Thursday, October 20, 2016

What are ABLE Accounts?

ABLE stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience and the ABLE Act was signed into federal law at the end of 2014. The ABLE Act creates tax-advantaged ABLE Accounts which are financial accounts for certain disabled individuals to use on disability-related expenses. Family members, friends, the disabled individual, or anyone else may make contributions to the disabled person’s ABLE Account. The ABLE Act recognizes that people with disabilities have extra costs that public benefit programs such as SSI, SNAP, or Medicaid cannot always meet. The significance of these accounts is that the funds in the account generally are not considered for SSI, Medicaid, and certain other federal means-tested benefits and the funds help the disabled person finance a more independent life. Virginia has enacted the ABLE bill which authorizes the Virginia College Savings Plan (Virginia529) to create and implement these types of accounts. Virginia529 is currently working to get the program ready. To learn more information about the features of these accounts and to check for any updates on Virginia ABLE Accounts, head to

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Monday, October 10, 2016

There is a New Rule Making It Easier to Sue Nursing Homes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced a new rule that preserves the rights of patients and families to sue long-term care facilities in court for claims such as elder abuse, sexual harassment and wrongful death. The rule bans any long-term care facility, including nursing homes, that receives federal funding from requiring its residents to sign forced arbitration contracts to resolve disputes through arbitration instead of the court system. The parties may enter into an arbitration agreement after a dispute arises, but not before. The rule promises to help deliver safety measures for residents. Requiring patients and families to use the private arbitration system for claims reduces legal costs for facilities, but may block patients and families from getting the justice that they seek. The Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that the rules “are a major step forward to improve the care and safety of the nearly 1.5 million residents in the more than 15,000 long-term care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.” The rule is scheduled to go into effect November 28, 2016 for facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire