What Are Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements?

When you find out your loved one was neglected, injured or abused in a nursing home, your first course of action is likely to remove him or her from the facility. Then, you consider taking the home to court, only to discover during the intake process that your loved one had signed an arbitration agreement. This document essentially prevents you from pursuing a case in this direction.

This pattern has long put residents and their family members in a bind, redirecting them to an arbitration hearing in a lawyer’s office. In many cases, the arbitration agreement ends up shifting responsibility away from the nursing home.

However, it appears that this process may be coming to an end. In the fall of 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed and has since put into place a rule that now prevents homes receiving federal funding from using arbitration agreements. Officials from 16 states and Washington, D.C., decided that this long-time approach keeps repeat negligence hidden from residents and their families and, because the agreement is often part of a clause included in nursing home contracts, courts won’t budge on the issue. In effect as of November 2016, this change applies to 15,000 government-funded homes holding 1.5 million residents.

If you have to make this difficult decision on behalf of a loved one, what should you know?

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Can You Lose Social Security Disability After Approval?

Claimants who have recently gone through the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) grueling process of appeals and approval are thankful when it’s finally over. However, once you’ve been awarded Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, there is no guarantee you’ll continue to receive them for the rest of your life. In fact, you’ll regularly be evaluated through the SSA’s continuing disability review (CDR) every three to seven years for work activity and medical improvement.

During a CDR, someone from the SSA will request copies of your medical records and determine if you’re able to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). On a positive note, the reviews aren’t as strict as your application and most continue to receive their SSD benefits after. However, if the SSA sees a sudden and significant spike in your earnings, you may additionally be subject to a review.

In either instance, what scenarios could terminate your benefits? Consider the following three.

Returning to Work

Woman stressed out with a stack of paperworkWhile claimants can work in a limited capacity while collecting SSD, engaging in SGA will stop your benefits if the following occurs:

  1. You Return to Work: If you resume your previous job or one like it at a full-time capacity, the SSA will determine that you no longer need benefits. How is this evaluated? The SSA either looks at your monthly earnings or the skills you’re able to perform and determines if it meets SGA requirements.
  2. You Complete Your Trial Work Period: Claimants who want to gradually return to gainful employment have the option of doing a Trial Work Period, in which you can return to the workplace, earn about $840 per month as of 2017 and not lose your disability payments for the time. This period lasts nine consecutive or non-consecutive months over a five-year period. If you’re performing SGA by the tenth month, your benefits are suspended and you start what’s known as an extended period of eligibility (EPE). You need to be successfully employed over this 36-month period. If your earnings reach or exceed SGA levels ($1,130 as of 2016) after 36 months, your benefits are officially terminated. If not, either through a lack of working or reaching SGA levels, your SSD payments resume.

Medical Improvement

For your CDR, the SSA assembles your medical records and if these indicate that your initially approved condition is improving, they no longer consider you disabled.

However, if you believe that your condition has not improved or reached the level where you can successfully return to work, you have 60 days to request an appeal, which involves meeting with a Hearing Officer. Here, you and a lawyer can form a case through evidence and witnesses to testify about your condition. If the Hearing Officer determines that you’re no longer disabled, you can still appeal your claim to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) within 10 days.

Incarceration or Institutionalization

In the event a claimant has to spend time in prison or in an institution after being convicted, the SSA temporarily stops your benefits. After you’re released your benefits may resume, unless you’ve been charged with a felony conviction. In this latter case, a felony on your record may bar you from receiving SSD benefits.

Whether you’re in the process of applying for SSD benefits or had them terminated after a CDR review, Trantolo & Trantolo’s lawyers are here to assist you through this extensive and convoluted process. If you have any questions or would like to speak with an attorney, contact us today.

Do Breed Bans Prevent Dog Attacks?

One measure across the United States to prevent dog attacks and related fatalities is a breed ban, also known as breed-specific legislation (BSL). These laws, usually implemented at the city or town level, regulate or ban certain breeds, usually associated with a high bite or attack rate. Although breed bans aren’t universal, they nearly always target various “pit bull” breeds, American bulldogs, Rottweilers, mastiffs, Dalmatians, chow chows, German shepherds or Dobermans, and any dog with a mix or combination of these breeds.

While on the surface BSL could be considered a good idea, opponents call it discriminatory and say they do more harm than good. Specifically for the animals, banned breeds often end up at shelters, where they cannot be adopted locally and may be euthanized.

For residents’ safety, evidence that breed bans work is scarce. Consider these points:

Dog Bites Still Occur

German Shepherd Studies show that, while certain breeds might be banned, bite rates generally do not decrease. For instance, in 2004, Toronto had 567 recorded dog bite reports, prior to the institution of a providence-wide breed ban. Post BSL, the rate did not go down and, in fact the city had 767 recorded cases of bites by 2014 – from breeds not included in the initial ban.

Owners Hide Their Pets

What happens when an owner is too attached to his or her dog to give it away? They attempt to keep the animal under the radar, often not registering the dog, avoiding veterinary care and spaying and neutering, and even keeping the animal permanently inside the house. Breaking the law in this way ultimately harms the dog, who is cooped up inside without proper exercise and care.

Laws Aren’t Enforced

According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breed laws are not strongly enforced. For one, their research shows that dog bite data by breed may be skewed, unfairly penalizing certain dogs. Secondly, not every breed is easy to identify, especially if the dog is mixed. Additionally, towns find these bans costly to enforce, so they put minimal effort into them.

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14 Safe Driving Tips for Teens

It’s no secret that teen drivers’ lack of experience places them at a greater risk for accidents, but according to recent statistics from AAA, they’re the leading cause of death for those in the 16-to-20 age bracket. Also, while they only represent a small percentage of all drivers on the road, they account for more car accidents than any other age group.

What could be the cause? Multiple studies point to distracted driving – cell phones in particular – as well as interactions with their passengers. Due to these factors, it’s recommended that teens practice the following precautions on the roadways after receiving their license.

1. Turn Off Your Cell Phone

Father handing daughter car keysDid you know that texting keeps a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds – the same time it takes you to drive the length of a football field? So much can happen in 4.6 seconds; for this reason, it’s essential that you not only keep your eyes on the road, but also remain alert as you drive.

2. Keep Your Headlights On

Accidents can also occur when drivers do not make themselves visible to others on the road. As an extremely simple preventative measure, keep your headlights on not only when it’s dark out, but also during early morning, dusk hours and in inclement weather.

3. Obey the Speed Limit

Among all teen male drivers involved in fatal accidents, 37 percent were speeding right before the crash. Because you’re less experienced on the road, it’s essential that you drive within the speed limit – even if other drivers become frustrated, tailgate or pass you.

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CNN Releases In-Depth Investigation into Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

How widespread is sexual abuse in nursing homes? Unfortunately, this problem extends back decades, yet no federal data paints a comprehensive picture. In response, CNN conducted its own investigation, examining both state and federal data and interviewing experts. Its findings fall in line with past studies involving elder abuse and offers more insight into why this problem persists.

Abuse is Difficult to Identify

sad elderly woman When a resident has been abused, who is responsible? CNN interviews indicate a couple of factors that make identifying and reporting sexual abuse a challenge for residents and their family members:

  • Residents who are targeted most often tend to have mental impairments, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, or are blind. In response, they often don’t know what is happening and are too confused to identify their attacker. As a result, complaints are only filed when another employee of the home or a family member identifies the abuse and has evidence.
  • Facilities are slow to investigate any reports for a few reasons. One, multiple reports can take away their funding, so they’ll make an attempt to hide evidence. Secondly, the home and police officers investigating often don’t believe a resident who complains of sexual abuse because of their health condition. As a result, a single caregiver often turns into a repeat abuser. In certain instances, the home blames the resident, claiming the individual has a history of making false allegations, is a “flirt” or hallucinates.
  • Even when a facility identifies a repeat offender – who may have had to go through abuse training after a report – family members aren’t alerted. As a result, family members trusting in the home can’t make the decision to remove their loved one.
  • Aides who are caught in the act don’t receive significant punishments. As CNN indicates, they may simply lose certification, but not face criminal charges or the home may keep the individual on after additional training.

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