Legislative Issues By Nancy Stone
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), which is Texas NAELA’s parent organization, regards public policy advocacy as an essential tool for achieving its mission to establish its members as the premier providers of legal advocacy for the elderly and people with disabilities. NAELA is committed to informing its members about public policy issues and facilitating member involvement in legislative advocacy. NAELA’s Public Policy Committee recently expanded this effort by forming GRANI (Grassroots Advocacy Network Initiative), to build a grassroots network of members to advocate more effectively on aging and disability issues.
The Texas NAELA chapter, founded in 1995 as a 501(c)(6) organization, has contributed significantly to public policy advocacy. The chapter’s Public Policy Committee monitors legislative and regulatory developments and works to organize a grassroots response to important policy issues. Texas NAELA members actively opposed a bill to implement the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program in Texas, although the legislation was eventually enacted in the 78th Legislature. Subsequently, the chapter was instrumental in limiting the reach of Medicaid Estate Recovery regulations through the comment process. In a landmark achievement for the chapter, Texas NAELA members and other key state advocates lobbied for passage of legislation authorizing state court judicial review of a denial of Medicaid benefits in Texas, which was enacted in the 81st Legislature. Chapter members monitor the rule-making process and regularly comment on proposed changes in rules that would affect clients’ eligibility for Medicaid. Chapter members also communicate with government leaders on a broad range of legislative issues, from access to Medicaid long-term care to simplifying the interstate transfer of guardianships, and have drafted legislation to modify the rules applicable to court-created special needs trusts.
The Texas chapter welcomes opportunities to collaborate with other statewide advocates on issues affecting seniors and people with disabilities. On the national level, NAELA collaborates with numerous organizations and coalitions for advocacy purposes, including the National Senior Citizens Law Center, ABA Commission on Law and Aging, Center for Medicare Advocacy, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, AARP, and the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations.
NAELA employs lobbyists, educates elected officials, and has a Senior Rights Political Action Committee that contributes to campaigns for public office. Some state chapters of NAELA also retain a professional lobbyist, like the Florida, Massachusetts, and New York chapters. Although Texas NAELA does not employ a professional lobbyist, its members participate in a broad range of public policy advocacy activities, at both the state and national levels.