Legal rights are laws that protect people. There are many different types of laws. Laws that apply to everyone in the United States are called Federal laws. Some are based on the Constitution of the United States. Laws that apply to everyone in a state are called State laws or statutes. These can be different depending on the state where you live.
If you are a senior and/or an individual with a disability, there are extra Federal and State laws to protect you from discrimination. Discrimination means that someone is treating you unfairly or differently just because you are a senior or because you have a disability. Some examples are:
- Housing Discrimination. This means that you are denied housing or asked to move from your current housing because of your age or disability.
- Employment Discrimination. This means that you are not hired for a job, not promoted or fired because of your age or disability.
- Credit Discrimination. This means that you are denied credit, offered a lower amount of credit or offered different conditions because of your age or disability.
If you think you are being discriminated against because of your age or disability, you may wish to contact a lawyer to protect your legal rights. There are also Federal, State and private agencies and organizations that may be able to help you free of charge.
Below are websites that offer more detail on Federal and State laws that protect your legal rights. They also tell you how to file a complaint. There are also some very good contacts for agencies and organizations that may support you, called advocacy, free of charge.
Discrimination Based on Disability (regardless of age)
- (Federal Law) The Americans with Disabilities Act including information about reasonable accommodation
- (State Law) The Virginians with Disabilities Act
- Disability Law Handbook. Please note that this handbook is a broad overview of rights and obligations under federal disability laws. It was prepared by the DBTAC Southwest ADA Center and is intended to inform rather than to provide legal advice. Therefore, you should refer also to Virginia state laws and, if needed, consult an attorney for advice about your particular situation.
Discrimination Based on Age, Disability and other factors
Housing Discrimination Based on Age, Disability and other factors
- (Federal Law) Federal Fair Housing Laws and Presidential Executive Orders
- (State Law) Virginia Fair Housing Law
- (State Law) Virginia Fair Housing Office
- (State Law) Zoning Law for group homes
- The Virginia Landlord/Tenant Handbook (pdf)
- Housing Opportunities Made Equal
Employment Discrimination Based on Age
- (Federal Law) Age Discrimination in Employment Act
Employment Discrimination Based on Disability
Agencies that can help you :
- Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (serving persons with disabilities of all ages)
- Local Centers for Independent Living (serving persons with disabilities of all ages)
- Housing Opportunities Made Equal (serving persons with disabilities of all ages)
- Virginia Legal Aid (serving persons of all ages)
Legal Rights – If you live in an Institution (Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities and State-Operated Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities Facilities)
There are Federal and State laws that apply if you live in an institution. Living in an institution means getting services to help you 24 hours a day. These services can include medical, mental healty and other services.
Depending on the type of institution, the laws that cover your legal rights may be different. The websites below explain your rights and tell you how to file a complaint.
If you live in a nursing home, you have specific legal rights under Virginia Department of Health Regulations.
You are also protected from being moved against your will or being discharged. Under Federal law, there are only six reasons a nursing home can make you move to another nursing home or facility (called “transfer”) or send you home or to live with a relative (called a “discharge”).
The six reasons are:
- the transfer or discharge is necessary for your welfare and your needs cannot be met in the current facility;
- your health has improved enough that you no longer need the facility’s services;
- because of your actions, you endanger the safety of other people in the facility;
- the health of other individuals in the facility would be in danger if you remained in the facility;
- you have failed to pay your bill despite reasonable and appropriate notice; or
- the facility closes.
If you live in an assisted living facility, your legal rights are based on State law (rather than Federal law like nursing homes). The Virginia Department of Social Services, Division of Licensing controls how facilities must run in Virginia and what your legal rights are according to State policy.
What if I live in a Mental Health or Intellectual Disabilities Facility such as a Training Center or State Hospital?
In Virginia, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) is responsible for running state training centers and state hospitals. If you live in one of these facilities, you have legal rights under the Human Rights Regulations. If you ask, you must be given a copy of these rights.
If you have a problem in a facility, you can contact the following for help:
- The Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy
- A DBHDS Human Rights Advocate
- A Local Center for Independent Living
- The Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman
- Your Local Department of Social Services
- Nursing Home Admissions Issues (Word doc)
- Nursing Home Care Issues (Word doc)
- Alternatives to Nursing Home Admission (Word doc)
If you live in the community and receive services from a provider, your rights may also be protected. The websites below explain your rights and tell you how to file a complaint.
- Home Care and Hospice Services (licensed by the Virginia Department of Health)
- Adult Day Care (licensed by the Virginia Department of Social Services)
- Community Based Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (licensed by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services) . Your human rights are protected in these programs under the Human Rights Regulations.
- General Hospital Services (licensed by the Virginia Department of Health)
- Children's Foster Care Services (regulated by Virginia Department of Social Services and federal laws)
- Adult Foster Care (Approved by local departments of social services and regulated by the Virginia Department of Social Services)
- Family Day Homes (licensed by the Virginia Department of Social Services)
Whether you live in an institution or in the community, you have a right to be free from physical, mental or financial mistreatment by a caregiver or other person. The Adult Protective Services Program at your Local Department of Social Services can look into your concerns and offer assistance to stop or prevent mistreatment. They have a toll-free 24-hour Hotline you can contact at 1-888-83 ADULT (1-888-832-3858).
A Guardian is a person appointed by a Circuit Court to protect an incapacitated person. An incapacitated person is someone who cannot make decisions for himself or herself. Incapacitated is not the same as having bad judgment or being foolish. Being incapacitated involves a legal decision by a Circuit Court and is based on facts and law. Only a Circuit Court judge can determine that a person is incapacitated and appoint a guardian. Usually guardians will make personal and health care decisions. They may also be responsible for other matters like where a person lives. Circuit Courts can limit the types of decisions a Guardian is allowed to make if the incapacitated person can care for some of his or her own needs. This is called “Limited Guardianship”.
It is also important to know that once a Guardian is appointed, the incapacitated person is no longer permitted to vote, drive a motor vehicle or carry a firearm unless specifically authorized by the Circuit Court.
A conservator only manages a person’s financial situations. The authority of a conservator may also be limited, depending on the situation of the incapacitated person. Only a Circuit Court judge can appoint a conservator.
Appointing a Guardian (Guardianship) or Conservator (Conservatorship) should be treated as an absolute “last resort”. It should only be considered when no other options are left.