Georgia Legal Services Program’s Benefits Hotline Provides Georgians with Millions in Public Benefits

This article was first printed on the Legal Services Corporation website here.

“My medicines cost $200 per month. I wasn’t able to get them although I had had two prior heart attacks. Now I can get my medication because of the Medicaid. I would have given up without your help.”

“Thank you very much for helping me. I called everyone and did everything I was supposed to do. GLS was the only place that helped.”

These quotes are from people who received help through Georgia Legal Services Program’s (GLSP’s) benefits hotline.

The hotline was created in 2012 to optimize the legal process of receiving public benefits—specifically, to reduce the number of hearings attended by GLSP lawyers and to help clients get the food and health care they needed, which were often delayed or denied by the bureaucratic process.

In addition, the hotline served a critical purpose because at the time in Georgia:

  • The state’s Medicaid, food stamp, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs were put online and applications, renewals, changes, and notices were often not sent.
  • Many local welfare agency offices closed and the staff in the remaining offices weren’t allowed to talk to the public.
  • The state agency’s central phone system was a mess, with wait times lasting up to four hours.
  • The system had a 48 percent drop rate to get through the phone lines for food stamps and Medicaid applications or renewals.

The GLSP benefits hotline uses a holistic model to provide legal assistance quickly, efficiently, and effectively. The paralegals who staff the hotline take individuals out of the GLSP intake and screening queue and transfer them directly to public benefits attorneys for legal assistance. In addition, they work with state agencies to solve problems and partner with other organizations to provide housing, education, veterans benefits, and other assistance.

For simple issues such as lost documents or a missed phone interview, the hotline staff contact the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, and the issue is often resolved the same day.

From the hotline’s creation in 2012 through 2016, more than 2,700 people have been helped. And, according to estimates by the hotline’s funders, those people have received nearly $7 million in benefits. (See the table below)

Year Funder/grant Number of individuals served Estimated value of benefits by funder
2012 National Council on Aging (NCOA) Innovations Grant 647 $647,211
2012-2013 NCOA/Healthcare Georgia (HCGA) 467 $863,480
2014 NCOA/Robust Follow Up 475 $1,729,001
2015 NCOA 648 $1,986,761
2016 NCOA/Victim Legal Assistance Network (VLAN)/LSC 504 $1,670,710
Total   2,741 $6,897,163

These numbers don’t reflect the identification of larger issues—GLSP identified and resolved a problem affecting 40,000 Medicaid recipients who had been terminated because the vendor failed to send renewal forms. In addition, GLSP obtained benefits for Medicaid recipients weren’t receiving automatic drug coverage, as required by federal regulations.

Such outcomes have led to a high level of client satisfaction with the benefits hotline and GLSP. According to the Georgia Health Policy Center’s evaluation of the hotline’s impact, “Three to six months after their hotline contact, 80 percent of respondents felt that their overall well-being had improved since they received help from GLSP.”

For more information on GLSP’s benefits hotline, click here.

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