December 01, 2017

National Center on Law and Elder Rights

David Godfrey

(The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 39, Issue 2.)

The National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER) premiered in late 2017 as the latest in a long series of national support centers for advocates in law and aging made possible by funding from the Older Americans Act. The Commission on Law and Aging (COLA) has been a part of the national support centers for more than 30 years in various forms.

COLA is a subcontractor for NCLER, responsible for training, case consultation and materials development on advance planning, guardianship and alternatives, elder abuse, supported decision making and related issues within our expertise. The lead contractor on the NCLER is Justice in Aging, the subcontractors are The Commission on Law and Aging, National Consumer Law Center and The Center for Social Gerontology.

One of the goals of the NCLER is to present a single brand; the contractors providing the expertise are not identified on the project website.

A milestone for the NCLER was the website launching late summer 2017 at https://ncler.acl.gov/. The website is the public face of the NCLER. It contains an archive of past training and materials, links to sign up for e-mail discussion lists and an e-mail address to request case consultation assistance. The website is a work in process, with an enhanced version expected in the second year of the project.

In 2017, COLA produced four webinars for NCLER. The first was on Older Adults and Health Care Decision Making in Clinical Settings, the Second was on Elder Abuse Basics, then Supported Decision Making Basics and lastly Elder Abuse and the Impact of Undue Influence. The webinars are presented live, and recorded and posted online. The archive of webinars is at https://ncler.acl.gov/.

All programs are accompanied by written materials. The basics webinars include a chapter summary which presents an overview of the issues. The advanced webinars include a slightly longer discussion of the legal issues. The written materials are based on what advocates consistently tell us they want —short fact sheets and issue-specific briefings. The written materials are provided to webinar attendees and are avail- able online along with the recorded program.

We provide “case consultation” services on our core areas of expertise as part of the NCLER project. Case consultation is defined as providing expert advice to professionals in law in aging — simply put, it involves responding to requests for help and advice that come by phone and e-mail. Funding from the NCLER helps to offset the cost of the time we spend on this.

NCLER funding also supports staff time to produce the National Aging and Law Conference. For 2017, the NCLER produced three of the four plenary sessions.

The project year for NCLER starts September 1st. Funding for the second year was approved and we have begun work. This year we will produce six webinars with related written materials, provide expert advice and collaborate on the National Aging and Law Conference. For the 2018 NALC, the NCLER will produce a “skills” focused pre-conference, a workshop track on critical issues for lower income clients and one plenary session. There are options to extend funding for up to five years on this project.


Legal services programs seeking to train new attorneys on issues affecting older adults now have access to a new training resource. The National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER)’s web-based legal training curriculum is available on-line. NCLER is a one-stop support center for the legal services and aging and disability networks focused on the legal rights of older adults. NCLER is administered by Justice in Aging, through a contract with the Administration for Community Living (ACL).

NCLER’s Legal Basics Training curriculum is tailored to newer attorneys and non-attorneys who work in the aging and disability network. Each training introduces core legal concepts and provides a foundational understanding of the legal issues that impact older adults. The on-line curriculum includes recorded webinars on the legal basics of:
•    Medicare
•    Social Security
•    Foreclosure Prevention
•    Elder Abuse
•    Bankruptcy
Each training session is accompanied by a chapter summary, which provides greater detail on each training concept.

NCLER’s National Legal Training Curriculum is provided by Justice in Aging, the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging, the National Consumer Law Center, and The Center for Social Gerontology. Together, the partners offer training and case consultation assistance to legal services attorneys serving vulnerable older adults, as well as technical assistance on legal systems delivery.

The Legal Basics Training Curriculum is available at
the NCLER website: http://ncler.acl.gov.

David Godfrey