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David M. Goldfarb
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
(703) 942-5711

Advocacy/Public Policy
What Captain Planet Has to Do With NAELA Advocacy


By David M. Goldfarb, Esq., CAE

One of my favorite shows as a kid was “Captain Planet and the Planeteers.” According to Captain Planet mythology, due to extreme environmental degradation, the “spirit of the earth” sent five magic rings to five special young people across the globe. Each ring contained the power of an element of nature: earth, wind, fire, water, and heart. When those five powers combined, they summoned “earth’s greatest champion,” Captain Planet.

NAELA’s advocacy, like Captain Planet, requires our members to combine their own “special powers” to form a whole that is greater than its parts.

Now you might be thinking, “David, that’s nice but, I don’t have a special power. I can’t shoot webs from my wrists and, as much as I’d like to, I don’t turn into a giant, green-skinned humanoid with immense strength when my client wrongly gets denied benefits.”

True, but you do have at least one special power: the ability to understand how complicated, often conflicting laws impact persons with disabilities of all ages.

Like Captain Planet, your powers combined have saved the day for your clients on issues, such as proposals to end the medical expense deduction and limits to community spouse annuities.

Today, volunteer power is working together to address a range of issues.

For instance, H.R. 1994, the SECURE Act, Sec. 401, would require a 10-year payout for inherited retirement account funds. No more lifetime distributions for everyone. Yet, exceptions exist, such as for spouses, minor children, and persons with disabilities.

Unfortunately, the bill does not address the issue of when an inherited retirement account goes into a trust with multiple beneficiaries when one of them is exempt. NAELA’s Tax Section Steering Committee and Federal Advocacy Committee has created a work group to help Congress try to solve this issue before the legislation passes.

When One Superhero Is Not Enough
In the comic book world, sometimes one superhero is not enough. Whether you’re a Justice League fan (DC Comics) or Avengers fan (Marvel), some villains need a whole squad of superheroes to defeat them.

Passing or defeating policy is no different.

Take our top legislative priorities: Money Follows the Person and extending the guarantee that spousal impoverishment protections applies to home and community-based services. Much of the advocacy has been done through a large coalition of like-minded organizations ranging from the Arc to the National Council on Aging.

And, sometimes we get to play the trusted sidekick.

In the case of imposing Medicaid eligibility restrictions through Section 1115 waivers, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) has been a great “Batman,” defeating the Administration several times in court to date. We happily play their Robin (as do many other organizations), supporting their actions through comment letters, amicus briefs, and NAELA Foundation grants.

Now, I’m realistic. I don’t expect any kids to dress up as a NAELA member for Halloween or play with NAELA action figures. But, that doesn’t stop you from being a real superhero to me.

About the Author
David M. Goldfarb, Esq., CAE, is NAELA's Senior Public Policy Manager.

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In this issue..

Featured Member: Meet NAELA's 32nd President - Jennifer VanderVeen, CELA, CAP, Fellow

By  Wendy Shparago Cappelletto, CAP, and David Godfrey, Fellow

2019 NAELA Annual Conference Roundup

By  Letha McDowell, CELA, and Wesley E. Wright, CELA

CAPsules: Peer Review Ratings

By  April Hill, CELA, CAP

2019 Summit: Experience NAELA's 2019 Summit in Our Nation's Capital

By  Crystal West Edwards, CELA, and Valerie B. Geiger, Esq.

President's Message: Looking to the Future

By  Jennifer L. VanderVeen, CELA, CAP, Fellow

Call for NAELA Board Nominations: You Can Make a Difference

By  Michael J. Amoruso, Esq., CAP, Fellow