Friday, May 22, 2015

ID Overkill . . .

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Last night my wife and I went to the local Applebees(tm) for dinner. As is my custom I ordered a beer with dinner. Imagine my surprise when the waitress - young enough to be my grand-daughter - asked for my ID.

She immediately shattered any illusion she was trying to flatter my grey, fat, 64-year old physique, but explained that in Tennessee another Applebees lost their license because they provided a beverage to someone who was of sufficient age but their ID HAD EXPIRED.

The patent stupidity and lack of logic is ridiculous.  Not Applebees for protecting itself (I hope Virginia's ABC Board, untrained as a lot of its agents may be - especially in Charlottesville - would go that far). But Tennessee for requiring a "Valid" ID for proof of age.  As an identification, even an expired drivers license should identify the holder.  As a license to drive (or do whatever) the expiration should only mean that the person can no longer do that function legally. 

Do we cease to exist when our ID expires? Should the Right To Life faction of our society be told of this problem and take action? 

So as I was fuming (Rossiferous scale of 1) my wife pointed out that there is a notary she deals with who will refuse to notarize a document if the person signing has an 'expired' ID.

And DMV, which is one of the most hated agencies in the Commonwealth of Virginia (and probably a lot of other states) will not accept an expired driver's license as identification of the individual when they show up two days after it expired to get it renewed. That means the individual has to get their birth certificate or passport or some other 'acceptable' documents to start the licensing process all over again. 

This is not an earth-shattering problem but still a major inconvenience to us.  We need to get our legislators to define 'Valid' ID as one issued by a recognized agency which identifies the holder by whatever criteria required; whether or not expired for the purpose of licensing the holder to perform some function (e.g. driving), is nevertheless valid for purposes of identifying the individual or their age.
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Friday, May 8, 2015

The Fax Blast

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I will freely admit that at times I am slow completing assignments and I try to consider that trait when working with others.  There are times, however, when all involved must move quickly to protect or promote rights of clients and delay hurts.  About once a year I get someone who has a reputation of not responding and -- true to form -- they don't do what they say they will anywhere near timely.
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Enter the Fax Blast.  I learned about it the hard way (see first sentence above)
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It consists of:
  • FAXBLAST cover sheet (simply a cover sheet with a line stating "REMINDER NUMBER and a series of numbers 1 thru 25 or so, spaced so they can be circled easily)
  • Confirmation sheets (note plural) printed by my fax machine.
  • Whatever memo/document the recipient should act upon.
First day, I send the fax, circling "1".   If I don't get a response, on the second day I send the fax again, this time circling "2" and INCLUDE the confirmation sheet from the first day. If no response then each day the memo is sent again, circling the appropriate number, and including ALL previous confirmation sheets.

After a few days I'm using more and more of the recipient's fax paper and ink/toner.

After a week it goes to twice a day.

After two weeks, HOURLY. I've only had to threaten this level once.

It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it
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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

lowlife SCAM ALERT

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I just got a call from a client -- a wonderful, elderly retired nurse, "Ross I'm in Trouble".  Seems she got a call 'from the sheriff' that she had missed reporting for jury duty and there was a warrant for her arrest. They told her the fine was $950, and she needed to go to Kroger and get a money-order to pay it.

THIS IS A SCAM.  THAT WAS NOT THE SHERIFF.  IT IS BULL$#!7. 

I called the sheriff to advise it was happening and he told me that one of his deputies was handling REAL jury notices and one of those summonsed had PAID the fine two weeks earlier. (and they had a lawyer living in the household!)

If you get this call, simply hang up and then call the police or the REAL sheriff.  The only person who can impose a fine is a judge; they only do this when you show up in front of the judge and if you don't have an excuse then they may fine you.

Warn your friends and elderly relatives.  And if you get this kind of call tell them I said it was BS and call me about it. The low-life SOB will get a blast of Rossiferous.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Satisfied clients

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Normally I don't like to 'toot my own horn', but this one I've got to.  

I just got one of the best ‘thank you’s’ ever from a client. Background:  son (in his late 40’s, no children or wife) died broke with a large amount of debt and no will, leaving only very elderly but spry parents. I decided that they should forego any formal administration as it was only work with absolutely no benefit to them. Also, the apartment where their son was living changed the locks after his death and—working with the apartment’s lawyer—I was able to get my clients back in to retrieve the property and memories he left behind. Their letter:

Mr. Hart:
  
Thank you and your dedicated staff for all you have done for us. Losing our fine son has been very traumatic for us and the legal ramifications were overwhelming to us.

Yet you established a plan that both provided dignity for our son, and isolated us from the harassing phone calls and direct contacts that we could have been subjected to.

Mr. Hart, your legal knowledge, expertise and positive directions assured us that our son’s best interest and ours was always at the forefront of each decision.  . .  .  .  

Our gratitude again for the ‘extra mile’ you went to help us during the ‘lockout’ of [our son’s] apartment.


                                                           Respectfully yours,

                                                          (clients)

             These clients are wonderful to work with and they followed my suggestions. Days like this are why I love my job and career.
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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Virginia's Mean and Callous Joke . . .



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I’m guardian for Sylvester who lives in Assisted Living where he paid ('privately) $2250.00 per month until his saved money ran out; now he pays $1450.00 per month (the owner has a heart of gold, likes Sylvester and agreed to reduce the rate, otherwise he’d be in the street). He thrives there. And at that rate the owner gets a whopping $243.00 more than she would be paid if Sylvester was on the embarrassing disgrace called ‘auxiliary grant’. (see my blog entry on THAT)

Sylvester’s net Social Security income is $18,876.00 per year or $1573.00 per month (after Medicare A, B and D are deducted). So he has $123.00 per month remaining for clothing, diapers, incidentals, Medicare co-pays, my fee for serving as guardian, etc. (I will NOT ‘short’ the assisted living facility as a roof over his head and meals is the most important priority). 

Sylvester has cancer. He presently OWES medical bills of over $4600.00 (that I know of). He needs treatment; the cancer care provider (who has the stupidest billing department I’ve encountered in 20 years of guardianship) is raising hell over its unpaid bill of over $500.00 (and increasing every day); the pharmacy is raising hell over its unpaid bill of over $3500.00 (and increasing every day).  And I have no way to pay any of them.  UPDATE: the day after I posted this I got a letter from the pharmacy that they are discontinuing his meds -- I asked if they (a HUGE national pharmacy) had a charity program and they said NO.

The cancer care provider suggested we apply for Medicaid.  My thought was it’d be easier to move the Rock of Gibraltar to the African continent on the other side of the strait, and I said as much. Nevertheless we (futilely) sent in an application. As I expected it was denied but he was placed on something called “Spend-down”.

If you thought the ‘auxiliary grant’ was a cruel joke, you haven’t seen ‘spend-down’. It is mean and callous.

Our exalted Commonwealth of Virginia’s Medicaid program will pay the difference in
Sylvester’s medical bills OVER $8041.08. After insurance.  Over the six months ending October 31, 2014.

That’s EIGHTY-FIVE (85%) PERCENT OF SYLVESTER’S INCOME. 

NO-ONE can meet a criteria so damned asinine.

I’m pissed off at this. I’m pissed off because the “we don’t like anything Obama does and will stonewall everything related to him” Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid benefits in Virginia. AT NO COST to Virginia for the first 4 years of expansion. That expansion would probably cover Sylvester.

This is unconscionable. It makes me think that the Republicans want poor people to die so they won’t have to pay for their care. It’s the only logical answer – there’s no other way to explain what they’re doing. I don’t even think former Governor and US Senator Harry F. Byrd would stoop this low.

To protect Sylvester, I’m going to have to figure out how to get him into a nursing home where Medicaid WILL pay for his care.  At a cost to Virginia taxpayers of over $12,000.00 per year (based on Virginia’s share of Medicaid spending). The Republicans are penny-wise and pound foolish – and are too senseless to understand it.

And they’ll tell me I’m wrong about them that they really do care.  Really?  Then prove it.  Expand Medicaid. Show the world we’re better than Mississippi.
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The inaccessible Roanoke Law Library

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Over 75 years ago the Roanoke Bar Association was formed for the then primary purpose of maintaining a cooperative law library. (Law books are expensive).  In the 1970's the library was given to the City of Roanoke with the understanding it would maintain the library for the benefit of the public and for the lawyers (who represented that same public).  11 years ago Roanoke City cut hours of the Law Library and now the current operating schedule for the Roanoke Law Library is beyond ridiculous.  The hours are generally 8 am to noon all days except one when it is open until, I think, 4 -- this is applicable to lawyers and the general public. 
 
This puts the usefulness of the Law Library on nearly the same level as screen doors on a submarine. A joke.
 
I've toyed with the idea of some action against the city for the reduced hours, but would rather make a few suggestions and comments that may improve the present situation.
 
The heck of it is, Roanoke's not alone.  I just learned that the Alexandria, VA, proposed budget cuts all funding (except what comes from court fees) from its law library.
 
Short of restoring the Roanoke Law Library hours to something resembling common sense, a solution would be to move the Law Library over to the main library so the public at large and their lawyers could have access on a more human schedule. Having the resources available is -- these days -- more important to the public than for lawyers (we've got our computers with Fastcase, Westlaw, Lexis).  That would free up significant room in the courthouse for something else.  (However, if this is adopted I'd urge the continuation of the "Lawyers' Lounge" for a place we could work between appearances, meet clients, take a nap, etc.).  
 
An alternative, which would apply to lawyers only, is to reinstate a version of the 'key club' (a privilege lawyers had for access years ago).  The Courthouse security checkpoint is mere feet from the door to the Law Library.  Have a key with the deputies and a sign-in/out book.  A lawyer needing to go in to the library could do so upon presenting his bar card and signing the book. (a modification of the old magistrate system)  Frankly this could be instituted immediately while the main branch consolidation idea is studied to death in typical Roanoke fashion.
 
For a number of years I was a member and chair of the Roanoke Bar's library committee and worked with the late Clayne Calhoun to make it a premier law library for a community of our size. It is disheartening to see it as a stepchild of the library system and virtually inaccessible to anyone who might want to use its resources.
 
I want to see it fixed.
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Monday, March 31, 2014

Voice to text . . .

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I've installed voice-to-text software -- the one advertised on TV.  I had tried it in the past but computer power and the software both left a lot to be desired. 

Given my new computer (I had an XP machine that is now obsolete, so got a Windows 7 thing) I thought I'd try it again.  It does do a lot better and it is fairly fast.

However, the accuracy rate is still at 95% -- that means one in twenty words is wrong and you have to take the time to correct it.  Given that lawyers use a LOT of words, that's a lot of corrections.

I just looked at something I 'dictated' into the computer.  Visions of instructions for electronic devices from Asia, written by a non-English-as-first-language person came to mind.  I'll have to be careful.
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Monday, January 27, 2014

Home fire safety tip . . .

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(originally posted 1/27/2014)

My wife and I learned something Friday night,  After we went to bed. And were half asleep.

Smoke/Fire alarms 'wear out'. And get noisy when they die. And they like to die in the middle of the night. (one Lowe's consumer review mentioned the "Midnight Fire Alarm Club").

Our house has 'hard-wired' fire/smoke alarms. This means there's a dedicated circuit connecting all the fire alarms in the house, and if one goes off, they ALL go off.  That's a good thing -- if there's a fire downstairs we might not hear the alarm down there; Allyson (whose apartment is downstairs) might not hear a fire alarm going off upstairs.

According to the firemen who 'visited' us Friday, the alarms have a useful life of about 10 years. Ours had a manufacture date-stamp of 2001. And, per the nice firemen, when one 'hard-wired' alarm dies, it sends a signal to all the others and they all shriek. The US Fire Administration (part of FEMA) also says replace after 10 years.

In our case, all EIGHT of the alarms.

And there's no way to shut them off -- no 'breaker' on the electrical box says 'fire alarms' (which is also a good thing because there are dummies who would switch them off) but even if there were one, the battery back up in each would keep it shrieking.

So after 14 1/2 minutes of shrieking (we couldn't find any fire, smoke, gas, etc.) we called the fire department and they kindly responded, getting to our house about 2 minutes after we called.

And 90 seconds after the 15-minute 'automatic reset' in the alarms shut them off.

Saturday I went to Lowes and bought 8 replacement BRK/First Alert (tm) alarms (and there's a 20% discount if you buy 6 or more, so I paid $15 for each $19 alarm); it took only 30 minutes to switch all of them out because they had matching 'plugs' to connect them to the house.  The alarms 'twist' in and out of the retaining/trim ring, while the new alarm had a different ring, all I did was loosen two screws holding it in, jiggled it out and jiggled in the new ring, tightened it, plugged in the new alarm and twisted it into the new ring.  The hardest part was moving the ladder from alarm to alarm.

So, folks, the bottom line is look at your alarms - if they were made before 2004 you need to replace them.  And consider doing it anyhow if they were made in 2005 or before.You'll sleep better (literally and figuratively)
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FOLLOWUP - 4/7/2014. 

Today I got the following email from a friend: 

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Yesterday afternoon while my husband and I were enjoying a quiet and relaxation time, all of a sudden the smoke/fire alarms started sounding off all throughout the house.  We both bounded up and went dashing through the house and I was feeling of walls and sniffing.  We have a nice staircase to the attic and I ran up there and there was nothing anywhere.  Well, of course, what did I think but the conversation that we had about something similar happening to you.  I hardwired alarms have been in service about ten and one-half years.  I went to the electrical box and there was a breaker that said “fire alarms”.  I tripped it off and the alarms were still sounding.  I thought good grief what will we do?   My husband is not the least bit mechanically inclined!  AND then it stopped.  I said to him, this is not the end of it.  He got the step ladder and proceeded to tell me we should replace the batteries.  Hummmmmm….not a fix I thought, but I went along with it.

The long and short of it is that they sounded again, and then again.  I determined that the breaker did turn off the electricity to all of them, but the batteries made them still sound off.  Then we removed the newly inserted fresh batteries.   AND then we had silence, but no protection.   We made a quick trip to Lowe’s and bought the six pack you described.  NOW like I said my husband is not the least bit mechanically inclined and certainly not trained in electric matters.  He wouldn’t touch them and he dared me to.  I googled it and I know that it is matter of turning off the juice and connecting the black wire, the white wire, and the red wire and reattaching them – but I was under orders not to touch them. 

FOR NOW, we have the circuit breaker off and the batteries removed.  I have one sole alarm/carbon monoxide unit in the middle of my one-story house and am praying for nothing to happen until we have someone in the house later this week that I think will replace them for us.

I AM A ROSS HART BELIEVER NOW!  Thank you.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

(another) Stupid Rule

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This is an excerpt from a letter that went to four members of the Virginia General Assembly from my area. The Auxiliary Grant program (which I've commented on before) is a stepchild of "Virginia Hates the Poor and We're Doing it Only Because the Feds Make Us" funding, which means it gets nothing.

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I’m court appointed guardian for an individual in assisted living who receives the cruel joke Virginia calls Auxiliary Grant.  This isn’t about the stupidity of the niggardly funding of Auxiliary Grant although, as you can imagine, I am more than willing to discuss that at another time.  Instead I have another problem related to a quirk in the rules.

Auxiliary Grant (AG) funds are to help with Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) charges. A significant percentage of ALF residents are there because they’re disabled – mentally (including drug/alcohol abuse/addiction) or physically (age or other impediment). Many of them have a guardian/conservator appointed for them.  In short, many if not most of the individuals are unable to handle money.

So imagine my surprise when I learned, recently, that Virginia Department of Social Services, Auxiliary Grant Manual, (Volume II, Part III, Chapter J, page 12) states

AG payments are issued by check directly to the individual unless an authorized payee has been designated. If an authorized payee has been designated, the check shall be issued to the authorized payee. An authorized payee may be the individual's court appointed conservator or guardian or the person with a valid power of attorney with the authority to accept funds on behalf of the individual. It is the individual’s or the individual’s payee’s responsibility to use the money to pay the ALF/AFCH. The check cannot be issued in the name of the facility or home.
While I’ve acted as guardian for many people for many years, this is the first I knew that AG payments could NOT be payable to the ALF.  I find no logic for it.

My specific problem is that “Jane” for whom I act as guardian lives in an ALF. Her income totals 741.00/month (2014) between Social Security and SSI benefits; because she receives SSI she also automatically receives Medicaid and AG.  The Roanoke City DSS (through the Department of Finance) routinely sends AG payments, BUT THEY ARE PAYABLE DIRECTLY TO JANE who has been declared incompetent. Somehow, at the ALF, because the checks were addressed and mailed to her, she got the checks, cashed them and spent the money – she doesn’t know any better – and her rent is unpaid.

Now the ALF is demanding $2420.00 because (a) they didn’t intercept the checks (which they have done in the past) and (b) the checks invited the abuse by how they were written.

I have asked that the legislators from my area contact Commissioner Shultze at Virginia DSS and ask her to fix the abject stupidity of the manual and let AG funds for an ALF be paid to the ALF directly. At least require AG funds be paid to the Guardian/Conservator where one is appointed, although why we would have to ‘launder’ the funds is beyond me. (however if that’s the way it is, I’ll take a 5% fee as fiduciary for doing so!)
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Embarrassing Disgrace - update

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Sometimes being obstinate pays off.

I just got a call from Catawba -- they found some 'discharge assistance money' and a facility with a good track record working with the patients.  No, it's not assisted living, it's a nursing home with stable and trained staff.  I've had other residents there (and an elderly relative who was there many years ago) and have a lot of respect for the owner and staff.

Unfortunately the underlying problem still exists:  Auxiliary Grant is still a cruel joke.  The result I got is in part because I had the power of a court order granting me authority. Many people don't, and don't know how to argue.
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Friday, August 16, 2013

An embarrassing disgrace

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Embarrassing because I'm a citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia which perpetuates the disgrace.

A disgrace because of the cruelty Virginia inflicts on its impoverished aged and vulnerable residents.

Everyone is familiar with Nursing Homes - at least the concept of them.  To be in a nursing home you must need assistance and meet the criteria as measured on a "Uniform Assessment Instrument" which you can find here:  www.vda.virginia.gov/pdfdocs/uai.pdf‎.

But there are people who need help but do not meet the criteria for nursing home level of care. There's an intermediate step called Assisted Living  (AL). People who have money can go to a private pay facility and those are very nice.  And expensive (about 60% of the private pay nursing home rate by my observation).

If you don't have money but only 'qualify' for AL?  Well, Virginia says it'll help, and if $1196.00 per month (eff. 7/1/2013) is "help" then, maybe, it does. For 1197 compensation per month (1375/month in planning district 8 -- 'occupied Virginia' next to DC), an AL agrees to house, supervise, feed, entertain, insure, take to doctor appointments, develop a 'plan of care' individualized to each resident and put it in place, have trained and licensed staff (24/7) to do so, and so on.

It cannot be done. Those properties that have almost only "Aux Grant" residents are horrible - not their fault as they can't afford to do any better. The problem is statewide -- see this Daily Press (Hampton VA) article from October 2012, --here--

I am guardian for a number of individuals. About a year or so ago I began refusing to consent to Assisted Living placement if the individual was in a better place.  Two of the people I am now guardian for are at Catawba Hospital - a psychiatric facility owned and operated by Virginia which charges over $1000.00 a day - more if the room is padded. If the people can't afford to pay (the usual course) the state eats it. So the goal is to get them out as soon as possible. And if they have a guardian, the guardian has to consent to placement.  My two people are ready for discharge - to Assisted Living with Auxiliary Grant.  They're in a better place at Catawba than in ANY AL/AG facility, so I'm not consenting.

Yes, I'm costing Virginia $1000 a day (per person!) because the General Assembly is too damned stupid to recognize the need and increase the Auxiliary Grant to a reasonable level. The Auxiliary Grant has not kept up with the costs of care - especially considering that more and more regulations are piled on the AL facility without any funds to pay for it.  According to the Daily Press article linked above, there were 166 patients in Virginia Mental Health Hospitals with this problem as of October, 2012.

I just got off the phone with someone trying to place one of my Catawba patients.  That person is very competent and very good at her job. I told her my position and I don't care who knows it (thus this blog). I told her she's welcome to tell the upper food chain my position and my pleasure at getting back at Virginia for its disgraceful "Aux Grant" program by costing the state many times what they should pay each month by refusing placement. I dare them to call me.  I dare the Governor to call me.

As a guardian I have to advocate for what's best for my wards.  In my opinion the Auxiliary Grant program is the worst for them - it is instead a Cruel Joke (to borrow a phrase from former Gov. Mills Godwin) and won't happen on my watch. The two individuals are safer and better cared for where they are now than in Assisted Living, and unless Virginia comes up with reasonable money for their care, they're gonna stay there.
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