Equal Opportunity and Diversity Policy


The goals of this policy are:

1) to more effectively achieve our mission as a legal services program by creating a diverse and supportive environment for all WVSLA personnel, including Board, staff, interns, volunteers,
2) to include and foster the uniqueness of people of all abilities and disabilities, ages, class backgrounds, colors, faiths, genders, job categories, class statuses, national origins, races and sexual orientations in our program,
3) to create an environment that allows for open communication about differences and empowers each individual to do his or her best work on behalf of clients,
4) to increase the representation and diversity of members of protected groups among both our employees, our clients, and the organizations with whom we do
business, and
5) to ensure that staff are not discriminatory in their treatment of each other and of clients as individuals, and in the acceptance or handling of cases.

Equal Opportunity Employment Policy

This legal services program is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and does not discriminate on the basis of age, class, color, disability, faith, gender, job category, national origin, race, or sexual orientation in hiring, supervision, training opportunities, promotion and transfer, work conditions, or termination.

WVSLA’s commitment to equal opportunity, diversity, and anti-discrimination is ongoing. WVSLA will periodically analyze the representation of under-represented groups in our Board membership, employees, and clients, and will make efforts to remediate discrepancies.

A few questions about our services

Why can’t I download a Financial Power of Attorney form here on your website?
WVSLA does not provide a downloadable Financial Power of Attorney form, nor do we provide any links to any downloadable forms for Financial Power of Attorney. We have a couple of resources available here that among other things explain how dangerous a Financial Power of Attorney can be. Not everybody needs one, and you can open yourself up to financial exploitation by executing one. There is a lot of legal mythology about financial powers of attorney, so even smart people can have misunderstandings about how they work that can result in devastating losses. Please check out our brochure about Financial Powers of Attorney and the WV Financial Exploitation Task Force’s brochure about Financial Exploitation to find more about the role of power of attorney in financial abuse.
Bottom line: no one should execute a Financial Power of Attorney without first consulting with attorney.

Why doesn’t WVSLA provide free wills for seniors?
Our mission is to use law to help seniors keep their homes, income security, access to healthcare, and personal autonomy. Wills are about who gets your stuff when you die. The people who benefit from wills are not the senior who makes a will, but the people who will inherit, the actual legal beneficiaries. We have a duty to carefully use our very scarce resources to serve the important legal needs of living seniors, not the needs of their children or other heirs.

And for most people your stuff will legally be inherited by the people you want anyway even if you die without a will. It’s a myth that the state gets your stuff if you die without a will. We are happy to offer any WV seniors a personal consultation about who would inherit from you if you die without a will, how probate works for your heirs, how to think about planning for taking care of the people you love after you die, etc. If you then determine that you need a will we can help you get contact info for lawyers near you who do wills. Simple wills are not terribly expensive.

Board of Directors


Robert M Bastress, Esq. President WVU College of Law Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
Beverly D Kerr, Esq. Secretary WVU Former Deputy General Counsel
Michael Sharley, Esq. Treasurer
Private Practice Attorney
Eric D Rankin, PhD Member WVU Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry Professor, School of Medicine
Jon Hunter Member West Virginia State Senate 14th District, 2005-2008
vacancy Member
Kathleen Kennedy, MPH Member West Virginia Caring Chaplain
Leslie Bakker Member SAGEUSA Volunteer
Bob Cohen, Esq. Member Retired Commissioner Federal Mine Safety & Health Review Commission 2008-2018, former lawyer in private practice in WV


WVSLA provides free civil legal services for senior West Virginians age 60 and over.
Client Eligibility

Any West Virginia resident age 60 or over is eligible for our services. Unlike many legal services programs we do not have income limits. We seek to serve the most socially and economically needs seniors in WV, but we understand that income is not the only measure of neediness. We provide at least legal information to any eligible client. But in order to target our scarce resources to the seniors who need us most we provide higher levels of service, including legal advice and legal advocacy, to seniors who are low-income, minority, disabled, very rural, LGBT, or very elderly.

Third-party Callers

We support the autonomy of seniors to remain independent and in control of their own lives. We also must abide by the legal profession’s ethical rules regarding who is our client, client loyalty, and avoiding conflicts of interest. Therefore the senior him or herself must contact us for legal help. We cannot provide any assistance through a third party except in limited circumstances as an accommodation to disability. For example, if your mother needs legal assistance to deal with a consumer problem, please do not contact us on her behalf. Even if you handle her bills for her, have Durable Power of Attorney, or she wants you to call us, please encourage her to contact us herself. In order for us to help her we need for her to contact us to ask for assistance, direct us about how she would like our help, and determine her goals regarding the matter. If she cannot contact us herself because she has a hearing deficit and can’t use the phone, or because her mental capacity is diminished, you may contact us on her behalf.

Accessing our services: a statewide senior legal hotline

Many seniors in West Virginia have transportation problems, but nearly every senior West Virginian has access to a telephone. We have chosen to make our services available by telephone rather than requiring our clients to come to a physical office. You can also email us for legal help, if you prefer. If you need assistance accessing us, perhaps because you have no phone or email or because you have trouble communicating by phone, you may also contact your local county senior program to get help contacting us.

What you can expect when you call our statewide senior legal hotline:

Our Mission

West Virginia Senior Legal Aid is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free civil legal services and counsel to senior West Virginians age 60 and older. We focus on economically or socially disadvantaged, disabled, and rural seniors. We strive to secure justice for, and to protect the legal rights of, these needy people; to employ attorneys to assist in furthering the purposes of the organization; to engage the private bar in assisting us to further these purposes; and to be a significant elderlaw resource for all of West Virginia.

Our History

West Virginia Senior Legal Aid began in 1967 at North Central West Virginia Legal Aid Society (NCWVLAS). NCWVLAS was a traditional poverty law program, providing attorneys to represent poor West Virginians in legal crisis and other important cases. NCWVLAS covered an 11 county region in north central WV, cooperating with programs covering other areas of the state such as Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, Charleston Legal Aid Society, and the West Virginia Legal Services Plan. As the federal funding for legal services nationwide came under attack in 1994, NCWVLAS assumed the role of providing services exclusively to needy senior West Virginians throughout the entire state.

We changed our name to reflect our dedication to our state’s elderly in 1999, becoming West Virginia Senior Legal Aid.  We enjoy the support of the federal Administration on Aging, the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, the Northwestern Area Agency on Aging, the Upper Potomac Area Agency on Aging, the Appalachian Area Agency on Aging, the Metro Area on Aging, the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest, the West Virginia Regional Long-term Care Ombudsman Program, and donations.