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December 01, 2011

First National Aging and Law Institute Draws 350 Advocates

The 2011 National Aging and Law Institute, held this year on November 10 - 12, in Boston, Mass., was the first year of the merger of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys’ fall advanced institute with the National Aging and Law Conference. The Institute drew more than 350 advocates. The agenda included eight plenary sessions and twenty break out sessions. There were numerous special interest group meetings, including meetings of the National Association of Legal Services Developers and the National Association of Senior Legal Hotlines. The Institute kicked off with an informative and entertaining look at changes in retirement benefits and tax laws presented by Natalie Choate. Ms. Choate has, literally, “written the book” on defined contribution retirement plans (see A second plenary session provided an overview of the shifting landscape of Medicaid and Medicare in light of budget cuts and health care reform. The Friday program’s keynote address was delivered by Hubert (Skip) Humphrey, III, the newly appointed head of the Office of Older Americans at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mr. Humphrey has spent his career working for consumers, first as a state senator and later as attorney general in Minnesota. In his address, he spoke about the financial challenges facing older Americans and the need to curb fraud and financial exploitation. He then opened the floor for input from Hubert “Skip” Humphrey, III, delivered the keynote address. First National Aging and Law Institute Draws 350 Advocates By David Godfrey, Senior Attorney, ABA Commission on Law and Aging BIFOCAL Nov. - Dec. 2011 25 Vol. 33, No. 2 the audience on how the Bureau can meet the needs of older Americans. Other plenary sessions featured the diagnosis and treatment of dementia; the relationship between Medicaid and veteran’s benefits; legal ethics; same sex marriage and domestic partnership; and the future of Social Security. The sessions were reported as excellent, the caliber of the speakers was superb, and all were well attended. With only 20 slots for break-out sessions, the planning committee faced a herculean task to narrow the proposals. Selected sessions covered substantive topics, including advance health care directives using POLST; divorce with special needs children; preventing malpractice; stopping abusive debt collection; SSI; and special education law and special needs trusts. Other sessions focused on service delivery and practice development, including Older Americans Act services, training the next generation of elder law attorneys, and operating a paperless office. A third track covered policy and theory, including the topics of health care reform, minority health disparities, and Olmstead implementation. Awards and Honors The 2011 National Aging and Law Award was presented to Catherine V. Kilgore. Ms. Kilgore serves as the Elder Law Project Director for North Mississippi Rural Legal Services in Oxford, Mississippi. The award honors Ms. Kilgore’s long history of providing high-quality legal assistance to older Americans in a largely rural and very impoverished service area. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys presented its Elder Leadership Award to Jo Rosen, of Palm Desert, California. The award recognized Ms. Rosen’s two decades of dedication to improving the quality of life for persons with Parkinson’s and their caregivers. The NAELA 2011 Powley Elder Law Award was presented to Patricia L. Harrison, of Columbia, South Carolina, in recognition of her work as an advocate for the rights of older clients and clients with disabilities. Pre-Conference Boot Camp This year the Institute’s preconference agenda featured an advanced elder law boot camp as an optional conference add-on. The goal of the advanced boot camp was to prepare attendees to take the national certification exam to become a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA). Topics in the advanced boot camp included: housing, insurance, age discrimination, employment, retirement, public benefits, fiduciaries, capacity, ethics, health and personal care planning, tax planning, advocacy, and special needs issues.

David Godfrey

Senior Attorney, ABA Commission on Law and Aging