News

Disability Law Forum Set for April 12

The Disability Law Forum on April 12 is offering a diverse lineup of speakers and topics, including Kim Joseph of the Tennessee Disability Determination Services. She is presenting a session focused on effective representation at DDS and will provide attendees with a much-needed Q&A period to ask those challenging questions. Additionally, the section’s chair, Chris George of George & George, will cover an hour of ethics, including how to handle ethical dilemmas and more. The day will end with Administrative Law Judge Robert Martin from the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review who will share his unique perspective as a former private attorney and current judge.
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Help4TNDay Kicks Off Saturday

Tennessee lawyers are invited to participate in Help4TNDay activities throughout the month of April. Events will bring attention to the ongoing need for free and low-cost legal services and highlight the groups that provide these services to disadvantaged Tennesseans. Opportunities include volunteering to help clients in need through Tennessee Free Legal Answers (TFLA) or at a local legal clinic. The events kick-off this Saturday with a statewide virtual legal clinic, where attorneys across the state will answer questions on TFLA from noon to 2 p.m. Simultaneously, the TBA will host an on-site TFLA Clinic and Luncheon in Nashville. To participate in the TBA event, contact Liz Todaro. Help4TNDay is a joint effort by the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, the Administrative Office of the Courts, Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Tennessee Bar Association. 
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Deadline for Veterans to Claim Special Tax Refund Approaches

The deadline for veterans to claim a tax refund ends this year, Clarksville Now reports. Passed in 2016, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act seeks to provide refunds to qualified veterans who may have had taxes mistakenly withheld from their disability severance pay between 1991 and 2016. An initiative of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & the Cumberlands, the Tennessee Taxpayer Project seeks to get the word out to all veterans who may qualify. By July 2019, eligible veterans must file an amended tax return for the year in which they received disability severance in order to receive a refund. Most people are eligible to receive between $1,750 and $3,200.

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Registration Now Open for TBA Convention in Nashville, June 12-15

 
The TBA's annual Convention returns to downtown Nashville this summer! Mark your calendars for June 12-15 and prepare for four days of CLE, networking, entertainment and more at the Renaissance Hotel, 611 Commerce Street. Registration is officially open, with early bird rates available until April 30.
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Rutherford County Board of Education Asks for Dismissal of Sexual Misconduct Lawsuit

The Rutherford County Board of Education has asked that a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a student with autism alleging sexual misconduct be dismissed, The Daily News Journal reports. The lawsuit says the board hired a male teaching aide who was previously arrested for driving under the influence. The board admits it knew the aide, hired to care for J.M., had a criminal history, but says it "denies that hiring was wrong, negligent, unlawful, or otherwise improper in any way." The board says J.M.'s lawsuit lacks merit and should be dismissed.
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Recognize Great Journalism with 4th Estate Award Nomination

The Tennessee Bar Association has opened the nomination period for the second annual Fourth Estate Award, which honors courageous reporting on justice and the law. Nominees must be Tennessee-based journalists who have shown exemplary courage in exercising First Amendment rights in the promotion of public understanding of how the law and our legal system works and how it should work as demonstrated by a story or series of related stories published in 2018. Nominations can be submitted on the TBA website and will be accepted until May 1.
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Belmont University and Legal Aid Seeking Volunteers for Nashville Clinic

Belmont University and the Legal Aid Society have scheduled a Free Legal Help Clinic on March 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Belmont Ministry Center, 2005 12th Ave. South, Nashville, 37204.  All lawyers are invited to help at this advice-only clinic. To volunteer or for more information please contact Jorge Salles Diaz, 615-780-7131.
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Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Electric Scooters in California

A federal lawsuit has been filed against Lime, Bird and Razor, the makers of app-based electric scooters, claiming that the devices cause discrimination against people with disabilities, NPR reports. The scooter rental companies, which have become commonplace in cities across the country, are accused of failing to prevent people from riding or parking scooters on sidewalks, thereby blocking people with disabilities from accessing the public right-of-way. The suit, which seeks to become class action, requests a court order prohibiting scooters from being parked or operated on sidewalks, crosswalks, curb ramps and other walkways.
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Legislation Affecting Disability Law Practice

As the legislative session progresses, many bills of interest to disability law practitioners are on the move. Here is a list of notable legislation that has the potential to affect your practice area:
 
Dynamic Accessibility Act. Enacts the "Dynamic Accessibility Act," which requires the commissioner of general services to designate a new symbol of access for disabled persons for use on state property. Also requires the department of revenue to designate a new symbol of access for disabled drivers and disabled passengers for use on registrations, placards, decals, and license plates. Describes new symbol and logo to be used.
Residential housing at higher education institutions for students with intellectual disabilities. Prohibits eligible postsecondary institutions, for purposes of proceeds from state lottery, from denying a student residential housing on the campus of, or in affiliation with, the eligible postsecondary institution solely because of the student's award of a Tennessee STEP UP scholarship.
Appointing of district public guardian for a disabled person. Decreases the age at which a disabled person with no family member or other person, bank, or corporation willing and able to serve as conservator may be appointed a district public guardian from 60 to 40 years.
Public guardianship for the elderly. Allows the executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability to request the district public guardian to serve as a conservator for disabled persons who are younger than sixty (60) years of age if certain criteria are met.
Guardians and Conservators - As introduced, requires conservators other than public guardians to complete educational training on conservatorships within 30 days of appointment; allows a guardian ad litem to obtain a credit report and state and national criminal history background checks for a proposed fiduciary. 

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Tennessee Republicans Push for Medicaid Block Grants

Tennessee lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a measure that seeks a fixed amount of federal block grants to provide health care to lower-income and disabled residents, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Under current law, Medicaid reimburses the state a fixed percentage on its Medicaid costs, with Tennessee receiving approximately $7.5 billion in federal money for its $12.1 billion Medicaid program, which state Republicans say gives little incentive to keep expenses under control because no state pays more than half the total cost, whereas the new bill — HB1280/SB1428 — would “convert the federal share of all medical assistance funding for this state into an allotment that is tailored to meet the needs of this state and that is indexed for inflation and population growth.” Though lawmakers remain optimistic regarding the advancement of the legislation, it is unclear whether Gov. Bill Lee will support the measure, given his opposition to Medicaid expansion and insistence on finding an alternative option to aid the estimated 167,000 Tennesseans without health coverage.

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Legal Aid Society Hosting Clinic in Franklin in Partnership with Mercy Health

Legal Aid Society has scheduled a Free Legal Help Clinic on March 7 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 908 Murfreesboro Rd, Franklin 37064, in collaboration with Mercy Health Clinic. All lawyers are invited to help at this advice-only clinic in Williamson County. To volunteer or for more information, contact Jorge Salles Diaz at jsallesdiaz@las.org or at 615-780-7131.
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Labor & Employment Forum – May 3

This program provides timely, specialized and practical information on a range of labor and employment law topics. Presented by esteemed leaders in the field, the CLE sessions will focus on mediation and employment cases, accommodations in the modern era, case law updates, and a unique, interactive ethics session focused on attorney well-being and the power of laughter. Finally, this program will include a judicial panel giving practitioners unique insight into the best presentation techniques for employment cases in federal court. This is the most in-depth employment-focused CLE in the state. Review the agenda, read the session descriptions and register to attend by clicking here.
 
When: Friday, May 3. Registration starts at 8 a.m.
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
CLE Credits: 1 Dual, 5.5 Gen.
 
The program will feature presentations by Hon. Waverly Crenshaw Jr.Hon. Jon McCallaHon. Travis McDonoughJohn Bode of Miller & Martin PLLC, Celeste Bradley of Impark, Heather Collins of Collins & Hunter PLLC, Edmond Sims and Deborah Walker of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Stan Graham of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP, Dan Norwood of Working Boomer Advocate, Debra Norwood of LaughterLawyerUSA and Michael Russell of Russell Dispute Resolution, PLLC.
 
Produced by Donna Mikel of Burnette, Dobson & Pinchak.

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Court Seeking Comments on Proposed Rule 46A

The Tennessee Supreme Court is considering the adoption of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 46A, which would govern the electronic service of papers that are e-filed, and it is seeking comments from the legal community and the public on the proposed rule. The deadline for submitting written comments is March 22. Comments should be e-mailed to appellatecourtclerk@tncourts.gov or mailed to: James M. Hivner, Clerk, Tennessee Appellate Courts, 100 Supreme Court Building, 401 7th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37219-1407.
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TSC Affirms Disability Benefits for Employee in Workers' Comp. Case

In a workers’ compensation case, the Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed an award of permanent partial disability benefits to Christopher Batey, an employee of Deliver This Inc. In 2015, Batey sustained a back injury on the job and the Court of Workers' Compensation Claims determined he should receive permanent partial disability benefits. Batey filed a post-trial motion for prejudgment interest on the benefits awarded, but the trial court denied his motion. Deliver This Inc. and its insurer, Auto-Owners Insurance Company, appealed the disability award, and Batey appealed the trial court’s denial of prejudgment interest to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. The Workers' Comp Appeals Board held the award and the denial of prejudgment interest. In a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice Jeff Bivins, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appeals Board and adopted in its entirety the opinion of the Appeals Board.
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Parents Sue Rutherford County Schools Over Sexual Misconduct Towards Special Needs Student

A new lawsuit is claiming that the Rutherford County Board of Education failed to protect a non-verbal student with autism from sexual harassment from an employee, The Daily News Journal reports. The complaint, which only identifies the boy and his parents by their initials to protect their privacy, was filed Jan. 17. Court documents say the eighth-grader has "suffered a torrent of avoidable injuries through Rutherford County's neglect and indifference to his care." The suit claims that on two occasions, school employees walked in on the boy being subjected to inappropriate sexual contact by a male teacher's aide who was hired to help care for the student. The parents were not informed about the situation until after the second incident, and the teacher's aide wasn't fired until the boy's parents took legal action, the complaint says.
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Federal Judge Releases Injunction Regarding TennCare Application Hearings

U.S. District Judge William Campbell Jr. recently released Tennessee’s Medicaid program from a 2014 injunction requiring hearings for people whose applications were not processed in a timely manner, The Associated Press reports. The lawsuit maintained that thousands of TennCare applicants were left in limbo because of a software design flaw, which led to long delays in processing. The plaintiffs asked for a permanent injunction, arguing that the organization’s system is still not fully functional. In his ruling, Campbell said that "the law does not require that a state Medicaid agency implement a flawless program,” and that applicants will continue to receive hearings when delays occur, without the necessity of a court order. The required timeframe for processing Medicaid applications is 45 days or 90 days for those based on a disability.
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Meditation Apps Help Incorporate Mindfulness Each Day

Consider a meditation app for your phone to help incorporate mindfulness into your day. The accessibility and variety of meditation apps can make them beneficial and easy to try. Some, such as Mindbody, Stop, Breathe & Think, 10% Happier, Breethe, Omvana, Insight Timer, Sattva Meditations & Mantras, and Smiling Mind (which can be tailored to different age groups) are free. Others, such as Calm, Headspace, and the Mindfulness App, have free trials and can be upgraded to a paid subscription. Comparisons of various apps are available on www.healthline.com or www.bestproducts.com.
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Disability Law Forum – April 12

 

The TBA Disability Law Section is offering a stacked program for its annual forum, with a diverse lineup of speakers and topics. The program starts with a panel sharing practical tips for dealing with vocational experts.  Kim Joseph of the Tennessee Disability Determination Services will follow with a session focused on effective representation at DDS and will provide attendees with a much-needed Q&A period to ask those challenging questions. The section's chair-elect John Dreiser of Farmer & Dreiser will present a session on LTD/STD for SSD practitioners. Additionally, the section’s chair Chris George of George & George will cover an hour of ethics, including how to handle ethical dilemmas that often arise in SSD cases. The day will end with Administrative Law Judge Robert Martin from the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review who will share his unique perspective as a former private attorney and current judge.

 
It all takes place April 12 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Read the session descriptions, explore the agenda and reserve your spot by registering today.

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Hamilton County Considers New Program for Mentally Ill Offenders

A new program in Hamilton County intends to address the way courts deal with the mentally ill, offering treatment in lieu of incarceration for certain cases, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The initiative — Frequent Users Systems Engagement (FUSE) — is a collaboration between the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, mental health and medical providers, insurers and Chattanooga's housing agency to help defendants with mental health issues find treatment for their illness or addiction and stable housing, a move that proponents believe will reduce jail populations, ultimately saving the county money. FUSE has already raised $120,000 from outside donors, and county commissioners will vote next week on whether they will accept those donations.

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Tennessee's Process for Handling Disability Applications Stirs Controversy

The way Tennessee physicians earn money by reviewing disability claims is stirring controversy, The Tennessean reports. There are currently about 50 doctors statewide who review disability applications, for which they receive a flat rate payment on each claim filed. Detractors feel that this incentivizes the physicians to speed through the review process because how much they earn depends on how fast they work. The article notes one doctor in particular who earned $420,000 for reviewing the disability applications of 9,088 Tennesseans during the 2018 fiscal year, averaging 12 minutes on each case. 80 percent of the cases reviewed by this doctor were denied. Tennessee has among the highest denial rates for disability applicants, rejecting 72 percent of all claims in 2017 compared to the national average of 66 percent.

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Planned Parenthood and Others Face Accusations of Mistreating Pregnant Employees

Planned Parenthood and four other organizations that serve or cater to women have been accused of engaging in discriminatory practices against potential and current pregnant employees, The New York Times reports. Employees from four states claim that Planned Parenthood managers in certain locations declined to hire pregnant job applicants and declined break requests from pregnant employees. Additionally, some employees were forced out of their position following child birth. Natera, a company that sells genetic tests for pregnant women, has been accused of demoting employees while on maternity leave. CNN adds to the story that beauty company Avon, hailed as “the company for women,” has been sued by two cosmetics-testing lab employees with claims that they were forced to handle toxic chemicals while pregnant. The law firm Mehri & Skalet faces accusations that Cyrus Mehri, a founding partner, mistreated three female lawyer employees. One claims she was pressured to return to work from her maternity leave earlier than planned, while another alleges that she was fired following her request to delay her performance review while she was on leave.  

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Blog Reviews Most Important Legal Tech Developments in 2018

LawSitesBlog.com has published a roundup of the 20 most important legal tech developments in the past year, eschewing the traditional Top 10 list due to the overwhelming number of significant changes. Included on the list were analytics becoming an essential part of the legal practice, investments in legal tech topping $1 billion, the end of Avvo and the new American Bar Association rule emphasizing the duty of lawyers to be up-to-date on legal technology.
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Rural Clinics Grapple with Frozen TennCare Payments

An estimated 20 rural health clinics that opened in the last 15 months are facing financial distress due to promised TennCare payments being temporarily frozen until the state establishes new payment rules, The Tennessean reports. Many of these clinics are the only health provider in the area due to several rural hospital closures. While national and state health care organizations have expressed the necessity of ending the moratorium, a TennCare spokeswoman defended the freeze due to the complicated nature of creating required rules for billing procedures for all of the state’s 150 rural clinics.  The moratorium has been extended twice; the current freeze is scheduled to end in April but could be extended again.  

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Regular Memphis Pro Bono Clinic Has Served 12K Since Inception

Since its beginnings over a decade ago, a Memphis-area pro bono legal clinic has gone on to serve roughly 12,000 individuals in need, The Daily Memphian reports. The Saturday Legal Clinic, sponsored by Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) and the Memphis Bar Association, has been held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library once a month since November 2006. Firms and associations work to promote the event to ensure that 30 to 40 attorneys attend each month.
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CBO Report Includes Proposals to Cut Veteran Benefits

A Congressional Budget Office report was released last week which included 121 cost-saving proposals, Stars and Stripes reports.  A 2017 proposal resurfaced in the report; it calls for significant cuts to a Department of Veterans Affairs program called Individual Unemployability in 2020. The report includes options of removing 235,000 disabled veterans from the program and removing veterans once they reach age 67. The projected savings are nearly $50 billion over 10 years. Although the proposal is included in the report, it does not necessarily mean it will be considered by The White House or Congress.

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