Numerous government programs provide financial support for individuals and families in a variety of ways. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly knows as food stamps) ensures access to food, for example. Other examples are cash assistance, child care vouchers, social security benefits and veteran benefits. All of these programs are governed by complicated Administrative Rules the say who is eligible for benefits, how much the person can get, what the person is required to do, and under what circumstances the benefits can be cut off. If benefits are stopped, a person has the right to request a hearing. If the request for a hearing is made timely, benefits usually continue until a decision is made.
- SNAP (food stamps)
- Cash assistance
- Veteran Benefits
- Health Benefits
- Alien Emergency Medical Assistance (AEMA)
- Childcare Vouchers
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
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:
- Have your veteran’s benefits been terminated or reduced due to overpayment?
- Have you been denied or terminated from other government benefits? (e.g. Food Stamps, cash assistance, SSI, Unemployment Compensation)
- Do you have debts that cause problems with meeting your needs, for example obtaining utilities, driver’s license, or housing?
- Have you received any letters or notices from the IRS about your federal taxes?
- Have you applied for and been denied a subsidy to help pay for housing?
- Is your rent subsidy being terminated?
- Does your apartment need repairs that your landlord refuses to make?
- Has your landlord given you a notice to leave your apartment or are you being evicted?
- Are you behind on mortgage payments or facing foreclosure?
- Did you receive a shut off notice for your lights, gas, or water?
- Are you afraid for your safety because of your current or former significant other or household member?
- Are you afraid for your child’s safety?
- Do you have problems paying child support?
- Does your child have problems in school with learning or with behavior?
- Do you have trouble accessing health care?
- Do you have trouble filling your prescriptions for medication?
- Do you have a criminal record that prevents you from getting a job?
- Have you been denied a professional license (e.g. barber, day care provider, STNA?)
- Do you need your driver’s license reinstated in order to work?
If YES, contact The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland for help. Click here for a flyer with more information!
Do You Need Health Insurance? Learn about free or reduced cost health care.
Do You Need Health Insurance? Sign up NOW for free or reduced cost health care! Almost everyone in Ohio can get health insurance now under the Affordable Care Act.
Many more Ohioans are now eligible for FREE health care coverage through Medicaid:
- If you are between the ages 19 to 64 years old; and
- If your income is 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); and
- Even if you were denied Medicaid in the past…
Apply for Medicaid:
- online at www.benefits.ohio.gov; or
- by phone at 1-800-324-8680; or
- in person at your local County Department of Job and Family Services office.
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 is Ohio’s Homestead Exemption?
Ohio has two types of Homestead Exemption: (1) senior and disabled persons homestead exemption and (2) disabled veterans enhanced homestead exemption.
Senior and Disabled Persons Homestead Exemption protects the first $25,000 of your home’s value from taxation. For example, if your home is worth $100,000, you will be taxed as if the home were worth $75,000.
Who is eligible?
- A homeowner who owns and lives in the home as their primary residence as of January 1st of the year for which they apply and
• is 65 years old (or who will turn 65 the year for which they apply) or
• is permanently and totally disabled as of the 1st day of the year for which they apply.
- The surviving spouse of a person who had been enrolled in Homestead who was at least 59 years of age when the spouse died.
- Applicants must have a total gross income (applicant plus applicant’s spouse, if any) below the amount set by law each year. The 2017 household income limit is $31,800. See www.tax.ohio.gov for income limits in future years.
Disabled Veterans Enhanced Homestead Exemption protects the first $50,000 of your home’s value from taxation. For example, if your home is worth $100,000, you will be taxed as if the home were worth $50,000.
Who is eligible?
A homeowner who owns and lives in the home as their primary residence as of January 1st of the year for which they apply and
- is a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States (including Reserves and the National Guard) who was discharged or released from active duty under honorable conditions; and
- has received a 100% disability rating for compensation based on individual un-employability for a service-connected disability or combination of service-connected disabilities.
What property is eligible?
For both exemptions:
The property must be where you usually live;
- You must have been living there as of January 1st of the year for which you apply; and
- You must be on the deed, or if the property is held in a trust, you must give the Auditor a copy of the trust.
How do you apply?
For both exemptions:
- Fill out application form DTE105A—you can get the form at your county Auditor’s office, at your county Auditor’s website, or at the Ohio Department of Taxation’s website (tax.ohio.gov).
- File form DTE105A with your county Auditor—you must file the original form that has your ink signature (not a copy). You cannot electronically file the form.
- If your eligibility is based on AGE, you must submit PROOF OF AGE with your application. You can prove your age with a copy of your driver’s license (current or expired), State of Ohio ID card, birth certificate or passport (current or expired).
- If your eligibility is based on DISABILITY, you must submit PROOF OF DISABILITY with your application. You can prove your disability by getting the Auditor’s Certificate of Disability form signed by your doctor OR by giving the Auditor a copy of a statement from Social Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Railroad Retirement Board, or the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation that says you are totally and permanently disabled.
- If your eligibility is based on VETERANS DISABILITY, you must submit the letter you received from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs stating that your application for the status of individual un-employability has been granted (including percentage assigned) along with a copy of your DD-214.
When do you apply?
For both exemptions:
- In September 2016, the law changed to allow real property (land and buildings attached to the land) applications to be filed any time before December 31st. If you are applying for the exemption on a manufactured or mobile home, you have to apply on or before the first Monday in June.
- If you were eligible for the exemption last year, but did not apply, you can file a late application for the previous year at the same time that you file your application for the current year.
- If you are approved for the Homestead Exemption, you do not need to re-apply in future years.
To get an application form, or if you need help or have questions, call your county Auditor’s Homestead Department:
In Cuyahoga County, call 216.443.7010
In Ashtabula County, call 440.576.3445
In Lake County, call 440.350.2536
In Geauga County, call 440.279.1617
In Lorain County, call 440.329.5207
This article was written by Kristen Nawrocki and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
How do Representative Payees Protect Seniors?
With Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments on the rise, many seniors are unable to manage their money, including Social Security benefits. To make sure these seniors receive and properly use their benefits for food, housing, and other essential needs, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can appoint a third party, known as a “representative payee.” Seniors, advocates, and caregivers should be aware of the representative payee program and its importance.
Choosing a Representative Payee
When seniors receiving social security benefits or their caretakers feel they cannot manage their money, they can ask the SSA to appoint a representative payee. The benefits are paid directly to the payee. SSA will first look to the beneficiary’s family and friends who are willing to serve as a payee. If no family or friends are available, SSA may appoint an organization to be the payee. The individual or organization seeking to become the payee must apply with the local SSA field office or online.
Duties of a Representative Payee
SSA encourages payees to take an active role in the beneficiary’s life. A representative payee must:
• Meet with the beneficiary on a regular basis.
• Use the money to pay for the beneficiary’s needs, including housing and utilities; food; medical and dental expenses; personal care items; and clothing.
• Save any unspent benefits to meet later needs.
• Keep accurate records of benefit payments and how they are spent and regularly report that information to SSA.
• Report any changes that may affect the payment of benefits.
Protection Against Misuse of Benefits
For seniors on fixed incomes, every penny counts. All payees must follow SSA rules. They must maintain records showing all money received and purchases made on beneficiaries’ behalf. If a payee misuses benefits, SSA can impose criminal and civil penalties. Suspected misuse should be reported to the local SSA office, or by calling 1-800-269-0271 (TTY 1-866-501-2101), or submitting a report online at http://oig.ssa.gov.
• For help when social security benefits are terminated or reduced because of an overpayment, recipients can apply to The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland by calling 1-888-817-3777.
• For more information about the SSA Representative Payee program, see: www.ssa.gov/payee – “When People
Need Help With Their Money” and also http://www.justiceinaging.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/FINALSS
• Adults age 60 and over may also contact ProSeniors telephone hotline by calling 1-800-488-6070.
This article was written by Deborah Dallman and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
Do you need help paying your Medicare expenses?
If you are a low-income Medicare beneficiary, the Medicare Premium Assistance Programs (MPAP) may help you pay some or all of your Medicare cost-sharing expenses (premiums, copays, and coinsurance). MPAP is part of the Ohio Medicaid program. MPAP is sometimes called the “Medicare buy-in” or “Medicare savings” program. All of these names refer to four subprograms:
• the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program;
• the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) program;
• the Qualified Individual-1 (QI-1) program; and
• the Qualified Working Disabled Individual (QWDI) program.
MPAP will pay different costs for you if you are eligible for one of the four subprograms:
• QMB will pay all your copays, coinsurance, and monthly Parts A and B premiums.
• SLMB and QI-1 will pay your monthly Part B premiums.
• QWDI will pay your monthly Part A premiums.
In addition, if you are eligible for QMB, SLMB or QI-1, Social Security will automatically enroll you in its Extra Help program. For 2017, Extra Help limits your Part D prescription copays to no more than $3.30 for each generic drug and no more than $8.25 for each brand-name covered drug.
Each subprogram has different income limits, and other eligibility requirements. For 2017, the income limits for individuals are:
• $1005 monthly for QMB (100% FPG);
• $1357 monthly for SLMB and QI-1 (135% FPG); and
• $2010 monthly for QWDI (200% FPG).
The asset limit is $7390. But, only some income and some assets are counted; and different limits may apply depending on your circumstances. So, you should apply, have the county make an eligibility determination, and then seek advice or appeal if you disagree with the county’s decision. Legal Aid may be able to help you. To be connected to the nearest Legal Aid office, phone (866) 529-6446 (LAW OHIO).
You may apply for MPAP at your local County Department of Job and Family Services, sometimes called the “county welfare department” or “county Medicaid.” For the address of the nearest office, phone the Medicaid Consumer Hotline at (800) 324-8680.
This article was written by Bob Bonthius and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
I receive Social Security. Can I appoint someone to help me manage my living expenses and basic needs?
Recipients of some Social Security Benefits who need help managing their money may have a “representative payee” appointed by the Social Security Administration.
A Rep Payee can be a friend, family member, or other trusted person or it can be an organization. Regardless, a Rep Payee is responsible for paying the beneficiaries living expenses and essential needs, and helping to manage the person’s money.
The Rep Payee must follow certain SSA rules, and may not use the beneficiary’s money for the Rep Payee’s own personal gain or fail to pay the beneficiary’s expenses.
If you know about problems with a Rep Payee, the issue should be reported to SSA Office of the Inspector General.
More information about making a report is available at http://oig.ssa.gov/what-abuse-fraud-and-waste/misuse-benefits-representative-payee. More information about the Rep Payee program can be found at http://www.justiceinaging.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/FINALSSAs-Representative-Payee-Program.pd
I am a U.S. Veteran – how can I get an ID card?
New, standardized identification cards are now available to Ohio veterans.
Veterans can take their discharge form – DD Form 214 – to their county recorder’s office, along with a current and valid ID, in order to receive the new ID cards. The ID can be used to prove eligibility for services and benefits, and for voting.
Counties may charge up to $2 for the ID.
What is FMLA and how can it help me?
Have you missed work in the past year due to your own medical condition or that of a family member? Even just a few days spread over time? If you have, your job may be protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act – or FMLA.
What is FMLA?
FMLA allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain family and/or medical reasons – or up to 26 weeks to care for a covered military service member – without the risk of losing your job. FMLA also protects your existing health insurance during your covered leave.
What Employers must follow FMLA?
All public agencies, public and private K-12 schools, and companies or organizations with more than 50 employees.
Who is eligible for FMLA?
Employees who have worked for a covered employer at least 12 months, and worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months. However, if you work at a location that employs less than 50 employees, your employer may not be required to provide FMLA protection.
When can FMLA be used?
• For the birth and care of your newborn child (both parents are covered!)
• When a child is placed with you for adoptionor foster care
• When you need to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition
• When you are unable to work because of your own serious health condition
What is considered a serious health condition?
An illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that results in a hospital stay or requires continuing treatment by a health care provider.
Does the leave have to be taken all at once?
No! In certain situations, you may take leave periodically, or even work a reduced schedule for a period of time.
How do I request FMLA?
You must notify your employer of your need to take FMLA at least 30 days before the start of your leave – unless the leave is unexpected. Your employer may request certification from a medical provider prior to confirming your leave qualifies as FMLA leave.
What can I do if my employer denies my FMLA request?
If you feel your rights under FMLA have been violated, or if you have questions regarding your FMLA rights, contact the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor at 1-866-487-9243.
For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/employeeguide.pdf
This article was written by Wendy Horvath and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
Do I qualify for SSDI and SSI Social Security Benefits?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides two benefits based on disability or blindness: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). While they both provide benefits for people who are “disabled”, SSDI and SSI differ in several ways.
To receive SSI or SSDI benefits, a person must have a “disability”. Social Security defines disability as: 1) a medically-determined physical or mental impairment which has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least 12 months, or is expected to result in death, and 2) because of this impairment, a person is not able to work in any “substantial gainful activity” (SGA.) Social Security determines that a person is able to work in SGA, if the employment income the person receives is over a certain amount.
SSDI provides benefits to persons who: 1) are “disabled” and 2) are “insured” by the Social Security trust fund. To qualify as “insured,” a person must have worked for a certain length of time, and while working, paid FICA (Federal Insurance Contribution Act) taxes. Eligibility for SSDI does not depend on a person’s current income or resources.
SSI provides benefits to persons who: 1) are aged, blind or disabled (including children) and 2) have limited income and resources. A person is considered “aged” for SSI at the age of 65 years.
To be eligible for SSI, a person’s current income and resources cannot be over the specific dollar amounts or limits set by Social Security. Some types of income and resources are not counted, such as food stamps, home energy assistance, tax refunds, or tuition scholarships, among others.
In some cases, a child may qualify for SSI. Social Security defines a “child” as a person who:
1) is either under age 18 or under age 22 and regularly attends school, and
2) is not married or head of a household
For a child to be eligible to receive SSI benefits:
1) a child must be either disabled or blind, and
2) a portion of the income and resources of the child’s parents cannot be over a certain amount or limit.
Once a person qualifies to receive SSDI or SSI benefits, it is important to read notices from SSA and follow the program rules; otherwise, those benefits could be terminated. If benefits are terminated by SSA, the recipient can appeal the decision by following the directions on the notice or calling Legal Aid to apply for help at 1.888.817.3777.
This article was written by Karen Seawall and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
What is the SSA Representative Payee Program?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has authority to appoint a person or organization as representative payee for a beneficiary to manage payments for a beneficiary who is unable to do so.
The SSA follows certain procedures when administering the program in order to:
- determine whether it’s in the beneficiary’s best interest to have a payee;
- select the proper payee;
- have adequate oversight over the payee’s activities; and
- provide redress for any misuse of funds.
Read more about each of these procedures at Justice in Aging Fact Sheet: SSA’s Representative Payee Program. If you know someone who may need a representative payee, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.
What should I know for dealing with administrative agencies?
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 is MyCare Ohio?
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.
How can seniors learn more about benefits available to them?
BenefitsCheckUp is a web-based service that helps seniors. It is especially helpful for those with limited income and resources, their family members and, social service organizations. It connects people to over 2,000 public and private programs.
Many adults over 55 need help paying for basic needs. Some of the benefits screened for are health care services, prescription drugs, rent assistance, in-home services, meals, heat, and energy assistance, and transportation.
The screening tool can also be a help to younger adults with disabilities and to their caregivers. The program can often screen for benefits that people are unaware of or unlikely to have.
BenefitsCheckUp is a free service provided by the National Council on Aging (NCOA). The website for this service is www.BenefitsCheckUp.org. Since 2001, millions of people have used BenefitsCheckUp to find helpful programs.
To start using BenefitsCheckUp, people click on an online questionnaire. The questionnaire asks the user a series of questions. The program then produces a “report card” explaining what benefit programs the user may be eligible for and how to apply for them.
It is a completely confidential service. Users do not need to give their names, addresses, telephone numbers, or social security numbers. Users only need to enter their age, income, and zip codes and BenefitsCheckUp will identify programs for which they may qualify.
BenefitsCheckUp has recently been updated to include some new features. For instance, users can select a program category (like health care, tax relief, transportation) and quickly screen only for that category. There is also a new resources library. This library includes a search by state for various fact sheets.
This article was written by Karla Perry and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
How can I appeal a decision in the health insurance Marketplace?
Are you unhappy with a health insurance decision that has been made for you in the Marketplace? If so, you may appeal the unfavorable decision. You must file the appeal within 90 days after receiving the notice from the Marketplace. Appeals can concern decisions related to:
• Eligibility to buy a Marketplace plan
• Enrolling in a Marketplace plan outside of open enrollment
• Eligibility for an advanced premium tax credit
• Eligibility for cost-sharing reductions
• Eligibility for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
• Eligibility for exemption from the requirement to have health insurance
An appeal can be filed by visiting HealthCare.gov/marketplaceappeal. Download and complete an appeal request form. Mail the completed form, with supporting documentation, to the address listed on the form.
You can also write a letter explaining why you think the Marketplace decision was wrong. Always include supporting documentation. Mail the letter to the Health Insurance Marketplace, Attention Appeals, 465 Industrial Blvd., London KY 40750-0061. An appeal can also be faxed to 1-877-369-0129. Once your appeal is filed, the Marketplace Appeals Center may request more information or documentation from you.
It is important to keep proof of when your appeal was mailed and delivered. If using the U.S. postal service, send your appeal via certified or registered mail with delivery confirmation. If faxing your appeal, remember to keep the fax confirmation. This proof will support the timeliness of your appeal.
If your health situation is urgent, you may request an expedited appeal on the appeal form. Explain why the time for a standard appeal would jeopardize your life, health, or your ability to attain, maintain, or regain maximum function.
You may obtain help to complete the forms. A trusted friend, family member or other person can act as your authorized representative to assist with the appeal. Complete and mail the form “Appoint an authorized representative for my appeal,” available at HealthCare.gov/marketplace-appeals/getting-help/. The form can also be requested by calling the Marketplace Appeals Center at 1-855-231-1751. Interpreter services also are available at no cost to persons with limited English proficiency by calling the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596.
You will receive notice of the informal resolution through the mail. If you agree, the matter shall be considered resolved. If you disagree or are not satisfied with the informal resolution, you may request a formal telephone hearing. A final decision will be sent to you within 90 days from when the appeal was received by the Marketplace Appeals Center.
To find help navigating the Marketplace, go to healthcare.gov and click on “Find local help.”
This article was written by Dennis Dobos and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
I have a State Hearing to get my benefits back. What should I know?
Have your state public benefits been reduced or terminated? Changes to your benefits can happen if you missed an appointment, did not submit correct information, or did not report changes in your income. If you believe the recent change to your benefits is a mistake, you may request a state hearing. A state hearing is an opportunity for you to explain the mistake and request the full amount of benefits you should receive.
Before the Hearing
If you request a state hearing, you may continue receiving the original amount of your benefits as long as you make the request within 15 days of receiving the notice about the change. Once your request is made by phone or letter to your local agency, you will be notified when and where the hearing will take place.
You may choose a representative (lawyer, friend, or relative) to act for you with the agency, but it is not required. A representative can attend the hearing in your place as long as the person has written permission from you. You may usually review information in your case file and subpoena witnesses and documents at least five days before the hearing.
At the Hearing
The hearing is where you will meet or speak with a hearing officer who will listen to the information provided and decide if changes to your benefits are correct. A representative from the agency will present information in favor of the change and you can present information about why you believe the change is a mistake. If you cannot attend the scheduled hearing due to transportation, medical, or child care issues, you may ask to postpone or request a telephone hearing. If you miss the hearing and did not call ahead of time but you have a good reason, you must contact State Hearings within 10 days to request your hearing be continued to another date.
After the Hearing
You should receive a decision within 30 days from the date a state hearing was requested. Food assistance increases must happen within 10 days of the decision and decreases by the next time you receive assistance. All other benefit increases or decreases should happen within 15 days of the decision.
If you disagree with the decision by the hearing officer, you may request an administrative appeal. If you receive another notice of changing benefits, you must request a separate hearing for that new action. Legal Aid can help with some benefits denials and terminations. Call 1-888-817-3777 to apply for assistance.
This article was written by Brittney Brown and Claire O’Connor and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
How can I use the Social Security website?
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!
I have an administrative hearing scheduled but do not speak English. What are my rights?
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:
- 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!
Do you need to file papers in court but cannot afford the fees?
You might be able to reduce or avoid paying the filing fees up front with a “poverty affidavit” (or “affidavit of indigency”). Courts generally require a fee whenever a person files a new case or asks the court to do something by filing a “motion” in a pending case or files a “counterclaim” in a pending case.
But if you have a low income, you might be able to file your documents in court without the payment or with a lower payment if you first file a “poverty affidavit.” A poverty affidavit is a written, sworn statement that you have a low income and do not have enough money to pay fees.
To see a sample poverty affidavit and instructions on how to fill it out, click here.
Once you fill out the poverty affidavit, you must have your signature notarized and file the completed affidavit in the court where your case is being heard.
After you file a poverty affidavit in a case, the clerk will either not charge you any money or will charge you much less to file other documents in the same case. Even though you do not have to pay the fees up front, you may still be responsible for the fees at the end of the case.
Most Ohio courts have their own affidavit forms for you to fill out. You can request these from the clerk at your local court. Here are links to poverty affidavits forms for the courts that post the form online:
- Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas: http://coc.cuyahogacounty.us/pdf_coc/en-US/affidavit_of_indigence.pdf
- Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court: http://domestic.cuyahogacounty.us/pdf_domestic/en-US/Misc/Affidavit%20Waive%20Cost%20with%20Chart.pdf
- Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court: http://juvenile.cuyahogacounty.us/pdf/miscellaneous%20forms/2013-Forms/PovertyAffidavit-JuvCrt-form2013.pdf
- East Cleveland Municipal Court: http://www.eccourt.com/pdf/poverty_aff.pdf
- Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas: http://courts.co.ashtabula.oh.us/forms/COC/PA.pdf
Some courts, for example Cleveland Municipal Court, will accept a generic poverty affidavit. You can download a blank poverty affidavit form here:
For additional information related to using a poverty affidavit to access the court system, click here to read an article from Legal Aid.
This information and the information provided on any court’s website cannot take the place of individual advice from a lawyer. Each person’s situation is different. You should contact a lawyer if you need legal representation or if you have questions about your legal rights and responsibilities.
If you need further help, and plan to visit a Legal Aid Brief Advice Clinic – click here for upcoming clinic dates. Remember to bring all the documents with you. Attorneys will need the documents in order to advise you.
My Ohio Works First (OWF-cash assistance) was terminated because I am over the 36-month time limit. What do I do?
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 email@example.com
If your request for a hardship extension is denied and you disagree with this decision, contact Legal Aid right away.
My Ohio Works First (OWF-cash assistance), food stamps, Medicaid, or childcare vouchers have been terminated or lowered. What do I do?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Legal Aid right away.
Construction Zone Worker Unjustly Fired, Wins Compensation in Unemployment Hearing
Between speeding traffic and the crunch and rumble of machinery, Celestine Gaters braved her job as a construction zone traffic flagger with grace. It could be harsh physical work for the nearly 60-year-old widow, but the pay was good and she’d already hung on three years.
One blustery February day, Ms. Gaters saw a gust of wind topple a traffic sign. When she bent down to retrieve it, her safety glasses slid off her face and she shoved them in her pocket. When she was done grappling with the cumbersome sign, she put the glasses back on.
But four days later, her supervisor called to fire her for safety violations.
“I thought, this is wrong!” Ms. Gaters said. “And I thought, I got a house and a car; I got bills. I was really scared to not have a job or the finances to pay my bills while looking for a new one.”
Legal Aid staff attorney Arcola Whatley took her case, gathering details just days before the hearing before the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission. She presented evidence to the commission that showed her client was terminated without just cause and was owed unemployment compensation. After listening to Ms. Whatley’s clear articulation of Ms. Gaters’ actions and the employer’s conduct, the hearing officer ruled in Ms. Gaters’ favor.
She received enough unemployment compensation benefits to tide her over while she was applying for other positions.
Now Ms. Gaters has a new job with fewer physical demands and straightforward rules. She says she’s eager to pay forward the kindness she received by telling everyone about the help she received from Legal Aid and Ms. Whatley: “I’m so thankful for Legal Aid. It’s just nice to know that someone cares; they took a lot of worry off me!”
This and other success stories from Legal Aid’s employment law practice are generously underwritten by The Deaconess Foundation.
Financial Win for Widowed Older Adult Client
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.”
Mr. O’Malley is Working Again – with Legal Aid’s help and Deaconess Foundation support
George O’Malley* was laid off from his job as a fork lift driver and he needed unemployment benefits to tide him over until he could find a new job.
He signed on as a substitute custodian for a local school district, but the 58-year-old found the work aggravated health issues with his back, and he asked for lighter work. Since no alternative job was available, he re-opened his unemployment case and his benefits resumed.
A bureaucratic mistake was a near catastrophe for Mr. O’Malley: while a doctor confirmed he couldn’t do repetitive bending and lifting, the paperwork seemed to say he couldn’t work at all. The Unemployment Commission issued two negative determinations on his case: His benefits were denied and he was assessed an overpayment.
Mr. O’Malley feared he would have no income and still have to pay back the benefits he had already received. Soon he found Legal Aid and attorney Anita Myerson represented him at two appeal hearings. Eventually, the overpayment debt of $1570 was removed and Mr. O’Malley received $1310 in back benefits. But the best outcome was that Mr. O’Malley found a new job just as he exhausted his 26 weeks of benefits.
“Legal Aid a great help to me and I was very happy with the way everything was handled,” says Mr. O’Malley. Thanks to Legal Aid, he went from not having enough money for groceries to a new job that pays $17 an hour.
* Client name was changed to protect privacy. Legal Aid is grateful to the Deaconess Foundation for their support of Legal Aid’s work to remove barriers to employment.