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Annual Call for Volunteers

Making Connections

By Abby Matienzo
Volunteers Meet four NAELA volunteers and learn how your time as a NAELA volunteer will benefit you, your fellow NAELA members, and the Academy.

Whether you’re active in your state chapter, on one NAELA committee, or several, there are plenty of ways to benefit from actively participating to help you get the most out of your NAELA membership. In addition to making connections with NAELA attorneys across the country, you’ll gain a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Interested in volunteering? Join us!
Visit and tell us about yourself.

Tiffanny Sievers, Esq.
Marion, Illinois

• NAELA State Advocacy Committee (Illinois Ambassador)
• Illinois NAELA Chapter Board
• Past President — Illinois NAELA Chapter
• Deficit Reduction Act Committee Chair — Illinois NAELA Chapter
• Illinois NAELA Legislative Committee
• Illinois NAELA Task Force Co-Chair for Committee Against Administrative Hearing Changes
• Past speaker at Illinois NAELA UnProgram and national conferences
• Co-Chair of the NAELA New/Transitioning Attorneys Section

“Being a committee member made me more successful, more mentally stable, and is something I would encourage anyone who practices elder law to do and meet new people at national conferences.”

What made you want to join a NAELA committee?
I was going to national conferences and meeting other members. In Illinois, I started going to state events and thought I could help and decided to get involved.

How has your experience on these committees been?
I almost wish I got CLE for participating on these committees because I learn so much from the committee meetings. The things discussed on these committee calls are so relevant for my experience and my practice. The other members on the calls are well-versed and love what they do.

The mental benefits are so much bigger than the time commitment involved. I’m able to give better service to my clients. I look forward to doing something different every week, something bigger than me, and being the best at what I can be.

How has your experience made you feel more connected to NAELA and fellow members?
Now they’re my friends. We’re all working for the same goal, pursuing generally same things.

I have other attorneys to bounce ideas off. The legislative discussion is ever-changing. The listserv is great for bouncing ideas off each other, which is why it’s so beneficial.

Meryl Grenadier, Esq.
Washington, D.C.

• NAELA Litigation Committee

"Being on the NAELA Litigation Committee has opened me up to different areas of the law. There is some overlap with some of the impact litigation I do with AARP and the work the NAELA Litigation Committee does. It’s nice to learn issues impacting how individuals’ assets are structured. I’d encourage others to join committees; there’s a wealth of knowledge the NAELA attorneys have, especially if you’re new to the work (which I was when I first joined)."

What made you want to join a NAELA committee?
I wanted to get more insight into what is happening around the country that is impacting older adults. I get a lot of information through my job, but it’s always good to hear from people and lawyers across the country to get a better sense of what we can do to help older adults and the legal issues they face.

How has your experience on these committees been so far?
I’ve been able to delve into issues that are new to me (for example, the NAELA Litigation Committee wrote a brief on guardianship, so I got to dig deep into what guardianship laws say, best practices, and help with it).

I’m getting to know different lawyers doing this work; we often get contacted by AARP members and NAELA has been a great source of referrals of people we can’t directly assist.

How has your experience made you feel more connected to NAELA and fellow members?
I’ve gotten to know people mostly through the Litigation Committee. There are people I’ve run into at other conferences; it’s a nice way to reinforce those connections.

AARP Foundation files their own briefs; I worked on a brief that MassNAELA signed on, and I work with other state chapters to reinforce connections.          


Richard A. Marchese Jr., Esq.
Rochester, New York

• Current New York NAELA Chapter President
• New York NAELA Legislative Committee
• New York NAELA Board

“State and national NAELA efforts tend to merge. There is a high level of collegiality within NAELA. One of the best to things about elder law is the collegiality and being able to build up relationships. NAELA attorneys always have time to speak with you; nobody feels put off.”

What made you want to join a NAELA committee?
National NAELA is a great resource. The materials they put out are indispensable to my practice. I knew several attorneys involved in NAELA and wanted to assume more of a leadership role.

How has your experience on these committees been so far?
The New York NAELA Legislative Committee is helpful because of our monthly conference calls with our lobbyist; this is how you find out exactly what’s happening on the legislative front.

Last year, I oversaw a committee chaired by Fern Finkel that put together the "50-State Medicaid Survey" that covers eligibility rules in all 50 states (available through the NAELA Knowledgebase, I was New York NAELA President-Elect going into my new role as President.

How has your experience made you feel more connected to NAELA and fellow members?
At the state level, especially in Medicaid, being involved in national NAELA helped me find out how Medicaid programs and other issues work in other states. In New York, there are a lot of recent changes to the Medicaid program, such as the imposition of a new look-back for community-based long-term care services. I’ve been able to talk to attorneys around the country about how those changes impacted their own states. I also developed relationships with attorneys for referrals in other states. 

Lindsay C. Jones, Esq.
Willoughby Hills, Ohio

• NAELA State Advocacy Committee (Ohio Ambassador)
• NAELA Ohio Chapter Member
• Chair — Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Policy Liaison Group for NAELA’s Ohio Chapter
• Wrote “The Importance of Avoiding Spousal Impoverishment with HCBS” for NAELA News Online, January 2019
• Chapter Member of the Year (2019) for the NAELA Ohio Chapter

“You get out of NAELA what you put into it. It’s important for people to understand chapter involvement is the same thing as volunteering on a committee. If you’re not active within your chapter, taking phone calls, and networking, it’s a lost opportunity.”

What made you want to join a NAELA committee?
Elder law attorneys make for notoriously gracious colleagues, and the first Ohio UnProgram I attended was a great chance to exchange ideas and experiences, network informally, become aware of opportunities to volunteer and advocate for our vulnerable populations, and gain a broader understanding of statewide policy implementation. It was at that meeting that another member asked for volunteers to help establish our ODM Policy Liaison Group, and I took the initiative to join — both in that effort, and in NAELA as a whole.

Joining the NAELA State Advocacy Committee, in particular, was an extension of that same experience. It was an opportunity to develop relationships with colleagues in other states, develop opportunities to volunteer and advocate, and gain a broader understanding of policy implementation at the national level. The NAELA State Advocacy Committee allowed me to focus on policy issues, which I really enjoy; it’s not something I necessarily do for a specific client. As a practitioner, I have to balance it out — client priorities vs. impacting high-level policy. The reality is that I am doing a better job for my clients by understanding federal and state policies and regulations, and advocating for better options and results. I take advantage of the opportunities NAELA gives me to do this because it makes me a better attorney.

The national listserv is a wonderful venue for comparing and contrasting interstate policies, but committees take it to another level. Committees discuss topics in depth, and focus solely on that effort with a goal in mind.

When you get involved, you have people you can individually reach out to and become part of a larger movement. You can also apply what’s learned from other states, and follow it down the chain to an individual client.

How has your experience on these committees been so far?
On the NAELA State Advocacy Committee, NAELA staff discuss where to go for more information on topics, provide feedback on what colleagues on national NAELA calls had to say, and offer updates on national NAELA advocacy efforts. They are very responsive, take proposals seriously, and are willing to take it to the next level. They help identify specific issues and carry forward to make an impact.

The more involved you are, the more opportunities you will be presented with, and the more colleagues you will gain as friends and contact points. I have worked on various projects with colleagues in several states, helping to transition clients between state lines or working to pinpoint policy disconnects, such as the expected vs. actual impact of the Spousal Impoverishment Rule (with different states and program levels).

I have been a NAELA member since late 2016, and I am a better attorney because of it. NAELA has introduced me to new concepts and has provided me with concrete mechanisms to promote policy changes and develop a better understanding of how our Medicaid program works as a whole — and what my place in that program can be, as an advocate for my clients and for Ohioans as a whole.

About the Author
Abby Matienzo is NAELA's Communications Manager.
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In this issue..

The Rural Attorney

By  April Hill, CELA, CAP, and Lynn Morelli, Esq.

NAELA and Kindred Spirits: It's Historical and Personal

By  A. Frank Johns, CELA, CAP, Fellow

No Excuse to Miss the 2021 NAELA Annual Conference

By  Brenna Galvin, Esq., and Beth McDaniel, CELA

President's Message: Become a NAELA Volunteer

By  Wendy Shparago Cappelletto, Esq., CAP