Legal Aid protects your access to public benefits, including healthcare, cash assistance, food assistance and disability benefits.

In addition to representing individual clients in public benefits cases, Legal Aid works to improve statewide policies and procedures, making public benefits more accessible to all Northeast Ohioans.

Public Benefits Matters We Handle:

  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • Alien Emergency Medical Assistance (AEMA)
  • Ohio Works First (OWF-cash assistance)
  • Food Stamps
  • Childcare Vouchers
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Veteran’s Benefits

FAQs

My Ohio Works First (OWF-cash assistance), food stamps, Medicaid, or childcare vouchers have been terminated or lowered. What do I do? Close

If you think the decision was wrong, ask for a state hearing right away. If you ask for a hearing within 15 days of the date of the termination notice, your benefits will not stop or be lowered before the state hearing.

You have 90 days from the date of the notice to ask for a state hearing, although requests made after 15 days will not preserve your benefits.

You may ask for a state hearing using any of the following methods:

  • Fill out and mail the “State Hearing Request” attached to your termination notice
  • Fill out and fax the “State Hearing Request” to 614-728-9574
  • Call the ODJFS Consumer Access Line at 1-866-635-3748 (1-866-ODJFS-4U)
  • Email the ODJFS Bureau of State Hearings at bsh@odjfs.state.oh.us

Next Steps

Contact Legal Aid right away.

Other Resources

  • Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services
  • Cuyahoga County Jobs and Family Services
  • Lorain County Jobs and Family Services
  • Lake County Jobs and Family Services
  • Geauga County Jobs and Family Services
  • Ashtabula County Jobs and Family Services
  • My Ohio Works First (OWF-cash assistance) was terminated because I am over the 36-month time limit. What do I do? Close

    You may ask for an extension of your OWF cash assistance if you can show a hardship. Some examples of hardship are taking care of a sick family member, temporary inability to work because of domestic violence, and homelessness.

    You may ask your caseworker for an extension because of this hardship. If your request for an extension is denied or ignored, you may ask for a State Hearing by using any of the following methods:

    • Fill out and mail the “State Hearing Request” attached to your termination notice
    • Fill out and fax the “State Hearing Request” to 614-728-9574
    • Call the ODJFS Consumer Access Line at 1-866-635-3748 (1-866-ODJFS-4U)
    • Email the ODJFS Bureau of State Hearings at bsh@odjfs.state.oh.us

    Next Steps

    If your request for a hardship extension is denied and you disagree with this decision, contact Legal Aid right away.

    Other Resources

  • Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services
  • Cuyahoga County Jobs and Family Services
  • Lorain County Jobs and Family Services
  • Lake County Jobs and Family Services
  • Geauga County Jobs and Family Services
  • Ashtabula County Jobs and Family Services
  • I applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and was denied. What do I do? Close

    If you think you are disabled, appeal the decision right away. You have 60 days to appeal the decision. You may appeal by any of the following methods:

    • Go to your local Social Security Office
    • Call your local Social Security Office
    • Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213
    • Visit the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov

    Next Steps

    Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
    Lawyer Referral Service
    (216) 696-3532

    Other Resources

    Social Security Administration

    I am low-income and am involved in a civil case. Is there a way to reduce or eliminate fees? Close

    When a person wants to file a civil case, the court requires that person to pay a filing fee to start the legal process.   Also, a person who is a party to a case and wants to ask the court to do something by filing a “motion” or a “counterclaim” must also pay a fee.   In order to fully participate in a legal proceeding, courts often require payment of many different costs and fees.

    In many situations, you can file your documents in court without payment or with a lower payment if you also file a “poverty affidavit.”   A poverty affidavit is a written, sworn statement that you are low income and do not have enough money to pay the fees.   You will need to list your income, assets and dependents on the affidavit.   Once you file a poverty affidavit in a case, the clerk will either not charge you any money or will only charge a small fraction of the normal fee to file most other documents in the same case.

    You can complete a poverty affidavit at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, even if you are not represented by an attorney from Legal Aid.   If you need a poverty affidavit, go to any Legal Aid office during normal business hours (note recent changes) and request the form from the receptionist.   Be sure you also have the form notarized, which Legal Aid can do as well.   You will need photo identification to have the poverty affidavit notarized.

    After you complete a poverty affidavit, you must take it to the clerk of courts where your case is being heard.   The poverty affidavit will only apply to that specific case.   If you have another case at the same or a later time, you will need a second poverty affidavit.   Also, in Ohio, the poverty affidavit allows you to file documents in a case without payment or with lesser payment but does not eliminate all fees.   At the end of the case, you might still be responsible for some fees such as court costs.

    This article was written by Legal Aid attorney Anne Sweeney and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 1. Click here to read the full issue.

    When is a child eligible for SSI? Close

    A child under the age of 18 who has a physical or mental disability may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if the family is financially eligible.   SSI is a cash assistance program to help low income families with expenses that occur when providing for children with special needs.     For example, such parents must pay for transportation to medical appointments, medications, and therapy.   Additionally, parents with disabled children more commonly have to miss work to take their children to doctors, therapists, school conferences, and other care-giving activities.   Children’s SSI provides additional income to families in order for children to receive quality health care while remaining in their own home.

    When applying for SSI, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at a child’s functioning in six areas or “domains.”   The domains are (1) acquiring and using information; (2) attending and completing tasks; (3) interacting and relating with others; (4) moving about and manipulating objects; (5) caring for yourself; and (6) health and physical well-being. If a child has a severe problem in one domain or a “marked” problem in two domains (“marked” means less than severe and more than moderate), then the child’s condition should be considered disabling.   A child with a disabling condition qualifies for SSI.

    A person interested in filing an application for a child to receive SSI should call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit a local Social Security Office.   They will help you fill out the appropriate forms. Applications for child SSI can also be completed online at www.ssa.gov.   In addition to the application, SSA will ask for detailed information about the medical condition of the child.   SSA will also ask permission to look at his or her school and medical records. Bring any records related to the child’s special needs to your appointment at SSA.

    Legal Aid does not help file applications for SSI, but if you believe a child’s SSI benefits have been wrongfully denied or terminated, please call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to find out if you are eligible for assistance.

    This article was written by Legal Aid Managing Attorney Davida Dodson and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.

    How Can I Get Health Coverage? Close

    Almost everyone can get health insurance now under the Affordable Care Act (or ObamaCare).

    • In Ohio, people with income below 138% of the federal poverty level (about $1,321 per month for an individual and about $2,708 per month for a family of 4) are eligible for free health care coverage through Medicaid.
    • You can apply for Medicaid at www.benefits.ohio.gov even if you have been denied in the past. You can also apply by phone (1-800-324-8680) or in person at your local County Department of Job and Family Services office.
    • If you do not qualify for Medicaid, you can apply for health care coverage through The Marketplace. You can apply online at www.HealthCare.gov or you can call 1-800-318-2596. The deadline to apply for 2014 coverage through the Marketplace is March 31, 2014.
    • If your income is 100% to 400% of federal poverty level you will be eligible for tax credits to reduce the cost of health care coverage purchased through the Marketplace.
    • If you need help with health care information or applications, visit www.ohioforhealth.org or call 1-800-648-1176.
    • If you are denied Medicaid by the county or tax credits by the Marketplace, Legal Aid may be able to help you. Call Legal Aid intake at 1-888-817-3777.

      What are the new work requirements for Food Stamps? Close

      Beginning January 1, 2014, your County Department of Job and Family Services will start enforcing the new work requirements for food stamps for “able bodied adults without dependents.” These individuals will now be limited to receiving benefits for 3 months in any 36-month period unless work 80 hours per month or participate in the county’s work experience program. But individuals can keep getting Food Stamps without any limits and without any work requirement if they qualify for an exemption. Individuals are exempt if they are:

      • 17 or younger or older than 50
      • Receiving benefits in a household with someone 17 years old or younger
      • Receiving OWF or disability benefits
      • Applying for or receiving SSI or UC
      • Students enrolled at least half-time in school or training program
      • Pregnant
      • Responsible for the care of an incapacitated person they live with
      • Determined to be mentally or physically unfit for employment
      • Participating in a drug or alcohol treatment or rehabilitation program

      If you believe you should be exempt from the new work requirement, provide proof of your exemption to your Food Stamp caseworker at your County Department of Job and Family Services immediately. Keep a copy of the proof you provide and write the date you give it to your worker. If you are denied an exemption or if your Food Stamp caseworker threatens to stop your Food Stamps, Legal Aid may be able to help you. Call Legal Aid intake at 1-888-817-3777.

      The Health Insurance Marketplace deadline is 3/31/14 – are there exceptions? Close

      People who are not eligible for Medicaid and who do not have health insurance can enroll in The Marketplace until March 31, 2014.  Anyone who experiences a qualifying life event (moving to a new state, getting married, having a child or losing health coverage) can get a special enrollment period after March 31.  Also, consumers who tried to enroll but could not complete their application before March 31 will still be able to sign up for coverage.  Finally, special enrollment periods may be granted to people who could not complete enrollment despite trying to do so through no fault of their own.  For example, victims of domestic violence and people whose Medicaid applications were denied but whose accounts had not been transferred to the Marketplace by March 31.

      Remember, most people must have health coverage in 2014 or pay a small fee.  People eligible for Medicaid may continue to apply at www.benefits.ohio.gov.  If a person is denied Medicaid by the county or tax credits by the Marketplace, they can apply for help from Legal Aid by calling 216-687-1900 or 1-888-817-3777.

      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 seniors be thinking about when it comes to money? Close

      1. Am I eligible for any benefits?

      Many benefit programs can help people who have limited income afford living expenses such as utilities, food, health care and transportation. Some of these programs are designed just for seniors and adults with disabilities. You may become eligible for programs once you reach a certain age, experience a new health condition, or lose a source of income.   The easiest way to find out what assistance you are eligible to receive is by completing a Benefit Check Up.  Seniors and adults with disabilities can contact the Aging and Disability Resource Network to complete a Benefit Check Up: 1-855-585-ADRN (2376) or go to www.benefitscheckup.org

      2. Have I been a victim of identity theft?

      Someone may be using your identity and ruining your credit. If identity theft continues, you could be sued by creditors and you might not be able to borrow money when you need it. You can check your credit report to find out if someone has opened accounts in your name.  Each year, you can get a free credit report from three different companies.  You should request one every 4 months from a different company. To request a credit report call Equifax at 1-800-525-6285, Experian at 1-888-397-3742, or Trans Union at 1-800-680-7289.  You can also request reports online at www.annualcreditreport.com.  If your credit report shows activity that you did not authorize, follow the steps recommended by the Federal Trade Commission to report and stop identity theft.  See http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft.

       

      3. Am I financially prepared for an emergency?  

      Emergencies are unpredictable but there are some things you can do to prepare yourself.

      • Keep copies of important papers such as insurance, bank account, health care and estate planning information in a safe place you can easily find them.
      • Keep some emergency money in a safe place where you can easily get it, even if you can only spare a small amount.
      • Identify a safe place you can stay temporarily if something happens and you cannot stay in your home.  Also make a plan for how you will get there.
      • If you have someone in your life you trust completely, consider sharing the above information with that person so they can help you if needed.  Do NOT share information about your finances or other important matters with anyone you do not know well and trust completely.

      Planning ahead can help keep unexpected costs to a minimum during an emergency.

       

      This article was written by Emily Mutillo from the City of Cleveland Department of Aging and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 1. Click here to read the full issue.

      When is “Open Enrollment” for 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.  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.  Please tell anyone needing health coverage through the Marketplace about the following dates and 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.

      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.

      I need winter heating assistance – what do I do? Close

      Winter heating assistance begins October 20, 2014 and continues through April 15, 2015.

      Refer people in need of help paying utility bills to 2-1-1 to find a provider who accepts utility assistance applications.

      Also, customers can walk-in for utility assistance at the Utilities Resource Fair, Saturday October 18, 2014 from 10 am – 2pm at West Side Community House.  Click here for more details on the Resource Fair and click here for more information about PUCOs winter reconnect program.

      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!

      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!

      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 do I apply for Lifeline Telephone Assistance? Close

      Stay Connected with Lifeline – Telephone Discount Program!

      The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) urges qualifying low-income residents to apply for Lifeline Telephone Assistance. Lifeline Assistance makes basic local telephone service more affordable for income-eligible families across Ohio. Those who qualify could receive discounts for monthly telephone bills and/or installation costs of telephone service. And now, some wireless companies offer Lifeline discounts.

      Am I eligible?

      You may qualify for Lifeline if your household income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines or if you participate in one of the following programs:

      • Medicaid
      • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/ Food Stamps
      • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
      • Federal Public Housing Assistance/Section 8
      • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) /Ohio Works First
      • National School Free Lunch Program
      • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

      A Lifeline eligibility pre-screening tool is available at www.lifelinesupport.org.

      Are there any restrictions?

      Lifeline benefits may be applied to only one type of service – landline or wireless – and are limited to one line per household. Customers receiving lifeline benefits must also re-verify their eligibility annually. Other restrictions may apply.

      What are the benefits? How do I apply?

      Eligible low-income customers receive a monthly discount of $9.25 on basic local landline telephone service, waiver of installation charges, waiver of deposit fees, optional toll blocking at no charge and optional 900/976 blocking at no charge. Wireless carrier plans also include a $9.25 monthly discount for qualified customers. Contact your local landline or wireless phone company at the numbers listed on this info sheet (click here) and ask to apply for Lifeline.

      If you have any questions or have a complaint about Lifeline, please contact the PUCO at (800) 686-7826.

      What issues are same-sex couples having with the Social Security Administration? Close

      The Social Security Administration has begun trying to make SSI recipients in same sex marriages pay back money for overpayments that resulted from SSA’s refusal to recognize the marriage until a year after the U.S. Supreme Court said they had to do so in the case U.S. vs. Windsor.

      Even though Ohio does not have same sex marriage, couples married in other states who live in Ohio may get a notice from the SSA about an overpayment being collected, which would reduce their monthly SSI benefit.

      If you see people facing this problem, please contact Anne Sweeney at anne.sweeney@lasclev.org and tell the SSI recipients to call Legal Aid for help at 1-888-817-3777.

      I’m a US Vet, but also in the criminal justice system – how can I find help? Close

      Veterans involved in the criminal justice system or returning from prison can get help from the VA.

      The Veteran Justice Outreach (VJO) program provides access to VA services for eligible veterans to prevent homelessness and avoid unnecessary criminalization, while helping veterans access health care to support rehabilitation and independence.  Click here for more information about the VJO program.

      The VA’s Health Care for Reentry Veterans (HCRV) Program provides services pre and post release from prison to help veterans identify needs and connect with resources in order to support a successful transition back to the community after leaving prison.  Click here for more information about the HCRV program.

      I am a student. Do I qualify for food stamps? Close

      Are you a student in school?  You may qualify for food stamps!

      CLICK HERE to read this informative brochure (in both Spanish and English), and learn more!

      Brochures

      I am a student. Do I qualify for food stamps?
      Are you a student in school?  You may qualify for
      How can Legal Aid help a Veteran facing issues with money, housing, family, health or employment?
      Are you a low-income U.S. Veteran facing problems with: Money? Have
      Do You Need Health Insurance? Learn about free or reduced cost health care.
      Do You Need Health Insurance?  Sign up NOW for free
      What You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits
      Are you recently unemployed? You can receive unemployment compensation benefits

      Self Help

      Do you need to file papers in court but cannot afford the fees?
      You might be able to reduce or avoid paying the

      Success Stories

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      Ulmer & Berne Works with Legal Aid to Prevent Homelessness
      Volunteer attorneys expand Legal Aid's ability to help more individuals in need.

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      Learn more about housing.

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      Staff Profile: Karla Perry, Esq.
      ...in 2001, Karla became a Legal Aid attorney, satisfying her inherent "inclination to help and impact others."

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      Learn more about Legal Aid's Public Benefits Speciality.

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      Unemployment Benefits Secured for Former Restaurant Employee
      Ms. Jenkins laughs, remembering the opposing party's reaction as she walked into the hearing, "They were blown away that I came in with an attorney."

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      Learn more about public benefits.

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      Legal Aid Provides Hope to Air Force Veteran
      I wouldn't have been able to handle the waiting if I didn't know someone was working for me.

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      Learn more about Legal Aid's public benefits work.

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