Here are stories about people who have been helped in some way by the important work NSCLC does. Help us continue to help them and support NSCLC. Give now.
Tommy and Tanya
Tommy, 75, is in poor health and lives in a California assisted living facility for people suffering from short and long-term memory loss. The facility recently let his daughter Tanya know that they were evicting Tommy in a matter of days. She knew that her father’s health was suddenly at risk. Plus, a family reunion in which 16 relatives were coming from all over the country to be with her Dad might need to be postponed. NSCLC’s Directing Attorney Eric Carlson was able to help her and Tommy by determining the eviction notice was unlawful. Based on Carlson’s advice, Tanya was able to force the facility to rescind the eviction notice ending the threat to Tommy’s health and allowing the family reunion to happen.
Marion Dyke, Jr.
Marion Dyke, Jr. lost his Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits in January 2010. He and his wife, who live in Indianapolis, Indiana, became homeless and lived in various motels as they struggled to get by.
One night in 2009 as he was driving through Baldwin County, Georgia during a visit to the area, he was stopped for a traffic violation. Marion returned to Indiana, failed to appear in court and was placed on probation.
Trying to find out why he lost his SSI, he consulted an Indianapolis criminal attorney and found out about the outstanding Georgia warrant. Marion then traveled to the state to clear the matter up, even if it meant going to jail.
While at a Macon, Georgia courthouse trying to find out what to do, Marion spoke to a Georgia Legal Services attorney who advised him that he was likely part of the Clark v Astrue class. And, it turned out he was. Thanks to the efforts of Georgia Legal Services staff who knew all about the case from NSCLC, Marion’s benefits were reinstated and he received $59,860 in back benefits shortly after. He did not have to go to jail and both he and his wife were no longer homeless.
Esther Darling has been going to the Yolo Adult Day Health Center in Woodland, CA five days a week since 1997. It is the only thing that has kept her from ending up in a nursing home. Thanks to NSCLC’s litigation, Esther and 35,000 California seniors continue living in their own homes and benefit from daily care at centers across the state that had been threatened with serious state funding cutbacks. Asked about those cutbacks, Esther told NSCLC, “They think just because we’re old, we should sit on the porch all day and do nothing, and they could throw us away like an old pair of shoes.”
Grant Specht, a directing attorney at Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles, has relied on NSCLC’s expertise for roughly two decades, to help him and his team successfully advocate for dozens of low-income clients. Through case consultations with NSCLC’s income team, Specht has been able to help low-income clients, including older adults and disabled individuals, obtain sorely-needed Social Security (SS) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and appeal unfair benefits-related decisions. Specht said NSCLC takes the time to provide thorough, clear explanations, and credits NSCLC with helping him with these cases. “It’s so important for us in the trenches to have a place like NSCLC,” he said.
NSCLC represented consumers in Oster et al v Lightbourne , a case settled in March 2013 that prevented the state of California from making drastic cuts to the IHSS program.
Ha Garvell (not his real name), 86, of Imperial, California suffers from Parkinson’s disease and lung tumors and has had two strokes. He receives 64 hours of personal care services through the state’s In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, but earlier this summer faced a 20-hour cut and possible institutionalization.
With the help of NSCLC, his legal aid attorney steered his case towards a much more favorable outcome.
Laura D. Berumen of California Rural Legal Assistance in El Centro, Calif. saw that the reassessment upon which the cuts to his services were based was not thorough enough. The new cuts would have been in addition to the eight percent mandated by a state-wide reduction in IHSS hours.
“Garvell’s a free spirit and didn’t want to go back to a nursing home,” Berumen said. For example, he describes his Parkinson’s episodes as those times when his hand gets the urge to play the guitar. Garvell can infuse humor in almost any situation, but not the prospect of losing his independence.
With support from NSCLC’s Anna Rich, Berumen was able to get a reassessment and a new case worker for Garvell. As a result, he will most likely keep all of his hours and even gain some additional ones.
“It really meant the world to me and to him that we got help from NSCLC,” added Berumen. “It made a big difference.”
NSCLC signed on to a Supreme Court amicus brief that challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Court, in a 5-4 ruling on June 26, 2013, overturned the Act.
Mary McCarthy, 74, and Bonnie Winokar, 69, are celebrating the Supreme Court ruling in the U.S. v Windsor case that overturned DOMA.
“This is unbelievable that this is happening in my lifetime,” says Mary. “It is such a comfort to have your love recognized. We just feel equal.”
“I just screamed. I had a feeling they would vote this way,” added Bonnie. “It’s hard to find the words to express it. It’s wonderful. I never dreamed this would happen.”
Mary and Bonnie have been legally married since 2004, soon after same sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Most of their friends live in states where it is legal, but Bonnie is hopeful that others who live in Illinois or Pennsylvania will soon have that right.
Their current sources of income are Bonnie’s pension and Mary’s Social Security check. But, before the DOMA decision, should Mary have died before Bonnie, Bonnie would not have been entitled to receive Mary’s Social Security survivor benefits nor would Bonnie be eligible for spousal benefits now.
They plan to visit with an attorney to go over next steps, including their will and Social Security benefits.
A longer story about the couple appears at www.glad.org. Thanks to Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders of Boston, MA for connecting us with Bonnie and Mary.
Reneto’s story was used in remarks by Zoe Paolantonio, staff attorney at Whitman Walker Health Legal Services Program, during a NSCLC-sponsored Hill briefing about restoring the Supplemental Security Income(SSI) program on April 17, 2013.
Reneto Wilkins is a lifelong DC resident who has been living with HIV/AIDS and schizophrenia for over 30 years. He has served as an outspoken HIV awareness advocate, and has been a volunteer with the Washington Metropolitan Public Health Association, Howard University, and the World AIDS Conference. However, as the result of his disabling conditions and symptoms, which include cognitive impairment and severe memory loss, Mr. Wilkins has never been able to work. His only income has been from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program since the 1980s. Today, Wilkins relies on various social services programs for daily mental health support and help with basic activities.
In February 2012, the Social Security Administration suspended Mr. Wilkins’ SSI benefits because he had more than $2,000 in his savings account. Mr. Wilkins had accumulated about $3,500 in savings by not spending his entire SSI check each month. However, he did not remember ever hearing about the rule and he did not know that by saving money, he was breaking SSI program rules.
With the loss of his benefits, he was concerned that he would once again become homeless. Concerned that he would not be able to pay rent ($64.00 per month for his federally subsidized Section 8 apartment), he was also extremely worried that he would lose his Medicaid coverage, which covers life-saving medical care and medications.
Zoe Paolantonio, staff attorney at Whitman Walker Health Legal Services Program, helped Reneto buy a winter coat, needed clothing, non-perishable groceries, and a bed— all things that he had been going without in order to use his benefits prudently. When his savings were once again below $2,000, SSA re-started his monthly benefits. But, SSA then assessed an overpayment for the entire three-year period that his account totaled more than the $2,000 limit. That meant he would have had to pay back $18,000 in benefits. Thanks to Paolantonio and the over one year of legal advocacy it took to resolve the issues, SSA granted a request to waive recovery of the overpayment in April 2013.
Sharon Raphael and Mina Meyer
In the Associated Press news story Gay Couples Could See Windfalls from Court Action that ran in newspapers nationwide, Sharon Raphael and Mina Meyer of Long Beach, CA a same sex married couple were profiled. NSCLC’s Gerald McIntyre, who had shared advice with them previously, suggested Reporter Lisa Leff speak to them.
Raphael and Meyer have been married for more than four years. According to the news story, the end of DOMA could mean an additional $7,335 year in Social Security benefits to them because Meyer, who worked in office jobs and a bookstore, would be entitled to the Social Security benefits of Raphael, who earned considerably more as a college professor for 40 years. As the reporter noted, “It’s about buying a new roof for their California home, replacing their 2005 Toyota Camry, and ensuring Meyer doesn’t take a financial hit if Raphael dies first.”
Last year, Meyer applied for benefits and if DOMA is ruled unconstitutional will get more benefits based on the date she applied. In other words, by applying last year, she will get additional benefits. She would not have received them if she waited for the Court ruling to apply.
A few weeks ago, Asako Okuma, a social worker at AmericCare Adult Day Health Care Center in San Marcos, CA was referred to NSCLC’s Oakland office needing help for Corazon, a 72-year-old woman who is eligible for Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California). Corazon, who has been visiting the center for nearly eight years, receives needed therapy, exercise and socialization at the center. She came close to losing all of that when a problem arose with her managed care plan.
Like many others in California, Corazon was recently required to join a Medicaid managed care plan to keep her Community-Based Adult Services (CBAS) benefits, which pay for her adult day care. Medicare beneficiaries that enroll in a Medicaid plan are supposed to be able to continue seeing their Medicare doctors, but this policy wasn’t working for Corazon.
Corazon needed heart surgery and her cardiologist, a Medicare provider, had set a date for the procedure. When her cardiologist learned that she was enrolled in a Medicaid managed care plan, he canceled the surgery, fearing that he would not get paid. According to Okuma, this caused Corazon who speaks limited English a great deal of anxiety – the last thing she needed given her heart condition. She was concerned that she would have to wait much longer to get the needed surgery or not get it at all if she could not find a new cardiologist willing to see her.
Okuma called the doctor’s office and then the managed care plan to see if the situation could be resolved. A plan customer service representative said nothing could be done, suggesting that Corazon disenroll from managed care if she wanted the surgery. Disenrolling from managed care would have meant losing her CBAS services.
NSCLC was able to help, using its connections to take the problem straight to senior leadership at the health plan. The plan was then able to convince the cardiologist to agree to accept payment from the plan. The surgery went ahead as planned. “It was life and death for Corazon,” Okuma said. “NSCLC is a great resource.”
The story below is based on an article in Daily Report, an Atlanta Legal publication, entitled Federal Class Order Restores Homeless Vet’s Social Security and is printed with permission. Duane Kimmel is a member of the plaintiff class in Clark v. Astrue. NSCLC was counsel for plaintiffs in the case challenging the Social Security Administration’s practice of relying exclusively on outstanding probation and parole warrants as sufficient evidence for denying benefits to many seniors and people with disabilities. Proksauer, Rose LLP served as pro bono counsel and the Urban Justice Center also worked on the case. Approximately 140,000 people lost benefits and could recover $1 billion in back benefits as a result. To read the complete article requires a subscription to Daily Report.
Duane Kimmel was stuck. His Social Security disability payments had been cut off because of a decade-old warrant, but authorities had no interest in arresting him so that he could clear the warrant and restore his benefits. As a result, Kimmel lost his only source of income for five years and became homeless. He lived in the woods in Doraville and in Atlanta, Georgia shelters. An old back injury prevented him from working, and he didn’t seem to have any recourse. But his situation is about to change because of Clark v. Astrue and the help of Gwinnet Legal Aid ‘s Rachel Lazarus.
Kimmel, a 62-year-old Marine Corps veteran, was able to clear an outstanding warrant with the help of Gwinnet Legal Aid, part of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The warrant had been pending since 2000 because Kimmel failed to pay $850 in probation fees after he moved to Florida. Kimmel was on probation for a marijuana possession offense, but he didn’t know the warrant existed until his Social Security payments stopped in 2005.
The process wasn’t easy because police in Michigan, where the warrant was pending, didn’t want to arrest him when he tried to turn himself in. Kimmel had traveled to Oakland County, Mich., to take care of the warrant. He said the VA paid for the bus ticket because he couldn’t afford it.
When police wouldn’t take him away, Lazarus secured an agreement with Michigan law enforcement to arrest Kimmel in order to clear up his paperwork problem. Kimmel then entered into a 60-day drug rehab program for his probation violation, and when he returned to Georgia, he was able to have his Social Security benefits reinstated in 2010. His Social Security payments amount to $937 per month, which is enough for him to rent an apartment in Lawrenceville and get back on his feet. The pending payout will help him support himself for years to come.
NSCLC is educating advocates, media, policymakers and others about the need to modernize the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program by increasing the benefit amount and the amount of resources someone can have in order to meet unforeseen circumstances. To read more about modernizing SSI, click here.
Ida, who is 64 and a widow, lives alone in the northeastern part of Houston, Texas. She receives $694 a month, an amount that includes both Supplemental Security Income and Social Security payments. She has no savings and the Social Security Administration withholds money every month for an overpayment they say she owes. For years, Ida was a caregiver to her mother, her husband and also raised a family so she didn’t work outside the house very much. A diabetic, she is not in the best of health. Once she pays her utility bills, taxes, her phone, car insurance and a tithe to her church, there’s little left for new clothes or even for cleaning supplies. Because she has no extra income, Ida can’t keep up with the repairs needed to her house. The lights went out in her laundry room and she can’t afford to get it fixed. Her roof needs work as does her front porch and back door, but hiring a handyman, electrician or carpenter is well beyond her means. Ida doesn’t drive much because she can’t afford to. She receives meals on wheels so she doesn’t go hungry and she receives some help from her church and from a local nonprofit, but she sums up what life is like on a limited income in a few short sentences. “It’s hard some months. I’m just getting by.”
Thanks to Care for Elders and Neighborhood Centers of Houston, Texas for connecting us with Ida so she could share her story. If you know someone like Ida who receives SSI and whose story ought to be told, please contact Scott Parkin.
NSCLC was counsel for plaintiffs in Clark v. Astrue a nationwide class action challenging the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) practice of relying exclusively on outstanding probation and parole warrants as sufficient evidence for denying benefits to many seniors and people with disabilities. Approximately 140,000 people have lost benefits because of this policy in the 4.5 years covered by this case. SSA has issued a plan for implementing a federal judge’s order to restore Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits retroactively to class members. Ramon Gonzalez is one of those people.
In 2006, Ramon Gonzalez was driving at night when his car broke down. He decided to walk on the side of the road to get help. A truck hit him twice from behind hurling him into the air and breaking his pelvis. Ever since, the former plumber has been disabled, unable to work and now spends most of his time in bed.
Ramon, who is now 50 years old, was found eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance in 2007 after the accident, but he has yet to get a penny. The problem is that in 2003 he was sentenced to probation and a fine. He left Florida for Kentucky and later Massachusetts for work, thinking he was done with his sentence, but he was wrong. This mistake came back to haunt him.
Unable to work or to get Social Security benefits, Ramon was able to get help to the tune of $150 every two weeks from the state. “It was living hell,” he said in describing trying to live on so little with medical bills and prescriptions on top of normal living expenses. He was forced to move twice because he couldn’t pay rent; a personal caregiver helps him but t here hasn’t been enough money to pay for his needs. “I wish nobody – not even my worst enemy – should have to go through what I went through.”
Ramon heard about free legal services and contacted Sandra Susse of Community Legal Aid in Springfield, MA. “I didn’t know where to turn,” he noted. “If it wasn’t for her [or programs like NSCLC], I don’t know what I’d have done.”
It turns out Ramon is a member of the plaintiff class in Clark. Sandra helped him apply for (SSI) which he is now receiving as a result of the court order requiring SSA to change its policy. Later this year, he should at last be able to receive Social Security, including retroactive payments, which should help greatly since most recently his truck broke down and he can’t afford to fix it.
Aileen Harper, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Center for Health Care Rights, says that NSCLC provides a unique and important role in making often complicated federal or state changes in laws or rules understandable for people. She said that when California changed the Adult Day Health Care program to the Community-Based Adult Services program, seniors and others needed help in understanding how the change affected their other Medicare or Medi-Cal benefits. In the education and training the Center does on a local level, people had many questions and concerns. Often, she says that government agencies do not communicate health policy change well for whatever reason and this change was no exception. “NSCLC’s support allowed us to clarify and answer questions in a meaningful way,” she noted. “They (NSCLC staff) have a practical, hands-on approach and they understand and pick up on the direct service component.”
The late Elaine Clark was the lead plaintiff in Clark v. Astrue. A federal court issued a final order (see above article) providing relief in the case, but too late to help her. NSCLC Directing Attorney Gerald McIntyre brought the case with Proskauer, Rose LLP and the Urban Justice Center of New York City.
Elaine Clark began receiving Social Security Disability Insurance in 1996 when she was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. She also had several other serious medical conditions for which she was receiving treatment. In January of that year, retroactive to January 2005, the Social Security Administration unlawfully stopped paying her benefits based on an outstanding warrant. The warrant was issued because she was in alleged violation of a condition of probation. Although there never had was a finding she violated her probation, SSA ended her benefits ended anyway. The SSA based their action on finding her name a national crime database that they used to throw Ms. Clark and thousands of others off the rolls. At the time, Ms. Clark was living in senior housing and, because she no longer had income and could not pay rent, the owners sought to evict her and offered to move her to a homeless shelter. Before she could be evicted, however, Ms. Clark passed away in a hospital. Her daughter and son who survive her soon stand to share a modest retroactive benefit.
A resident of Michigan, Rhon Koch is a long-time advocate for the rights of those with disabilities. She believes that the interests of consumers should not be forgotten as states propose new models of care for dual eligibles.
Ms. Koch, who is dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and living with a disability, participated as a consumer representative in a workgroup looking at her state’s proposal to integrate the financing and delivery of Medicare and Medicaid services. On each of the working groups there was one consumer representative. The rest of the 35 on each were consisted of insurance industry, provider and government officials.
“You’re doing a wonderful job,” she said in reference to the NSCLC briefs. She said she appreciated in particular how they recognize the need to address the concerns of the frail elderly and people with disabilities. She added that the recommendations in NSCLC’s briefs “need to be addressed in these models” and she advocated for several of them at the meeting. Copies of the briefs were handed out at workgroup meetings.
Sadly, the recommendations she pushed for were not in the proposal the state submitted to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. However, she said that others at the workgroup meeting she attended approached her and voiced support for the issues she brought up. Ms. Koch expects that they will be revisited.
NSCLC Provides an Open Window of Knowledge
“Without NSCLC and its partnership with organizations like NAELA (National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys) many older, low-income people would lack a voice in Washington DC,” says Brian Lindberg, NAELA’s voice in DC and executive director of the Consumer Coalition for Quality Health Care. He feels that NSCLC provides an “open window of knowledge” for the public and other organizations that want to inform themselves about legal issues affecting the elderly. Lindberg, who has partnered with NSCLC to protect legal services programs under the Older Americans Act and preserved eligibility rights for older people in Medicaid, feels that NSCLC is an effective advocate for the elderly poor because of its focus on analyzing legal issues in-depth, advocating with government agencies and using its litigation expertise. Before becoming a policy advisor and the executive director of the CCQHC, Brian Lindberg spent 10 years on the Senate and House aging committees. He also is legislative and regulatory advisor for several national legal and aging groups such as the National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs.
A Heartfelt Thank You from Eskaton ADHC
The center is located in the northeastern part of Sacramento County, California. Some 50 family, participants and staff from Eskaton ADHC of Carmichael California personally signed a thank you card addressed to Deputy Director Kevin Prindiville for NSCLC’s work to save the state’s adult day health care program. Along with the handwritten signatures, there was a simple note: “Thank you for your work on the ADHC settlement. We are all so happy!”
Eskaton’s adult day health care is an innovative program designed to assist both participants and caregivers by supporting the independence and socialization of participants during the daytime hours. Participants attend from two to five days per week, giving caregivers much needed “time-off” and enabling them to pursue a career or personal interests. Billie’s daughter, for example, was not going to be able to hold down her job and care for Billie at home if the center closed. Billie attends 5 days a week and would have required skilled nursing placement, effectively breaking up their family, without ADHC.
According to Administrator, Jill Yungling, without this unique program, many other participants would otherwise face premature entrance into a long-term care facility.
Humboldt Senior Resource Center on Saving California’s ADHC Program
It is hard to adequately express my gratitude for the work that NSCLC did to preserve the Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) program in California. If it wasn’t for your efforts, our ADHC participants might have had to move into skilled nursing facilities unnecessarily. They are now able to remain in their own homes and receive the support services of our ADHC program. On behalf of all our participants, their families and our staff, thank you for helping us. Our participants are now able to remain in the community with the support they need to maintain their dignity and self determination. Their families are able to continue to work and receive respite care for their loved ones; and our staff are employed and supporting their families. Thank you for all your hard work.
Joanne Conzelmann, MSW, Director of Adult Day health and Alzheimer’s Services, Humboldt Senior Resource Center
Tony Gonzales was a full-blood Apache from New Mexico, growing up in an orphanage and with his mother, until he dropped out of high school. He made his way to California and fell into a criminal life. In 1988 he was sentenced to Federal prison for seven years, and when he was released, he finally made his break with crime, went to school and become employed first as a welder and then as a drafter. He started drawing retirement benefits, however, a warrant was found from 1965, from his first run-in with the law for “joy-riding.” “The record was so old, no one knew it existed,” said Attorney Ellen Mendoza of Legal Aid Services of Oregon. “He had gone from being a bad guy to a good guy and then got a kick in the gut.” Thanks to NSCLC’s Directing Attorney Gerald McIntyre and Gonzales’s participation as a plaintiff in Clark v. Astrue, Gonzales was eventually reinstated. Mendoza added that her organization relies on a national organization like NSCLC for cutting edge information on cases like that of Gonzales and how to take appropriate action on behalf of their clients.
Back Up Centers Are Extremely Important – St. John’s County Legal Aid Managing Attorney Megan Wall, a branch of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, regularly taps National Senior Citizens Law Center’s Eric Carlson for help with clients who experience legal problems, especially those related to long term care. In Florida, for example, nursing homes were routinely asking clients for third party signatures, a violation of federal nursing home law. But, most advocates and judges in the state did not know that. She asked Carlson to do a two-day training and subsequently the practice has been curbed substantially. “Back up centers like NSCLC are extremely important to us in the field,” Wall said. “It’s important to have ground troops, but you need someone who is expert and responds quickly to your questions. Thank goodness for NSCLC.”
Staff Attorney Eva Shiffrin of Disability Rights Wisconsin has called on NSCLC’s Georgia Burke and Kevin Prindiville for help with Medicare Part D issues. “NSCLC is the premier source of how Part D works for people who are eligible for the low-income subsidy,” she noted. “I get the information I need very quickly and NSCLC does the research so I don’t have to.” Shiffrin said that at one time Part D plans were messing up on complaint tracking and drug companies were not following guidelines. NSCLC was not only able to tell me that this was a trend not an isolated incident, they also developed a system to track complaints and ensure that plans were accountable for errors. And, NSCLC is a persistent and effective leader in efforts to coordinate Medicare Part D and state Medicaid programs to avoid dangerous and unfair gaps in drug coverage for our most vulnerable low income beneficiaries. “NSCLC has the connections with CMS (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to figure out things that we can’t.”
Harry Cota, the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the Department of Health Care Services that blocked cuts in 2009 to Adult Day Health Care as violations under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed away in March, after a battle with cancer. The case was originally filed as Lillie Brantley et. al v. David Maxwell-Jolly but later changed to Harry Cota et. al v. Maxwell-Jolly, and now renamed Darling v. Douglas. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California on behalf of Adult Day Health Care participants by Disability Rights California, the National Senior Citizens Law Center, AARP Foundation Litigation, the National Health Law Program and the law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP. The state continues its efforts to eliminate the program. Mr. Cota fought for this until the end of his life.
Joelen Gates, legal aid attorney at Connecticut Legal Services, helps low-income individuals with nursing home issues, including nursing home discharge cases. Recently, a client required total parenteral nutrition (TPN) which means that in order for her to receive adequate nutrition, she needed an IV line. The nursing home told her that they did not provide this type of care. Joelen sought advice from NSCLC. She was then able to cite rules in the Code of Federal Regulations which showed that the nursing home must provide TPN. On behalf of her client, Joelen won a decision in March 2010 that required the nursing home to provide the service. “NSCLC knows the law inside and out in their specialties,” said Joelen. “They have a broad perspective on what is happening in other states that makes our cases stronger.”
Judson Esty-Kendall, attorney at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, helps low-income individuals in Maine’s Penobscot, Piscataquis, Hancock, and Waldo counties. Esty-Kendall finds NSCLC to be extremely helpful in addressing the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) issues he encounters. A client came to Pine Tree for assistance after his SSI benefits were suspended because of a Florida arrest warrant. The client had not been informed of a court date or the charge. Even though he returned to Florida to visit his father, the Social Security Administration (SSA) classified him as a “fleeing felon.” Esty-Kendall appealed the SSI suspension and received a favorable decision from an administrative law judge. However, SSA overruled that decision, prompting Kendall to take the case to the U.S. District Court in Portland, ME. With NSCLC’s counsel, he crafted his argument. The District Court ruled that Esty-Kendall’s client had the right to a hearing. SSA restored his benefits and paid him back benefits for the 1.5 year period in which benefits were withheld. From 2009-10, Pine Tree (which serves all ages) handled some 6,000 total cases, about 20 percent of which were extended representations and about 80 percent of which were relatively brief office assistance. Visit Pine Tree Legal.
Dan Ashbrook, Director of Lavender Seniors of the East Bay in California, says that NSCLC has provided great value to his organization through its expertise and work on legal issues that affect LGBT seniors. “We have had NSCLC provide educational discussions for our LGBT seniors in the areas of long-term care,” Ashbrook said. “The work of NSCLC increases the capacity of LGBT aging advocates such as Lavender Seniors to advance the mission of improving the lives of LGBT elders with research, education, and advocacy from a legal perspective.” Lavender Seniors of San Leandro, CA provides social support services and a vibrant caring community of LGBT older adults. Its programs foster a sense of belonging for all LGBT older adults particularly those who are isolated, vulnerable, disabled and at risk. It also participates in local, statewide, and national advocacy efforts for the betterment of the LGBT and mainstream older adult community.
Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal) often helps older adults who have been wrongfully denied Social Security benefits. As a result of the successful NSCLC-led Martinez v Astrue class action lawsuit, BayLegal and many other legal services organizations across the country are able to help those who may have been part of that class. Through the Martinez case, “NSCLC helped a lot of people without benefits,” said Steve Weiss, BayLegal’s Regional SSI Advocacy Coordinator. “It is important to have a valuable and well-qualified support center in place [like NSCLC] and there is no one else that is more triumphal in Social Security that I can think of.”
Fran Chervenak, senior attorney at the Pennsylvania Health Law Project (PHLP) in Pittsburgh, PA, works closely with national health advocates to address health policy changes. On behalf of her clients, she often raises issues for systemic advocacy with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Recently, CMS approved a PA Medicare Advantage Plan that started a Special Needs Plan for dual eligible beneficiaries. Medicare law requires the plan to enroll all dual eligibles or a discrete subset of that population. In this particular case, the plan did neither. Fran and PHLP tried to engage CMS and have them revoke the plan but were unable to resolve the issue. “NSCLC took the lead and talked to Medicare,” said Fran. With NSCLC’s advocacy and dialogue with CMS, the plan was revoked.
Anne Hurley, an attorney working on the Long Term Care Assistance Project at the Legal Aid Bureau in Baltimore, MD, turns to NSCLC for advice when she faces a problematic legal issue. Many of Anne’s clients are threatened with eviction from a nursing home. When she needs support for her clients, Anne often contacts NSCLC. She also values the national perspective NSCLC offers and information on what is happening in other states. Recently, a nursing home threatened to discharge Cheryl Lucado, a 60-year-old quadriplegic female. The nursing home claimed that it could not meet Cheryl’s needs, despite providing care for her the past 25 years. Cheryl, who has persevered all those years on a ventilator, believed she would die if evicted. With NSCLC’s counsel on how to approach the case, Anne won a motion for summary judgment in Cheryl’s favor, allowing Cheryl to remain in her home.