Russell Hauser, a Legal Aid paralegal, recently put his love for problem-solving into action to help a client regain a vital part of her monthly income.
In her early 70s and financially dependent on her deceased husband’s Social Security and her own Supplemental Social Income (SSI) benefits, Ms. Jones (name changed to protect privacy) was shocked to receive a notice that her benefits were being terminated. Social Security deemed she had exceeded the restrictive resource limit. Without the SSI, she found her ability to pay her rent, utilities, and other necessities was at risk. “We try to prioritize those cases which impact financial security for vulnerable people,” Mr. Hauser said.
At the heart of the issue were a life insurance policy and a burial policy. The misunderstanding arose from what seemed to be several policies, when in fact, Mr. Hauser explained, “Her insurance company changed hands and names at least two times since she took out the policy in the 80s.”
The multiple names made it appear Ms. Jones had a number of policies. It was the paralegal’s persistence that helped: Mr. Hauser contacted the current insurance company for proof that the company had changed names and that Ms. Jones only had one policy.
After months of work on her behalf, Mr. Hauser was able to accompany Ms. Jones to the Social Security office as she received retroactive payments and had her SSI reinstated.
“She really appreciated the work we put in,” Mr. Hauser said of his client. “It would have been hard to handle this on her own without Legal Aid’s help.”
Paralegals are an important part of Legal Aid’s structure and help Legal Aid leverage its full-time staff attorney and pro bono lawyer resources. Legal Aid’s paralegals perform legal work under the supervision of attorneys.
Russell Hauser has been with the Legal Aid as a paralegal for the last 18 months. Prior to that, he spent two years working with children after working at the American Civil Liberties Union as an office assistant. Mr. Hauser is considering law school because he has a desire to make a career “fighting for justice.”