Monday, November 25, 2013

The good, bad and ugly in senior services

I noticed couple of recent stories on senior services, and it illustrates what could be called the Wisconsin version of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" when it comes to caring for our elders and helping their quality of life.

1. The Good was shown today, as the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources (GWAAR) propped up Dane County for its added investment in senior services, as shown by the county's addition of a third Elder Benefit Specialist (EBS).
According to Kate Schilling, manager of GWAAR’s Legal Services Team – the agency’s division responsible for training and oversight of EBSs in 65 Wisconsin counties including Dane – the added position will mean that more seniors will get the help they need. “Older people who need this support will greatly benefit from this decision,” says Schilling. “We thank Dane County Executive Parisi and the members of the Dane County Board of Supervisors who voted in support of this funding. We also gratefully acknowledge the efforts of citizen advocates – particularly Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Dane County board chair Tom Frazier and Area Agency on Aging (AAA) of Dane County board chair Esther Olson – for their tireless efforts to articulate the need for this position.”

The need for the new position arose from the dramatic increase in the number of people seeking the assistance of the Dane County EBSs. In April 2013, the program experienced a 64% increase in cases compared with April 2012. Increased demand stems largely from economic pressures, population increases, and growing consumer awareness of the program’s ability to help seniors determine eligibility and apply for benefits including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, FoodShare, SeniorCare, Family Care, and BadgerCare. The program also assists seniors with complex legal issues and appeals including landlord/tenant disputes, discrimination, debtor/creditor issues, health care denials, and other related areas. Because more seniors cannot afford representation through private attorneys, many seek support from the EBS program resulting in caseloads growing beyond the program’s ability to keep up.
This is an example of a local government believing it is a priority to meet the growing needs that elders are having, and finding a way to assist in meeting that need. The EBS is also a civil service position, whose job is to answer to clients and the need for services, and not be a political hack who lets other motives get in the way of helping these Wisconsnites

2. The bad Contrast to another story that came up last week, and one that got several relays when I mentioned it on Twitter. Former GWAAR Board Chair and President Ken Mosentine collaborated with Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups (CWAG) to write a letter to Governor Scott Walker's office, claiming members of his Administration have rigged and mismanaged elder care grants. Interestingly, CWAG claimed GWAAR officials had a conflict of interest in getting certain grants, and alleged current and former officials in the Department of Health Services (DHS) aided this questionable behavior.
In the case of Walker's former political appointees at MCDA, Stephanie Sue Stein falsified her Economic Interest Statement over the last five years by lying and covering up the fact that she is the Corporate Vice President of a Wisconsin based privately-held, non-stock Corporation called the; "WI Assoc. of Area Agency on Aging Directors Inc. (Wis4A's)." According to the Wisconsin Dept. of Financial Institutions, Stephanie Stein, is the Corporate Vice President of Wis4A's, along with the Executive Director of GWAAR - Robert Kellerman, who is the Corporate President of Wis4A's. According to documents obtained in cooperation with Dane County officials, Kellerman and Stein would invoice their own government agencies and Dane County and have them pay membership dues into their privately held, non-stock corporation. Their actions are a not only a "conflict of interest," according to county ordinances and state/federal laws but are in fact illegal under the federal guidelines of the Federal Acquisition Regulation Act (FAR) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Emails and other documents CWAG was able to obtain, reveals Ms. Stein and Mr. Kellerman, conspired with Governor Walker's political appointees at DHS ([current director] Kitty Rhoades, [former director] Dennis Smith, [former legal counsel and alleged Dennis Smith paramour] Mary Spear) when they politically targeted and financially retaliated against CWAG - when they wrongfully and indefensibly removed $1.3 million of multi-year governmental grants from CWAG - without due process and without justifiable cause. This was done, under the cover of an unfounded DHS Audit of CWAG....

In his letter to Governor Walker, [former GWAAR Board Chair and President Ken] Mosentine closed with; "Governor Walker, it is now time for you to stand by your public condemnation of President Obama and embrace your religious values you proudly articulated in your new book - by taking these action steps, which will help you restore the public trust in your administration. This is your Moment of Truth Governor Walker, for you and your administration. The choice is clearly yours - Politics as Usual or Moral Leadership."
Sorry Ken, but given Scotty's track record, I bet he goes with Politics as Usual, especially the corrupt brand followed since 2011 in this state. Amazingly, I have yet to see a word written about these accusations in either the Wisconsin State Journal or the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, despite the story happening nearly a week ago. Is it an inconvenient truth for those Walker-endorsing papers.

3. And I want to combine these two topics into what makes up The Ugly. GWAAR mentioned in their letter to Dane County that many elderly need Medicaid services in order to get by, but many of them are being prevented from getting these needed services because Walker chose to go along with ideological hacks like Dennis Smith and Mary Spear, and refused Obamacare's expanded Medicaid funding. But interestingly, there are still more Wisconsinites (elderly and otherwise) that might get these services in 2014, because the feds indicated that over 10,700 Wisconsinites were told they were eligible for Medicaid services after looking into Obamacare services (see Page 10 of this federal report from earlier this month). Obviously, many of those that will ultimately use the Medicaid services are elderly, or soon will be, and you have to wonder how many more would be helped if Walker wasn't choosing to throw tens of thousands of Wisconsinites onto the federal exchanges?

And for what end has Walker's decision on Mediciad been for, other than to claim that he's "innovative" to ignorant media on his East Coast book tour, and to gain the approval of the Kochs and brain-dead Baggers? To care so little about Wisconsin citizens that Walker would rather they suffer due to unnecessarily substandard care over trying to work with Obamacare is truly ugly, and a dereliction of duty that cannot be repeated to the public enough.

Then compare it to what's happening in Joe Parisi's Dane County, where senior services are given a priority and jobs and funds are being invested to improve those outcomes, and it speaks of the different direction that can be chosen statewide when it comes to our seniors and the care they need. Voters just have to choose to end the Age of Fitzwalkerstan next year, and install a governOR and a governMENT that gives a crap about something other than right-wing political poses.

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