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Washington Watch

CANNABIS SURPRISING ATTRACTION

Think you’ve seen it all? A recent article in The New York Times will surprise you. Many of the people behind the growth of the cannabis industry — better known as marijuana — are, believe it or not, older women. These are business women who have suffered a major problem and discovered that the use of marijuana helped them deal with pain or eased their recovery.

A 2014 national survey on drug use and health found that 5.1 percent of adults over 50 had used marijuana in the past month and this number is expected to rise. State information on medical marijuana indicates that its use in those over age 60 has risen as high as 20.5 percent.

Data is still skimpy — for instance, states which have not legalized its use obviously have no statistics. But on-going research is being conducted on the medical use of marijuana as an alternative to opioids and other pain medications.

 

CARING CONCERNS

It is estimated that there are more than 43 million caregivers in this country, many of them family members or friends. The care they provide — everything from feeding to bathing to paying bills — is usually uncompensated.

One study from the Met Life Mature Market Institute estimates that between lost wages, pensions and reduced Social Security benefits (most being unable to work while caregiving), caregivers are losing some $3 trillion annually.

To begin to deal with this situation, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chair of the Senate Aging Committee, along with other Senate colleagues, has introduced the RAISE Caregivers Act. (RAISE is an acronym for recognize, assist, include, support and engage.)

It would set up a family caregiving advisory council which would include federal agency representatives, caregivers, veterans, advocates and older adults.

“As our population grows older, the number of uncompensated family caregivers providing high-quality, long-term care will only increase,” said Collins.

For additional information, visit the website at aging.senate.gov.

 

TOO OLD TO WORK?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a 59-year-old man who claims that he was discriminated against at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Florida which refused to hire him because of his age.

The gentleman had more than 20 years of experience in restaurants and had applied for a job as a general manager.

The company declined to hire him because, according to the EEOC, it was looking for an individual who could “maximize longevity.”

The lawsuit was brought after attempts to find other ways to resolve the matter, including through conciliation.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers from discrimination starting at age 40.

“Age cannot be a factor in whether or not someone can earn a living,” said Michael Farrell, director of EEOC’s Miami office, For more information, visit the website at eeoc.gov.

 

SAD NEWS

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths from Alzheimer’s have significantly increased since 1999. The disease is now estimated to affect more than 5 million adults in the country.

“Significant increases in Alzheimer’s deaths coupled with an increase in the number of persons with Alzheimer’s dying at home suggest that the burden on caregivers has increased even more than the number of deaths,” according to the CDC.

With an aging population, the number of Alzheimer’s patients is expected to quadruple by the year 2050, unless some scientific breakthrough is achieved to eliminate an illness for which there is no treatment or cure.

For more information, visit cdc.gov.

 

VA WHISTLEBLOWERS PROTECTED

On a recent visit to the Department of Veterans Affairs, President Trump signed an executive order to make it easier to dismiss VA employees who are not appropriately serving veterans. The VA has often come under criticism for not working faster to reduce its large backlog of claims from veterans and their families.

This order creates the position of Special Assistant to the VA Secretary, headed by an Executive Director who is charged with improving “accountability and whistleblower protection.” The latter specifically protects an employee from any retaliation and it also provides for disciplining or terminating an employee who is derelict in his or her duties.

“We want to make sure that we have employees who work hard and are committed to the mission of serving our Veterans,” said VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin.

In a related move, the VA is partnering with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps which will allow it to assign health care professionals to provide “direct patient care to veterans in VA hospitals” in communities which have limited VA care available.

For more information, visit the website at va.gov.