Scott Severns began advocating for the elderly and disabled in 1976 as an employee of Indiana Legal Services Organization (LSO). He began his work in the Senior Citizens and Public Benefits Units of LSO representing the disabled. It was there where he was first exposed to the Medicaid public benefits program.
Mr. Severns became an attorney at LSO in 1979 upon graduation from law school and admittance to the Indiana State Bar. He focused his efforts on nursing home reform and was appointed the head of the Nursing Home Project. Funded by the local council on aging, the Nursing Home Project had sought to complete its mission of nursing home care reform through both the legislative and judicial processes. It established a state ombudsman to troubleshoot nursing home problems. It also litigated cases against facilities to ensure quality patient care. During his tenure as head of the Nursing Home Project, Severns establish national ties to other advocates and became a member of the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform.
Throughout the early 1980s, Mr. Severns fought tirelessly for nursing home reform on both the state and national level. Through the efforts of Severns and others, the Indiana State Legislature passed nursing home reform legislation in 1983. During this same time period, Severns began to tinker with the notion of asset protection planning for the elder facing a nursing home crisis.
In 1984, Severns left the Indiana Legal Services Organization to continue lobbying for nursing home reform and further pursue his other goal of a law practice that represented the elderly. On the first goal, Severns became a policy analyst for United Senior Action, a senior citizens’ advocacy organization. He served as an architect of Indiana’s home health care legislation, known as CHOICE which was enacted in 1987. Also in 1987, the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform with the advocacy of Severns and others convinced Congress to pass national nursing home reform laws.
In addition to further efforts to reform nursing home care, Severns opened his first downtown Indiana law practice and began to take cases seeking to obtain quality, affordable, nursing home care through Medicaid planning. He wrote an article about this type of planning for the General Practice Magazine of the American Bar Association that brought national attention to his ideas. In 1986 he presented his ideas to a small group of attorneys from several areas of the country who were discussing this new concept of representing the elderly and Medicaid planning. It was during this meeting the term ‘elder law’ was coined.
The meeting of attorneys soon turned into the establishment of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) in 1987. Severns was a founding member of NAELA and served as its Program Chair for its first Symposium in 1989. In 1990 he was elected president of NAELA.
In 1994, Severns was elected president of the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform.
Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, Severns expanded his practice moving among several downtown Indianapolis office buildings as his staff grew. In 1992, he added a nursing home litigation section to his practice. With the enactment of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, Severns added his Making It Last section to his practice. Making It Last or MIL, is a term Severns coined to describe planning for a disabled or elderly individual who has received a financial windfall either through a legal judgment, settlement, or inheritance.
In the late 1990s, Severns desired to reform his practice to ensure that the needs of his clients are met in the most expeditious and efficient manner. He also wanted to ensure that Severns Associates continues to serve clients long after his departure from the practice of law. To that end, firm policies and procedures have been recorded and standards of conduct and other case management systems have been established. With his experience and vision, Severns Associates is in a prime position to serve the disabled and aging communities for years to come.