17Legal Aid’s mission is to secure justice and resolve fundamental problems for those who are low income and vulnerable by providing high quality legal services and working for systemic solutions.

Founded in 1905, Legal Aid is the fifth oldest legal aid organization in the United States.   Legal Aid’s 50 staff attorneys, 35 other staff members, and 1,600 volunteer lawyers ensure access to justice for low income people.

Legal Aid has four offices and serves clients in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties.

Legal Aid represents clients in court and in administrative hearings.   We also provide advice and brief assistance.   Legal Aid handles cases that impact on basic needs such as health, shelter and safety, economics and education, and access to justice.   Legal Aid’s attorneys practice in the areas of consumer rights, domestic violence, education, employment, family law, health, housing, foreclosure, immigration, public benefits, utilities, and tax.

FAQs

How can I get help? Close

Call one of Legal Aid’s offices or visit one of our upcoming brief advice clinics.

How can I volunteer? Close

Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program provides numerous volunteer opportunities for attorneys and law students.

How can I contribute financially? Close

Give online or learn more about philanthropy to Legal Aid.

Who are Legal Aid’s clients? Close

Legal Aid serves a diverse group of clients.

All of Legal Aid”s clients are low income people who live in or have a legal problem in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, or Lorain County.

Currently, 73% of clients are female and 27% are male. 20% are older adults. 53% are African-American, 35% are white, and 6% are Latino.

What services does Legal Aid provide? Close

Legal Aid provides advice and representation in the areas of consumer rights, domestic violence, education, employment, family law, health, housing, foreclosure, immigration, public benefits, utilities, and tax. Legal Aid represents clients in municipal, common pleas and federal courts, in appellate courts, before administrative agencies, and in a variety of other settings.

Legal Aid staff and volunteers provide community outreach and education by attending community events and making educational presentations.

Legal Aid staff work to identify board based solutions to systemic issues which affect the low income population in Northeast Ohio. Legal Aid addresses systemic issues through lawsuits, advocacy efforts, and education of decision-makers.

Who are Legal Aid’s staff? Close

Legal Aid has a diverse staff. Many of Legal Aid’s attorneys have worked with Legal Aid for more than 20 years. Others are recent law school graduates. Legal Aid’s attorneys have developed expertise in the areas in which they practice. They have all chosen to serve the community and to represent vulnerable and low income clients.

Legal Aid’s volunteers are also diverse and also committed to the premise of equal justice. They are from large, small firms, and solo practice, government agencies, and law schools. They provide advice and extended representation to clients who would otherwise have no access to an attorney.

What is Legal Aid’s focus? Close

Legal Aid has three main areas of focus:

Access to Justice
Legal Aid works to increase capacity for services, engage pro bono (volunteer) support, and expand outreach to underserved and vulnerable communities, including those with limited English proficiency.

Economics and Education
Legal Aid protects rights to income and assets, and removes barriers to employment, vocational training, and education.

Health, Shelter and Safety
By securing safety for victims of domestic abuse, retaining decent and affordable housing for clients, and increasing access to health care, Legal Aid helps to build strong communities.

Does Legal Aid ever charge for its services? Close

Legal Aid does not charge for services. However, clients may need to pay a fee to the court for their case.

Where does Legal Aid get its funding? Close

Legal Aid is a nonprofit organization, recognized as a 501(c)(3) by the IRS and as a public charity in the State of Ohio.

Legal Aid receives funding from the Legal Services Corporation (federal appropriation), the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (IOLTA and filing fees), United Ways, Area Agencies on Aging, other federal grants, and generous support from foundations, corporations, law firms and thousands of individual donors.

Is Legal Aid a government agency? Close

No.

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is a nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors.   Legal Aid is recognized as a 501(c)(3) by the IRS and registered as a charity in the State of Ohio.

Does everyone have a “right” to an attorney at Legal Aid? Close

No.

Everyone is not entitled to representation.   The US Constitution only provides for a right to an attorney in criminal cases.   Legal Aid handles only civil matters.   Before a case is accepted the case must be determined to have legal merit and meet  Legal Aid  priorities. Thousands of people each year are only given advice, or referred to another agency, or informed that their legal problem does not fall within Legal Aid priorities.

What kind of eligibility information is needed for Legal Aid representation? Close

Those applying for Legal Aid’s help are asked about income, property owned, zip code, assets, family size, age, race, citizenship or immigration status.

If I need an interpreter, how do I request one? Close

Who Must Provide You With An Interpreter?

• Courts
• Most hospitals
• Legal Aid and Public Defender
• Public and Charter Schools (but not Catholic or other private schools)
• Public Housing Agencies
• All Federal agencies like Social Security, Veterans Administration, Internal Revenue Service
• State agencies like Unemployment Compensation and the BMV
• County agencies that handle public assistance and Medicaid benefits

Asking For An Interpreter

Ask an employee of the court, agency or organization for an interpreter.

If they say no, ask a supervisor, customer service person, or ombudsman (person who hears complaints) for an interpreter.

If they still do not provide an interpreter, you may file a complaint against them with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). You may either send a letter or use DOJ’s complaint form, in English or your first language. You should explain when and how they did not speak to you in your language or provide you an interpreter. Keep a copy of the complaint for your records.   Send the letter or form to:

Office for Civil Rights
Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice
810 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ocr

202-307-0690

DOJ will respond with a letter or phone call.

What is MyCare Ohio? Close

MyCare Ohio plans take effect May 1, 2014 for people enrolled in BOTH Medicaid and Medicare.

MyCare Ohio is a new managed care pilot program for people who have both Medicaid and Medicare in 29 Ohio counties (including Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain – not Ashtabula).

Individuals receiving Medicaid services through the following programs will be part of MyCare Ohio:  Assisted Living Waiver, Behavioral Health (alcohol or drug treatment, mental health care), Ohio Home Care / Transitions Carve-Out, Nursing Home Residents, Passport, and Community Medicaid.  The three plans available to consumers are Buckeye, CareSource or UnitedHealthCare.

Consumers who have not selected a plan, or who want to change plans, should call the Ohio Medicaid Consumer Hotline at 1-800-324-8680. For more information click here for a flyer and visit www.ohiomh.com/MyCareOhio.

What should I know for dealing with administrative agencies? Close

Many different administrative agencies are responsible for important parts of our life, such as income, health insurance, and housing.  But dealing with the agencies that handle these benefits can be very difficult.  The following information will help when trying to solve a problem with an administrative agency.

Some common administrative agencies are the Social Security Administration, Veterans Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, public housing authorities, and the Office of Child Support Services.  Even though each agency has its own rules, there are some common policies.  All administrative agencies:

  • Must give written notice when benefits or services are denied, reduced or terminated and tell you the reason for that decision;
  • The notice must tell you how to “appeal” or challenge the decision if you disagree with it;
  • The notice must tell you how much time you have to request an appeal, and whether or not your benefits will continue while you appeal;
  • You have a right to appoint an authorized representative to deal with the administrative agency for you, and each agency usually has a form to fill out if you want to do so;
  • Administrative agencies all have complaint or grievance procedures you can use if you have a problem with the agency, and the procedure for each agency should be available online or at the office;
  • Most final decisions of administrative agencies can be appealed to court but only AFTER you follow the agency process first.

When dealing with an administrative agency, you can maximize your chances for success and minimize your frustration if you:

  • Keep copies of all papers that you give the agency;
  • Keep a phone log of all calls you place to the agency, and who you speak with when you call;
  • Keep a calendar where you write down important deadlines in your appeal;
  • Attend all appointments scheduled with the agency or call at least 24 hours in advance to cancel;
  • Respond to all requests from the agency for additional information, and keep a record of what you provide and when you provided it; and
  • Give the agency your current phone number and address any time your contact information changes.

While these tips may help you deal directly with administrative agencies, some times you might need help from a lawyer.  Call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help with denials, reductions, terminations and over-payments of many public benefits.

 

This article appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

Are there new consumer issues that can be solved by Legal Aid? Close

Consumers facing tax foreclosure after a tax lien sale, or with certain loans and vehicle issues, should call Legal Aid to apply for assistance.  Legal Aid will evaluate and might be able to assist with problems related to:

  • student loans
  • payday loans
  • auto title loans
  • used auto purchases involving fraud, and
  • auto repossessions.

Additionally, Legal Aid will evaluate cases involving a tax foreclosure or potential tax foreclosure where the county has sold the tax lien debt to a debt collector and the debt collector is actively collecting on the debt and/or initiating foreclosure.

Some of these matters are new areas of service and are in addition to the numerous other types of problems Legal Aid handles.  Please call 1-888-817-3777 to apply for legal assistance.

 

This article appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

What should I know about Health Care through Medicaid and the Marketplace? Close

All low-income Ohioans should be enrolled in free or reduced cost health care.  People between the ages of 19-64 whose income is below 138% of the federal poverty level should apply for Medicaid immediately and contact Legal Aid if denied coverage.  Ohioans can apply for Medicaid at www.benefits.ohio.gov or in person at their local Department of Job and Family Services anytime.

Anyone whose income is between 100% – 400% of the federal poverty level is eligible for tax credits to reduce the cost of health coverage through the Marketplace.  Anyone who has or needs health coverage through the Marketplace should be aware of the following dates and deadlines:

Marketplace Deadlines:

  • November 15, 2014. Open Enrollment begins. Apply for, keep, or change your coverage.
  • December 15, 2014. Enroll by the 15th if you want new coverage that begins on January 1, 2015. If your plan is changing or you want to change plans, enroll by the 15th to avoid a lapse in coverage.
  • December 31, 2014. Coverage ends for 2014 plans. Coverage for 2015 plans can start as soon as January 1st.
  • February 15, 2015. This is the last day you can apply for 2015 coverage before the end of Open Enrollment.

[www.healthcare.gov/quick-guide/dates-and-deadlines/]

To buy Marketplace insurance outside of Open Enrollment, you must qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to a qualifying life event like marriage, birth or adoption of a child, or loss of other health coverage.  For more information or to apply, go to www.healthcare.gov.

 

This article appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

I have an administrative hearing scheduled but do not speak English. What are my rights? Close

Federal law states that you have the right to an interpreter in an administrative hearing if you are a person with limited English proficiency (LEP). This means that you do not speak, read, write, or understand English fluently. Additionally, LEP individuals who are not involved in the administrative hearing, but who need to be there, like a parent or guardian, also have the right to an interpreter. Your family members or children should not be used instead of a qualified interpreter from the agency/organization. LEP individuals have the right to participate in administrative hearings in the same way as someone who speaks and understands English fluently.

Examples of agencies that must provide you with an interpreter: courts; U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services; Social Security; Veterans Administration; IRS; Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services (Unemployment Compensation & welfare office); Medicaid office; Bureau of Motor Vehicles; public housing agencies; and public and charter/community schools.

Asking for an interpreter:

  • Ask an employee of the court, agency, or organization for an interpreter.
  • If the person you ask says no: ask for a supervisor, customer service representative, or ombudsman (person who hears complaints).

What to do if you do not receive an interpreter:

  • If you still do not receive an interpreter, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
  • You can file a complaint by either sending a letter or using DOJ’s complaint form.  The form is on DOJ’s website.  You can do this in either English or your first language.
  • The complaint should explain when and how the agency did not give you an interpreter or how they did not speak to you in a language you can understand.
  • Please keep a copy of the complaint for your records.
  • The letter or form should be sent to:                             Interpreter Address Info Block

 

 

 

 

  • DOJ Website: http://www.justice.gov/crt/complaint/
  • DOJ Phone: 1 – (888) 848-5306
  • DOJ will respond to you with a letter or phone call.

 

This article was written by Legal Aid Senior Attorney Megan Sprecher & Volunteer Attorney Jessica Baaklini appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

How can I use the Social Security website? Close

Social Security’s website is www.socialsecurity.gov. Like any government website, the official website of the Social Security Administration is full of helpful information. There are long lists of publications, forms and other web resources.

There are many things that can be done through Social Security online. This includes applying for benefits, appealing decisions, finding out if you can get benefits, and estimating future benefits.

The website is where folks can set up an account with Social Security. Up to 14 million people have established a personalized my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.  With an account, folks can see information from their home, office or library.

The Social Security Statement is one thing that you can get on the website. It is a good planning tool. It provides people age 18 and older with important information about their wages and taxes.

Individuals who currently receive benefits can manage their benefit payments. Folks can get an instant benefit verification letter, change their address and phone number, and start or change direct deposit of their benefit payment.

You can’t apply for a card online because the Social Security office has to verify certain documents. You can, however, complete and print the application to bring to your local office.

The Social Security website has undergone changes to make it easier to read and navigate. You can find more answers by first going to the Frequently Asked Questions tab at the very top of the home page. This tab section also allows you to convert the website to its Spanish version as well.

 

This article was written by Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Karla Perry and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

How does the IRS help with tax preparation, refunds, and fraud? Close

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made it easier for taxpayers to file their tax returns, as well as to monitor and protect their federal income tax accounts.  Here are some examples:

Complete your tax return for free. If your income is below $58,000 – you can use free federal income tax preparation software.  It is available online 24/7.  The IRS states the process is safe and secure. Refunds may be directly deposited into your bank account. Visit http://www.IRS.gov/freefile for more details.

Obtain tax return and income transcripts at no cost.  If you need your past income  tax or earnings records, for example, because you are applying for a mortgage or a student loan, you may obtain a copy for free. Tax return and income transcripts may be ordered online, without charge, and delivered electronically or by mail. Taxpayers also may sign and submit to the IRS Form 4506-T or call (800) 908-9946 to obtain their free tax return transcripts. IRS forms can be found at http://www.irs.gov/Forms-&-Pubs.

Monitor the status of your refund.  The most up to date information about your refund can be found using the IRS tool “Where’s My Refund?” (http://www.irs.gov/Refunds). Taxpayers also can learn the status of their refund by calling the IRS Refund Hotline at 800-829-1954.  If you haven’t received your refund within 20 days of filing an electronic return or six weeks from the time of mailing your paper return, you may contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 and a representative will figure out the status of your refund.

Contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service.  If you have a problem with the IRS that you can’t resolve, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is available to help you. TAS is an independent organization within the IRS that works on behalf of taxpayers. TAS may help taxpayers who have financial difficulties, who face an immediate threat of adverse action, or who have not heard back from the IRS in response to a question. You can contact the Local Taxpayer Advocate (LTA) at (216) 522-7134 or send Form 911 to the LTA by fax at (855) 824-6409 or by mail to 1240 E. Ninth St., Room 423, Cleveland, Ohio 44199.

Protect yourself from refund fraud related to identity theft. Refund fraud can cause lots of problems for taxpayers. Determine if any of the following problems have occurred:  a.  More than one tax refund was filed for you for a single tax year;

b.   IRS records show you received more wages than you actually earned; or

c.   Your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received incorrect information concerning a change in your income.

 

If so, you should immediately act in the following ways to protect yourself from identity theft:

1.  Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490 and

complete and submit to the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit Form 14039;

2.  Notify your local police department to make a report;

3.  Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through its Identity Theft Hotline

at www.consumer.ftc.gov or by calling (877)438-4338; and,

4.  Contact the three major credit bureaus:  Equifax – www.equifax.com or

(800) 525-6285; Experian – www.Experian.com or (888) 397-3742; and,

TransUnion –   www.transunion.com or (800) 680-7289 to tell them you were

a victim of identity theft.

 

Guard against tax preparer abuse. If you believe your tax return was not prepared correctly, immediately complete and submit to the IRS Form 14157. Fraud by tax preparers occurs when the preparer claims inflated personal or business expenses, false deductions, unallowable credits and/or excessive exemptions on returns prepared for their clients. For suspected cases of fraud, contact the Ohio Attorney General at 800-282-0515, local law enforcement agencies and an attorney who specializes in civil litigation who will counsel you on your rights and remedies.

 

This article was written by Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Dennis Dobos and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

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