Seniors and Low-income People Wrongly Denied Medicare Savings

Georgia Legal Services Benefits Hotline May Be Able to Correct DFCS Mistake

Some seniors and people with disabilities who get help paying their Medicare premiums through Georgia Medicaid are getting erroneous notices that their assistance will be cut off because their incomes are suddenly too high. The notices are a result of Georgia Division of Family and Children’s Services’ (DFCS) failure to update their systems with the latest cost-of-living adjustments, updated at the beginning of each year. Losing the benefits that help pay their Medicare costs–all because of an error on the part of the state agency—is costly for people with already-meager incomes.

People who believe they are being wrongly terminated from the Medicare Savings Program or who want more information to see if they qualify should call Georgia Legal Services Program’s Benefits Hotline at 1 (888) 632-6332.

Additional information:

People with incomes low enough to qualify for the Medicare Savings Programs can get help with their Medicare premium. Individuals with incomes below $1,377 or couples below $1,847 can have their Medicare Part B premiums paid for and some can get Medicare deductibles and co-payments paid.

DFCS systems often do not recognize the changes in incomes as cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) made in the beginning of each year and instead issue false termination notices for those who were on the edge of eligibility. The result for some is that their Part B premiums start getting deducted from their Social Security checks. Others may be faced with copayments and deductibles they should not have to pay.

For more information, please contact:
Vicky Kimbrell, GLSP Benefits Hotline Project Director
vkimbrell@glsp.org; 404-563-7710 ext. 1603

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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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El Departamento de Agricultura de Georgia Extiende Protecciones a Personas que no Hablan Inglés

La Querella de Derechos Civiles Presentada por los Servicios Legales de Georgia en Nombre de Trabajadores Agrícolas Produce Resultados

El 8 de febrero de 2017, el Departamento de Agricultura de Georgia aceptó hacer que sus protecciones para los trabajadores fueran más accesibles a quienes no hablan inglés. El acuerdo, alcanzado entre el Departamento de Agricultura de Georgia y la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de los Estados Unidos (EPA, por sus siglas en inglés), es el resultado de una querella que el Programa de Servicios Legales de Georgia presentó ante la EPA. Servicios Legales de Georgia presentó la querella en nombre de un cliente de habla hispana, cuya denuncia inicial de una violación de protección de trabajadores fue desestimada por el Departamento de Agricultura de Georgia porque el departamento no estaba equipado para entrevistar a alguien que no hablara inglés.

El cliente de Servicios Legales de Georgia, un trabajador agrícola en el sur de Georgia, se enfermó después de estar expuesto a pesticidas en julio de 2015 mientras trabajaba en una granja. La exposición del trabajador a los pesticidas fue causada por el manejo inadecuado de los pesticidas en la granja, en violación de las regulaciones de la EPA. El trabajador presentó una querella al Departamento de Agricultura de Georgia, pero la agencia no pudo procesar adecuadamente la querella debido a la barrera del idioma y, en consecuencia, rechazó la queja del trabajador.

La querella del trabajador demostró una violación de la Norma de Protección de Trabajadores (WPS, por sus siglas en inglés) de la EPA, un reglamento diseñado para proteger a los trabajadores agrícolas. El reglamento incluye requisitos de equipo de protección, entrenamiento de seguridad, tiempos de entrada restringida después de la aplicación de pesticidas y otros que previenen el envenenamiento y lesiones por pesticidas.

El Departamento de Agricultura de Georgia, que recibe fondos de la EPA, está encargado de hacer cumplir la Norma de Protección del Trabajador en el estado. Todas las agencias estatales que reciben fondos federales para proveer servicios al público deben asegurarse de que esos servicios sean accesibles a todos los individuos, independientemente de su raza, color u origen nacional, bajo el Título VI de la Ley de Derechos Civiles de 1964.

La División de Derechos del Trabajador Agrícola de los Servicios Legales de Georgia presentó este asunto ante la Oficina Externa de Cumplimiento de Derechos Civiles de la EPA y, como resultado, las agencias firmaron un acuerdo comprometiendo al Departamento de Agricultura de Georgia a desarrollar, publicar e implementar procedimientos escritos para asegurar un acceso significativo a todos los programas y actividades del departamento por todas las personas – incluyendo personas con dominio limitado del inglés.

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Georgia Dept. of Agriculture Extends Protections to Non-English Speakers

Georgia Legal Services Civil Rights Complaint on Behalf of Farmworker Yields Results

On February 8, 2017, the Georgia Department of Agriculture agreed to make its protections for workers more accessible to non-English speakers. The agreement, reached between the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a result of a complaint that Georgia Legal Services Program brought to the EPA. Georgia Legal Services brought the complaint on behalf of a Spanish-speaking client, whose initial complaint of a worker protection violation was dismissed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture because the department was not equipped to interview a non-English speaker.

The Georgia Legal Services client, an agricultural worker in the south of Georgia, became ill after being exposed to pesticides while working on a farm in July 2015. The worker’s exposure to pesticides was caused by the farm’s inadequate pesticide handling, in violation of EPA regulations. The worker filed a complaint to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, but the agency was unable to adequately process the complaint because of the language barrier and, as a result, it dismissed the worker’s complaint.

The worker’s complaint demonstrated a violation of the EPA’s Worker Protection Standard, a regulation designed to protect agricultural workers. The regulation includes requirements for protective equipment, safety training, restricted-entry times following pesticide application, and others that prevent poisoning and injury from pesticides.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture, which receives funding from the EPA, is charged with enforcing the Worker Protection Standard in the state. All state agencies that receive federal funding to provide services to the public must make sure that those services are accessible to all individuals, regardless of race, color or national origin, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Farmworker Rights Division of Georgia Legal Services Program brought this matter to the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office and, as a result, the agencies signed an agreement committing the Georgia Department of Agriculture to develop, publish, and implement written procedures to ensure meaningful access to all of the department’s programs and activities by all persons–including people with limited English proficiency.

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Georgia Legal Services Recognizes Trans Awareness Week

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Dear Friends,

In Celebration of Transgender Awareness Week, Georgia Legal Services Program invites transgender Georgians with low incomes to contact GLSP for help with their civil legal needs. GLSP recognizes that transgender people, especially low-income and minority individuals, according to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, experience higher levels of discrimination and violence than other groups.  Black transgender women experience the highest levels of discrimination and violence and are also more likely to live below the poverty line.

GLSP is concerned about the well-being, health, education, employment and other legal needs of transgender Georgians, especially those who also belong to other minority groups. GLSP provides free legal services to Georgians with low incomes in 154 counties in Georgia, all of the counties outside of the Metro Atlanta area.  Low-income Georgians in the five metro Atlanta counties of DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton, Gwinnett and Cobb are served by the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.

GLSP has done the following things to help transgender Georgians:

  • Trained all GLSP offices on LGBTQ and Racial Cultural Competency (on representing LGBTQ populations and racial minority populations)
  • Provided education to attorneys and legal advocates on domestic violence issues in the LGBTQ community
  • Started the process to join the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Legal Services Network
  • Prepared to write in support of the transgender people who were denied a name change in the Augusta area.  These individuals are represented by Lambda Legal and their cases are being reviewed by the Georgia Supreme Court
  • Represented transgender clients in name change and public benefits cases
  • Presented a transgender rights forum

GLSP also accepts feedback on what else the program can do to help transgender Georgians and their families. Please contact Currey Hitchens or Whitney Knox at chitchens@glsp.org or wknox@glsp.org if you have suggestions for more actions GLSP can take to help transgender Georgians.

Please feel free to call GLSP for possible representation in the following types of cases:

  • Name change
  • Health law, including refusal of Medicaid to provide services based on transgender status
  • Public Housing
  • Housing Discrimination
  • Appeals of Unemployment Insurance Benefit denials
  • Twelve Month Protective Order cases based on family violence
  • Stalking Order cases
  • Family law cases involving domestic violence or access to the courts
  • Help with applying for crime victim compensation
  • Public Benefit appeals if illegally denied
  • School discrimination or school discipline cases
  • Language access issues (to law enforcement, courts, or to state or federal agencies)
  • Victims of Crime with civil legal needs related to their victimization in our Brunswick and Dalton office areas

There are financial and other eligibility requirements, but people are invited to contact GLSP for consideration for possible representation.

Call GLSP (outside of Metro Atlanta) toll free at 1-800-498-9469.
Call ALAS (in Metro Atlanta) toll free at (404) 524-5811.

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New Medical-Legal Partnership to Serve Hospital Patients

Georgia Legal Services Attorney Available Free of Charge at Navicent Health

(November 4, 2016) – For hospital patients, sometimes health-related problems actually have a legal remedy. Medical-legal partnerships allow patients to access a lawyer’s help free of charge. Patients have received legal help leaving an abusive relationship, enrolling in Medicaid or Social Security benefits, and with landlord disputes—for instance if a mold infestation is affecting the tenant’s health. An independent lawyer is now, as of September, positioned in the Macon hospital to assist with such legal issues. This makes it the second medical-legal partnership in the state.

Such partnerships are a relatively new concept, but can yield significant impact in the lives of patients. There are only 290 medical-legal programs between hospitals and legal aid agencies around the country. This kind of collaboration allows partners to “address the social determinants of health that create hardships for vulnerable populations through the integration of free legal services in the healthcare setting, according to the American Bar Association. The legal help offered can range from issues related to housing, access to utilities, immigration, education, public benefits, guardianship, wills and family law.

The lawyer will be funded by Navicent Health. The healthcare system plans to add at least two more fully-funded attorney positions within the next three to five years.

Read more about the partnership on Navicent Health’s website here.

Read about the ribbon-cutting ceremony here.

 

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Georgia Legal Services Attorney Recognized For Outstanding Work

Wendy Glasbrenner Honored With Family Law Section’s Joseph P. Tuggle Award

Georgia Legal Services Attorney Wendy Glasbrenner was honored before 650 attorneys on May 19, 2016, with the Family Law Institute’s Joseph P. Tuggle award, recognizing her outstanding skills and contribution to family law. Ms. Glasbrenner has been managing attorney in Georgia Legal Services’ Gainesville office since 1999.

An attorney with Georgia Legal Services for over 35 years, Ms. Glasbrenner has been a leading advocate for low-income individuals in the Gainesville region. She regularly speaks out on issues that affect marginalized communities: fighting for the availability of affordable housing, access to critical financial support such as food stamps and health care, and access to justice for non-native English speakers.

Ms. Glasbrenner has long made it a priority to help people in abusive relationships and their families find safety and security. She founded Rape Response, Inc., in 1987 and served as a board member of the organization for over twenty years thereafter; was on the Board of Directors for Circle of Hope and Gateway House, two shelters for battered women; chaired the Women’s Giving Circle of North Georgia; and currently serves on the Hall County Commission on Children and Families.

Wendy Glasbrenner’s dedication and commitment to upholding rights for all people—regardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or any other characteristic—is clear. Her decision to invest the skills, time, energy, and passion she has at Georgia Legal Services has been a gift to the non-profit law firm and its clients. The staff at Georgia Legal Services Program are honored to call her a colleague, and stand proud alongside her as she receives this well-deserved award.

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GLSP’s Champions of Justice Recognition Event, Oct. 13, 2016

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Join GLSP for its biennial Champions of Justice event on Thursday, October 13, 2016 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the State Bar Center in Atlanta. The Champions of Justice event recognizes a diverse group of supporters of Georgia Legal Services who are respected members of the communities they represent and leaders in the cause of justice for Georgia’s poor.  Individual tickets are $50 and can be purchased by clicking here.

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Student-Run Organization at Emory Law Gives to GLSP

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Student representatives of the Asian American Law Students Association at Emory Law School give to Georgia Legal Services Program. Pictured from left: Minjun Kook, treasurer and incoming president, Elizabeth Suh, vice president of social affairs, Phyllis Holmen, GLSP executive director, and Currey Hitchens, GLSP staff attorney.

The Asian American Law Students Association (AALSA) at Emory University’s School of Law donated $1500 to Georgia Legal Services Program on April 14, 2016. According to Emory’s website, AALSA provides educational programs and offers networking opportunities within the Asian community.

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Elizabeth Suh, left, of AALSA gives to Phyllis Holmen, GLSP executive director.

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Losing Medicaid? You might not have to!

Has the Department of Family and Children’s Services sent you a notice saying your Medicare Part B premium will no longer be paid under the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program? 

It could be because you are eligible for a better program that will pay more–the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program (QMB).

But the DFCS notices are not giving out that information.

For more information, you can contact Georgia Legal Services Program’s Benefits Hotline at 1-888-632-6332. Be aware: You must appeal within 33 days of the notice to protect your rights. See the back of your notice!

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