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Fighting for Virginians: AARP Legislative Priorities for 2016

Legislation
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When lawmakers arrived at the Virginia General Assembly on Opening Day, our team of volunteer advocates were right there sharing our legislative priorities with them. We are requesting passage of legislation that will permit advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to have full practice authority. AARP Virginia is also advocating for more than $2 million to fund the state Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, more funding for a state respite care program that assists family caregivers, and for legislation to protect older Virginians from financial exploitation.

“Nurses are lifesavers not only for patients but for many family caregivers,” said AARP Virginia advocacy director David DeBiasi. “AARP Virginia is seeking to break down barriers that prevent APRNs, such as nurse practitioners, from using all their training and skills to care for patients.”

Virginia is one of the more restrictive states in terms of patient access to these health care providers. Easing the restraints on APRNs’ practice is especially relevant to older adults who live in medically underserved areas or continue to live independently by receiving care at home.

Many long-term care recipients—those in nursing homes or assisted living facilities—are medically or emotionally too frail to speak up for themselves. AARP Virginia believes the state Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which acts as the voice  for these individuals to resolve care problems, should be fully funded to meet the minimum staffing ratio set by the General Assembly as one ombudsman to every 2,000 long-term care beds. AARP will ask the legislators to fully fund the program so that 35 more local ombudsmen can be hired, which will cost more than $2 million.

AARP volunteer advocates also will ask the General Assembly to provide more funding for a program that assists family caregivers. Virginia’s family caregivers provide care to their loved ones that equals $11.8 billion if those family members were in a care facility, according to a 2013 AARP study.

“Helping Virginia’s more than 1 million caregivers get the assistance they need is one of our most significant priorities,” said AARP Virginia State President Bob Blancato.

Respite care offers short-term help to give family caregivers a break from the stress of providing care. It is vital to helping caregivers maintain their health and makes it easier for families to care for their loved ones in their own homes, as opposed to long-term care facilities. AARP Virginia urges lawmakers to increase funding for the state Lifespan Respite Voucher Program to annually serve an additional 250 families.

Another measure that will help older Virginians would increase protection against financial exploitation. Thousands of older Virginians are exploited—often by persons in a position of trust—for their money and other financial assets. Stronger reporting laws are needed to increase prosecution of perpetrators. AARP Virginia supports requiring the Division of Adult Protective Services to report to law enforcement any adult financial exploitation they suspect to be $50,000 or greater.

AARP advocates also will monitor budget proposals to be sure that decisions are fair to all generations and do not place an unnecessary hardship on our most vulnerable citizens.

Stay up to date with AARP Virginia Volunteer Advocates at the General Assembly: Like us on Facebook and follow @AARPVa on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aarpva. Find legislative tweets with the hashtag #4VA50+.

Pictures of our super star volunteer advocates on Opening Day of the Virginia General Assembly.

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