSA
would be very willing to talk to you about that. I think what I’ll
do is I’ll give you the email address
for my associate, Kendra Kuehn, if I can. Kendra is listening in. Her email address is Kendra, K-E-N-D-R-A.kuehn, K-U-E-H-N. I’ll do that again. Kendra, K-E-N-D-R-A.K-U-E-H-N
@NAPSA-now.org. If you connect with us, I think we can help
you at least to figure out how that might be a possibility. JENNIFER: It looks like some of the other questions I
might be able to answer. I encourage people to
keep asking questions. I’m really interested in hearing what you all are
seeing and doing. We had a question
about the types of training that NCLER
offers and coordinating with NCLER for a
training in your area. As I said, most of the trainings
that we offer are online. We also work with
communities that are trying to put on trainings to
share materials and to help them with
developing those trainings as part of our work in
legal services development. In particular, we work with
legal assistance developers in each of the states
who are thinking about how the legal services system
is working for older adults in their state and what types
of training might be available. I would encourage you
to get in touch with us at our [email protected]
address if you’re interested in
thinking about how could you put on some
training for your area that might then help with
the legal services delivery and the referral system for that legal services
work in your community. I’ll go ahead and keep
going on the next question too. Then Bill, maybe you
can chime in as well, because I think
this is something we probably both
have dealt with. The next question is, if we are
referring an elder abuse victim of financial
exploitation to legal services, the first response I
get is that they have no money to pay for it. What do you
suggest we say to them to make it less
intimidating in that way? I have a couple
of thoughts on that. The first one is that if they
are particularly low income, or if all of their money has
been taken as a result of the financial exploitation, they
may qualify for free services. All of the services I
discussed through legal aid are usually provided free of
charge through the other sources of
funding that I mentioned. That said, there may
be situations in which private attorneys are
willing to provide services on what’s called a
sliding scale basis so that they do it in
part based on income. Sometimes if it’s a question
of what’s called a tort case, a case for some
sort of wrongful action, the attorney is willing
to wait and see if any money has been gotten
and take their fees out of the money
that is recovered. Then the person is not
paying anything up front. Those are a couple of
different ways that they may be able to deal
with the idea that generally people are a little
afraid to contact a lawyer because they’re concerned about what the cost of that will be. Bill, do you want
to add in on that? BILL: No, Jennifer. I think you did a great
job in responding to that. I just would urge
folks when they’re working with their
clients to help them understand that they
should inquire further; that the fact that they’re
worried that it’s going to cost them money may be an artificial
barrier in many cases, or not as much as they want. I tend to think that it’s
the obligation of those working with their clients to
help people understand what the array of
possibilities are and how potentially useful it may be to go to the civil law route, and that their
barriers may not be as great as they think they are. Thanks for that. That’s part of why I
think training of APS workers, ombudsmen, and many
others is so necessary. So that they understand exactly what Jennifer just described. JENNIFER: This is
also, I think, where I would get back to the
establishing relationships. The more that you know about what’s available
in your community, including what the
private bar is willing to offer and whether there is an elder law section of the
bar association perhaps. Or sometimes there are programs that will
offer particular help at a reduced rate
for older clients. Understanding what the
availability is in your area really makes a big
difference in being able to tell people
what the options are. We have a question
about small claims court. Bill, you had
mentioned small claims court in your presentation.
BILL: I did, yes. I don’t know that I can answer the specific question about how they can
enforce a judgment against the defendant
once it has been made. But I think I was
especially impressed, and I had never
thought particularly of small claims court as
a vehicle for getting restitution or
redressing financial loss. And we had, as one
of our presenters, Kelly Morgantini,
who not only runs the senior law
project, but she’s also a small claims
judge in her community. She described
numerous cases where there were awards made by
the small claims court that were, in fact, paid. Particularly, in
a small community in which she described, as a small claims judge, they are able to ensure
that the payment is made. I was very impressed with that. I know that in
small claims court, amounts that fall
within their jurisdiction vary from the
state; I’m sure of that. California’s is
surprisingly generous. It’s a really untapped resource when we’re not talking
about great sums of money, and it’s clearly an
available accessible form of pursuit of justice, if you
will, for a lot of people. Let’s face it, a thousand
dollars’ loss may not sound like a lot of money; a trial attorney views
that in most cases or others. But that thousand
dollars may be absolutely incredibly essential to the
livelihood of the older person. Small claims court is
a very real alternative. What I would urge
anybody interested in at least knowing in your
jurisdiction how that works is to look into the small
claims court requirements and how it works
in your community. I was very
impressed with what I heard. JENNIFER: We
have another question that sort of follows
up on our discussion about what if there is
no legal aid in my area. One thing I would
say about that is while a legal aid office may not be located in your
particular county, there may be a legal aid, a more regional office,
that does cover your county. And you may not
be aware that they also provide
services in that county. When I worked in Maryland, I found that sometimes
people were very aware of the legal aid office when it was physically
located in their county. But when it was one
or two counties over, they were less familiar with it, and it was harder to get
clients from those areas. Looking to see if there
are regional options or, as I said before, some
type of statewide hotline that could be
available, is one option. I also wanted to
mention the possibility of attorneys who are
willing to do pro bono work. It has been my experience — especially in
smaller communities, more rural communities,
areas where there’s a smaller number of
attorneys in the bar — that there’s actually
a tremendous willingness to do pro bono work. And pro bono means
work on a volunteer basis, without being paid. That’s something that is
another area to explore, because I found that often when there’s a small
community of attorneys, there’s a lot of
community mindedness that goes into that. These are cases — these elder
financial exploitation cases — that are extremely compelling
and are really something that someone may
feel the need to take on. BILL: Jennifer,
if I can just add a little bit to that
great answer of yours. Under the Older Americans Act, the Area Agencies on
Aging are required to provide funding for and
support for legal aid or legal services
for older adults. In theory, there is a
legal services program for older adults in virtually
every community in America. It may not be in your
particular office and may not be in your community. A lot of Area Agencies on Aging cover a lot of geography,
many counties, many cities. But there is a legal services
program for that jurisdiction of some kind or another
available no matter what. Now of course,
virtually all are thinly stretched
and under-resourced, but there is one somewhere
to at least connect with. JENNIFER: Thank you, Bill. Absolutely. Under, as
I was mentioning before, the Older Americans Act, the Administration for
Community Living is involved with making sure that there
are exactly what he said — legal assistance that is
provided to older adults through the Area
Agencies on Aging. Those providers are
available across the country. BILL: There’s a
really good question asking, does NAPSA or NCLER use
any analytic tools to help find financial exploitation
cases or fraud that affect particularly the
elder community and may point out
trends in the community. I will speak for NAPSA. We’re not using any
analytical tools to do that. We’re hoping that the NAMRS
system will give us a much greater understanding
of financial exploitation, along with all
other cases over time. I think that the
notion of using analytics within caseloads of APS programs
is an excellent thought and should be able to provide
a real sense of trends — case reports showing
what kinds of forms of fraud and exploitation, and
then other things going on. The caseload data that
we’ve never had before in any real meaningful way, we
think is going to be really remarkably rich for
learning a lot down the road. As I say, it’s
early, early stages. JENNIFER: To add
to that, NCLER — we work with professionals, not directly with
the older adults. We’re not keeping
track of cases in that way. But we do track the
interest that we have in particular issues
through the case consultations that come to us. That can include what types
of scams are being discussed or other forms of
financial exploitation. We also get input
on the work that we do throughout the year, and that helps us to spot trends. I wanted to
mention also that I saw in the chat box that
someone mentioned clinics in law schools, which is
another wonderful resource, and another way
that people can access civil legal
assistance in your community. They can also be a
great resource to connect you with other types of services,
other lawyers as well. I encourage you to look for that in your community as well. I see we have a question: Does a civil attorney
help others who want to get a person out of their
home who is living with them and the elder did
not want to have there, doesn’t want them
using their property? Yes, is the short answer. One of the things that a
civil legal attorney can do is help someone with
an eviction proceeding. Sometimes it’s called
an ejectment proceeding, depending on what the
court is and what the needs are and the relationship
between the people. Yes, if there’s
someone living with the elder and they don’t want
them there anymore, civil legal assistance can
play a critical role in that. We’re scrolling
through questions now, so, give us just a second. I see we have a
question about sharing of data. Oh, my goodness. Sharing of data is a
complicated issue, because there is certainly information
that different people are tracking through
different electronic systems, and not all of those
systems talk to each other. I think that NAMRS, which
Bill mentioned earlier — the new voluntary way
to get data collections regarding adult maltreatment — will be a tremendous
source of information. There’s also going to
be new data that’s going to be collected regarding
the services that are provided through Administration
for Community Living funding. They’re going to have
different data collection that will hopefully allow
us to see trends over time, in that way as well. That’s something
that is upcoming. Bill, anything to add there, some of the other questions? BILL: No, I don’t
think so, Jennifer. But I’m happy to
take a bit of a start on this next question. Does NCLER and
NAPSA have any programs, services, or
trainings that also deals with veterans who are often
susceptible to elder abuse? You’re very right about that. I wanted to mention first, NAPSA doesn’t have a particular
program related to that, although it’s a
really terrific thought. I would recommend contacting California Advocates
for Nursing Home Reform, or CANHR. The reason I mention
them is they have done a great deal of work
with respect to abuses within the VA’s Aid
and Attendants program. It’s a remarkable program that provides cash
assistance to veterans when they don’t have
enough money to be able to meet their home- and community-based
care service needs; it is a cash
program, terrific program. But there are some
really awful people out there who have figured out
how to scam that system. One of the common
approaches is to get the veteran to sign up for the Aid and Attendants program, and then when they
get the cash payment, use that cash payment
to purchase an annuity, which is not what
it was intended for; because it
becomes all of a sudden a new source of
money for an annuity. CANHR, I think, even
has publications on this. I do recommend folks contact California Advocates
for Nursing Home Reform. Before we get off, I’ll come up with their phone
number or their website. JENNIFER: NCLER does have some trainings that
relate to veterans as well. I believe, later
this year we have an upcoming training that
relates to veteran issues. I will be sure to
share that information. I just have to
look for the date. We have a question
here about guardianship. I think that the question is, what are the different
options for guardianship? The question is about
petitioning for guardianship, but I would also say
that there’s also issues of, have you defended
against the guardianship? I would actually suggest that people take a step back. I think there has
been greater effort towards alternatives
to guardianship recently, and it isn’t
necessarily being appreciated. Guardianship is really designed to be the last resort. There are a number of
different avenues that you can pursue that may
allow you to address the need of the older adult
without necessarily having to take away all
of their rights, which is what
happens in a guardianship. NCLER has a number of resources that address this issue,
including a great training on guardianship
and its alternatives. I would urge you to
take a look at that, if that’s an issue
that’s in your community. That guardianship and
its alternatives overview is actually coming up in July. That’s July 10; there’s
my plug for that training, and my plug for our
veterans’ training. That one is coming up
in October, on October 9. Those are both part of
our legal basics series. I see we’re coming up
to the end of our time. I wanted to
mention that there’s also a veterans’ program
available through ACL. That’s something
that I would urge people to take a look at through the Administration
for Community Living. They have tremendous
programs for veterans as well. As we’re about to conclude, I just want to thank everyone so much for their
participation. Particularly thank you to the DOJ
Elder Justice Initiative for putting this on. This has been a tremendous
opportunity to talk with everyone, and we at
NCLER appreciate it. LORI: We at the Elder
Justice Initiative really appreciate you and Bill
taking the time to put this presentation together
and speak to everyone today. I hope you guys all got some
benefit out of this webinar. I know I definitely did. If there are any
questions that you have that didn’t get
answered or that you think of, as soon as this thing is over,
please feel free to reach out to the Elder Justice
Initiative email address, which is on the screen now
[email protected] We can try to answer
your questions for you. The webinar is being recorded. It will be available on
the OVC TTAC training website for those of you who
want to re-listen to it or share it with
colleagues that may not have been able to attend today. Thank you everyone,
again, for listening, and I hope you
have a great afternoon. BILL: Thanks, everybody. FEMALE: Thank you very much.
This concludes the webinar.

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