Caregivers and the people who need them challenged with Virginia overtime law

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - The new federal overtime law will impact millions of people when it takes effect in December but it will have no impact on a number of Virginians who care for older adults and people with disabilities.

Steve Grammer has help in the form of caregivers who dress him, give him is medicine and everything he needs.

"Everything that's necessary for a person to do every day, he need someone to do for him," said Grammer's caregiver, John Leonard.

Leonard is with Grammer during the day, 40 hours a week. Another caregiver covers nights while additional caregivers cover weekends. The goal is to give Grammer help while allowing him to live where he chooses.

"If he's out of a caretaker, he's not getting taken care of and also might have to be put in a nursing home where he's taken out of the community," said Leonard. "And that's a big deal for us right now."

Virginia law is making both goals more challenging, he said.

Right now, caregivers in the Commonwealth are not paid overtime. Any hours over 40, according to a spokeswoman for the governor's office, aren't reimbursed under Virginia's Medicaid plan.

"Caregivers are not state or federal employees - they are employed by private citizens who then seek reimbursement for qualified Medicaid expenses from the state, which then bills Medicaid for federal reimbursement," said Christina Nuckols.

"If the individual wishes to have their caregiver work more than 40 hours, that is still permissible. However, any hours over 40 are not reimbursable under Virginia's Medicaid plan, in accordance with the actions directly taken by the General Assembly in both regular session and reconvened session. Under this scenario, the individual receiving the care would be responsible for paying overtime to the caregiver," Nuckols added in her statement.

Governor Terry McAuliffe recommended a change to the budget that would allow for up to 16 hours overtime, a way to offer limited consumer directed overtime in fiscal year 2017. He stated, "elimination of all overtime for consumer-directed attendants could have a significant adverse impact on the continuity of care received by some of Virginia's most vulnerable citizens and jeopardize the health of older adults and people with disabilities. Moreover, it may severely limit the ability of Medicaid clients to recruit and retain the workers they need to continue to live independently at home."

The General Assembly failed to approve it.

"It is difficult trying to find people and especially back up people," said caregiver Lisa Conner who also works with Grammer part-time.

Grammer explains it's already a challenge to find qualified caregivers who are notoriously underpaid and the promise of no overtime makes it even harder to recruit... retain and allow people with disabilities to live without fear of being institutionalized.

"The government talks about inclusion but how can we call this inclusion when we need caregivers to be able to interact with the community," he said.

Grammer is advocating for change for himself and other Virginians just like him.