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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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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REGISTER NOW for Language Access CLE

Eliminating Barriers to Justice III:  Language Access, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Georgia’s Criminal and Civil Justice Systems

October 20, 2016 · Georgia State University College of Law
10:00 am – 4:00 pm (Lunch Provided)

Please join access to justice experts and stakeholders for a FREE CLE[1] seminar which will provide you with comprehensive, yet practical, information to ensure access to justice for limited English proficient (LEP) and Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) persons in civil and criminal cases.  Seminar highlights include: 

  • Access to Justice & the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Discussion of professionalism  issues within the contexts of a court’s legal responsibility to provide auxiliary aids and services and other reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities (including and beyond interpretation services) involved in civil and criminal legal proceedings. This module will also include a discussion of Georgia’s ADA Handbook for Georgia courts currently under revision.
  • Language Access & Criminal Law –  Discussion of  the  importance of the use of qualified interpreters in criminal matters and the risk of reversible error on appeal when use of an unqualified or no interpreter occurs, as established by Supreme Court of Georgia precedent.  This module will also discuss possible ethical implications for attorneys (including those working in District Attorney, Solicitor General and Public Defender offices) and judges when criminal litigants, witnesses or other court participants, particularly those who are LEP/ DHH, are not provided with meaningful access to the justice system.
  • Judicial Roundtable  – “ The Essence of Due Process is the Opportunity to Be Heard”
  • Keith Blackwell, Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia (Chair, Supreme Court of Georgia Commission on Interpreters)
  • Harold Melton,  Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia (Immediate Past Chair, Supreme Court of Georgia Commission on Interpreters)
  • Sara Doyle, Chief Judge, Georgia Court of Appeals ( Member, Judicial Council/ Administrative Office of the Courts Access, Fairness, Public Trust and Confidence Committee)
  • Horace Johnson, Judge, Superior Court (Alcovy Circuit) (President, Council of Superior Court Judges)
  • Kristina Hammer Blum, Chief Magistrate Judge, Gwinnett County Magistrate Court (President, Council of Magistrate Court Judges)

 NO FEE TO ATTEND! Register Now! [2]

Questions? Contact Jana J. Edmondson-Cooper, CLE Co-Chair

 

Presented By:

Georgia Legal Services Program · A.B. Olmos & Associates, P.C.

Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism

 Hosted By:

Georgia State University College of Law Center for Access to Justice

Financial Sponsors

Southern Center for Human Rights

Supporting Sponsors

Supreme Court of Georgia Commission on Interpreters · State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Resource Center · State Bar of Georgia Access to Justice Committee · Judicial Council of Georgia/Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) · Judicial Council of Georgia/AOC Access, Fairness, Public Trust and Confidence Committee

 

[1] 4 hours of General including 1 hour of Ethics and 1 hour of Professionalism continuing education credits for attorneys and judges applied for.  This CLE is self-reporting. Credits must be paid for by attendees seeking credit. Reporting forms will be provided on-site.

[2] Direct Link – https://www.georgiaadvocates.org/link.cfm?26059  (Paper copies of training materials may not be available to attendees who register after October 7, 2016; however,  all materials will be made available on the internet.)

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

Champs of Justice Link to Tickets Page_small

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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Circuit Riding Around Albany Increasing Residents’ Access to Justice

This article was originally published by the Albany Herald under the headline “Georgia Legal Services adds Westtown Library to ‘circuit’”. Read the article here.

Georgia Legal Services “circuit rider” Whitney Knox, one of seven lawyers in the Albany GLS offices on Oglethorpe Boulevard, is available to discuss very specific legal issues with Westtown patrons from 10 a.m. to noon on the second Tuesday of each month. The program is part of Georgia Legal Services’ efforts to make its staff available where there are specific needs in the community.

“We circuit ride in all 33 of the counties in our service area,” GLS Supervising Attorney Rhonda Bass said. “Our services are offered to usually low-income individuals who meet federal poverty guidelines, and we offer elder law services to people 60 and over with no income guidelines.

Read this Albany Herald article in full here.

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New Guidelines for Law Enforcement Broaden Access to Justice for Non-Native English Speakers and Persons with Hearing Disabilities

GLSP’s newly developed model language access plan offers practical suggestions and resources to assist Georgia law enforcement agencies with meeting its legal obligations to ensure that limited English proficient and deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals have meaningful access to the agency’s services. This model plan is adaptable to local needs and can assist in identifying those who need language assistance; notifying the public of language assistance services; developing procedures for interpretation services in interviews, interrogations, filing complaints, and document translation; outlining training for agency staff and required qualifications for interpreters; and more. As a recipient of federal funds, the failure to provide meaningful language access can result in the filing of a federal lawsuit and the possible loss of federal funding under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Safe Streets Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and their implementing regulations.

Download the model language access plan here. (Appendices available here.)

Read the Vera Institute of Justice report Overcoming Language Barriers: Solutions for Law Enforcement here.

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GLSP Provides Legal Services to Albany’s Homeless

Anthony Davenport, Albany Dougherty Homeless Coalition's 4th Annual Project Homeless Connect, Nov 2015

GLSP Attorney Anthony Davenport represented Georgia Legal Services at the 4th Annual “Project Homeless Connect” event on Nov. 17, 2015, where the individuals in the area experiencing homelessness and the working poor population are connected to community agencies offering much needed services. At this year’s event, more than 500 individuals received health screenings, legal services, haircuts, clothing, food, and much more. The event was hosted by the Albany Dougherty Homeless Coalition. GLSP in Albany is proud to participate in this event each year.

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215 Georgians Served on Ask A Lawyer Day

More than 215 individuals with low-incomes received free legal help last Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. Attorneys from Georgia Legal Services Program and the Georgia State Bar’s General Practice and Trial section teamed up to provide free legal services in 21 counties around the state, from Richmond to Tattnall, Dougherty to Whitfield.

Volunteer private attorneys and Georgia Legal Services Program attorneys worked together to provide legal help in areas related to family, probate, criminal, consumer, real estate, and housing law issues, among others. Below is a photo essay of the successful event.

Macon. Volunteer Attorney David Bury prepares for his next client.

Macon. Volunteer Attorney David Bury prepares for his next client.

 

Columbus. Attorney Ray Tillery and GLSP Attorney Chandra Wilson.

Columbus. Attorney Ray Tillery and GLSP Attorney Chandra Wilson.

Macon. Attorney Kevin Hicks and GLSP Pro Bono Coordinator Rachael Schell.

Macon. Attorney Kevin Hicks and GLSP Pro Bono Coordinator Rachael Schell.

Columbus. Attorney Ray Tillery and Rhudine Nelson, GLSP Pro Bono coordinator

Columbus. Attorney Ray Tillery and Rhudine Nelson, GLSP Pro Bono coordinator

Columbus. Attorney Paul Kauffmann and client.

Columbus. Attorney Paul Kauffmann and client.

Brunswick. Melissa Cruthirds, Casey Harris, and J. Wrix Mcilvaine.

Brunswick. Melissa Cruthirds, Casey Harris, and J. Wrix Mcilvaine.

Macon. Pro Bono Coordinator Rachael Schell is interviewed by a local television news station about Ask A Lawyer Day.

Macon. Pro Bono Coordinator Rachael Schell is interviewed by a local television news station about Ask A Lawyer Day.

Macon. Attorney David Bury (left) and client.

Macon. Attorney David Bury (left) and client.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albany. Volunteer attorney Marshall Portivent and his client.

Albany. Volunteer attorney Marshall Portivent and his client.

Augusta. Volunteer Attorney Chade Franklin.

Augusta. GLSP Attorney Chastity Franklin.

Macon. Attorney Sharon Reeves (right) and client.

Macon. Attorney Sharon Reeves (right) and client.

 

Macon. Attorney David Bury, Attorney James Freeman, Judge Phillip Brown, Attorney Larry Brox, and Attorney Veronica Brinson.

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Ask A Lawyer Day, Oct. 29: Lawyers Volunteering Throughout the State

Lawyers Volunteering Throughout the State, Offer Free Legal Services
“Ask A Lawyer Day” to be held in every Georgia county on October 29, 2015

The General Practice and Trial Section, in partnership with Georgia Legal Services, is hosting Ask-A-Lawyer Day on Thursday, October 29, 2015. The purpose of this event, where a volunteer lawyer is expected to be available for free legal services in every Georgia county, is to extend access to justice in rural and small cities throughout the state. Lawyers will be available to advise on issues pertaining to consumer law, family law, criminal law, wills and powers of attorney, and more.

To find out the time and location of the Ask-A-Lawyer event in your area, please call 1-800-498-9469.

The State Bar of Georgia exists to foster among the members of the Bar of this state the principles of duty and service to the public; to improve the administration of justice; and to advance the science of law. All persons authorized to practice law in this state are required to be members.

Georgia Legal Services Program’s mission is to provide access to justice and opportunities out of poverty for Georgians with low-incomes.

For more information, please call Mike Monahan, Pro Bono Director at The State Bar of Georgia, at 404-527-8762.

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