In an earlier blog Attorney Tom Mullen discussed how he worked with our U.S. Congress fighting for the rights of the elderly. This blog will discuss how Tom Mullen has worked with the Massachusetts legislature.

In July of 2003 in the waning days of the Mass. legislative budget debate, then-Governor Mitt Romney literally inserted a few seemingly innocuous phrases into what is termed the “outside section”of the budget. (While the budget bill can get amended, these “outside items” which were designed to be mere “housekeeping changes”–cannot be amended).

The budget bill passed and became law.  This new law sought to recover assets—primarily widows’ homes (most wives survive their husbands).  This was contrary to the Federal Medicaid Law which was first proposed by President John F. Kennedy and later became law through the efforts of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Governor Romney’s new law expanded so-called estate recovery laws in a manner which was never intended by Congress; his new law sought to capture any assets including joint bank accounts, life estates and trusts when the second spouse passed away (if there was a second marriage situation involving separate bank accounts, Romney just didn’t care).

The Governor and his press people put out the age-old story: the government is broke; the State should recover what it pays out; etc. These statements are very true. However, it is simply morally wrong to shift the burden from our Federal and State legislators to our elderly widows. If our legislatures in Washington can’t bother to attend N.S.A. briefings on national security, why do we think they will bother to attend briefings by groups trying to assist the elderly? But let’s return now to the year 2003.

Attorney Tom Mullen of Quincy led the charge to repeal this awful law. He notified the media telling  them how this new law was chilling, oppressive, and mean spirited. Tom sent a technical brief to all members of the Massachusetts Legislature. The then not-well- known Stephen Lynch of South Boston was the only one to respond. During summer doldrums, radio talkmaster Howie Carr had a live “soft” interview with the Governor. (at the time, Tom was one of Howie Carr’s sponsors). Tom called Howie’s producer from his Quincy office and the producer attempted to put Tom on the line with the Governor to debate this issue. The Governor refused. But now the organized bar and senior groups started taking notice and began their own lobbying effort.

Tom frankly used literary license in order to have the full attention of the legislature. He sent out thousands of newsletters at his own expense. It headlined “ Governor Romney wants your mother to live under a bridge.” In ten days, after being deluged by their constituents and the media, Tom received telephone calls from over forty legislators. The legislator would have committee hearings, full debate, and later confront the Governor with a bill to repeal this law. They did. A new bill was quickly passed and this horrible law was repealed!

Even though the cost of health care is soaring the burden should not be placed on the elderly who only wish to live their final years in dignity and pass on a modest inheritance to their family.

From his office on Chestnut Street in Quincy, Attorney Tom Mullen has had a positive leading influence both in the U.S. Congress and the State House, curbing abusive laws designed solely to hurt.

Thomas R. Mullen
Thomas R. Mullen has been an attorney since 1977 and has devoted his practice exclusively to elderlaw since 1988. He is nationally recognized as one of the foremost experts on Medicaid planning. His additional Practice areas include estate planning and trusts for disabled people, as well as assisting attorneys with Medicaid lien allocations and the Medicare Secondary Payer Act. In the Spring 2013 issue of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) Journal, Attorney Thomas R. Mullen of Quincy, Mass. was described by the Academy’s Massachusetts past president and law professor William J.Brisk as being “a prominent and innovative elderlaw attorney.”