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!

      I have a State Hearing to get my benefits back. What should I know? Close

      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!

      What is the SSA Representative Payee Program? Close

      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:

      1. determine whether it’s in the beneficiary’s best interest to have a payee;
      2. select the proper payee;
      3. have adequate oversight over the payee’s activities; and
      4. 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.

      How can I get help with medication costs? Close

      Referrals for free or low cost medication and medical care now available by calling 2-1-1.

      In Cuyahoga County, residents can call 2-1-1 to access free or low cost medication and medical care.

      Click here for a printable flyer with more information!

      What’s Changing with Ohio Medicaid?   Close

      In 2016, a new Ohio Benefits System and new Disability Determination process will be implemented for Medicaid applicants and recipients.

      • If you are currently receiving Medicaid in the category of “Aged, Blind, or Disabled” (“ABD), your monthly income limit will increase to the same as the Social Security income limit. That means an individual can have income of $743 per month (rather than $634) and be eligible for Medicaid.
      • For individuals, the asset limit is also increased — from $1,500 to $2,000 (excluding house or car).
      • The new Ohio Benefits system will be implemented effective August 1, 2016.

      Only one disability determination process for two programs.

      • If you qualify for SSI, you no longer have to complete a separate disability determination process for Medicaid.
      • If you are eligible for SSI, you are automatically eligible for Medicaid.
      • BUT, if you are receiving Medicaid because you are low income and believe you are disabled, you must still apply separately for SSI benefits.

      Medicaid Monthly “Spenddown” is eliminated.

      • Under the new Benefit system, the Medicaid “spenddown” program is eliminated. The “spenddown” was a program that allowed you to have Medicaid coverage even if you had too much income.  In any month that you spent down your income by paying medical expenses, you obtained Medicaid eligibility.
      • If you currently have a Medicaid “spenddown” – you may automatically be enrolled in Medicaid if you are a single adult with income less than 138% FPL ($16,242 per year).
      • You may also qualify for assistance with your Medicare part B premium.
      • If your income is between 138% and 225% FPL, but you have a serious and persistent mental illness (SPMI), you are eligible for a special Medicaid waiver program.
      • In some cases, if your income exceeds the new higher limit, you will be referred to the Federal Marketplace to obtain subsidized health coverage.

      Long Term Care still covered but may require a trust.

      • Anyone needing Medicaid long term care services will be eligible for Medicaid even if they are over income, but they must place of portion of their monthly income into a trust.
      • If you receive long term care or home and community based services through a waiver, you will be contacted by the Ohio Department of Medicaid about assistance available to you for setting up a trust.

       

      If you currently have Medicaid and wonder if your benefits will be affected by these changes, REMEMBER:

      • Before any changes take effect, you should receive a letter and a notice from the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
      • The letter will have additional information about how your coverage may be changing and what steps you need to take.
      • Make sure you open all mail from your County Department of Job and Family Services or the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
      • Do not ignore deadlines – read all notices very carefully.
      • Call the telephone number on your notice if you have any questions or call the Ohio Medicaid Consumer Hotline at (800) 324-8680.

      Want more information regarding the Medicaid changes?    

      Check out the information on the following websites or call the Medicaid Consumer Hotline at (800) 324-8680.

      http://medicaid.ohio.gov/INITIATIVES/DisabilityDeterminationRedesign.aspx

      http://www.proseniors.org/pamphlets-resources/medicaid-eligibility/

      www.ohio.medicaid.gov

      https://benefits.ohio.gov/ddr.html

      Do I qualify for SSDI and SSI Social Security Benefits? Close

      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 rights do people with disabilities living in subsidized housing have? Close

      The Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal law, protects people with
      disabilities from discrimination in housing. Landlords cannot treat
      tenants with disabilities worse than other tenants because of their
      disabilities. Also, tenants with mental or physical disabilities can
      ask for changes to make it easier to live in their units and follow
      the rules of their leases. These changes are called “reasonable
      accommodations.” The FHA requires most landlords to provide
      reasonable accommodations to tenants.

      A reasonable accommodation can be any change to management
      rules, policies, practices or the way services are provided. The
      reason for the change must relate to the tenant’s disability. An
      example of an accommodation is permission to have a service
      animal in an apartment complex that does not allow pets. Another
      example is providing an assigned parking space for a disabled
      tenant who cannot walk very far. An accommodation can be
      requested for almost anything a tenant has to do as part of a lease.

      Tenants in subsidized housing must follow many rules. For example,
      they must prove their income, pass background checks, turn in
      paperwork, and attend appointments. Tenants with disabilities can
      request accommodations for any of these rules.

      Some examples of accommodations tenants in subsidizing housing
      may request are:

      • A chance to get back on a waiting list if removed for a reason
      related to a disability
      • Mail-in recertification if a tenant cannot make it to any
      accessible locations
      • Reminder letters or copies of letters sent to someone else if a
      disability makes it hard for a tenant to remember things
      • Not getting evicted if the reason for the eviction is related to
      a disability

      For more information, see https://lasclev.org/accomodations/,
      or the John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Support
      Center at http://www.jmls.edu/clinics/fairhousing/resources.php.

      If you receive a notice of termination, a 3-day notice or eviction
      complaint, call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to find out if you are
      eligible for assistance.

      This article was written by Callie Dendrinos and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

      Who does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect? Close

      The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that guarantees
      everyone has the same opportunity to enjoy and participate in
      American life. A person with a disability under the law is someone
      who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits
      one or more life activities. Life activities include learning, working,
      self care, performing manual tasks, walking, hearing and many
      more. How long a person’s impairment lasts is a factor used
      to decide if a person is considered disabled under the ADA.
      Impairments that last only for a short period of time are typically
      not covered, although they may be covered if very severe. A
      person may be protected under this law based on an existing
      disability, a record of a disability, or because she is perceived by
      others as having a disability.

      The ADA protects people with disabilities in the work place. An
      employer must provide a qualified applicant or employee with
      the full range of employment opportunities. For example, the
      employer must provide recruitment, hiring, promotion, training,
      pay, and the same social activities to all employees including
      those with disabilities. An employer is not permitted to ask about
      an individual’s disability, severity, and treatment. An employer
      may ask about an applicant’s ability to do specific job functions.
      An employer may be required under the ADA to accommodate
      an employee who has a disability by modifying equipment or
      schedules. The ADA requires employers to post a notice that
      explains the law and its requirements.

      The ADA protects people with disabilities in public accommodations.
      Examples of public accommodations include doctor’s offices,
      theaters, hotels, restaurants and retail stores. Existing facilities
      must ensure that individuals are not excluded so long as there
      is not an undue hardship on the owner. This is accomplished by
      modifying existing facilities, constructing additional facilities, or
      relocating to an accessible building. All new construction of places
      of public accommodations must be accessible. For example, public
      buildings should provide access for wheelchairs.

      Additionally, the ADA protects people with disabilities when they
      use public transportation like buses or rapid transits. This law also
      requires the establishment of telephone relay services for individuals
      who use telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDD’s).

      For more information about the ADA, or to file a complaint if
      you feel there is a violation of the ADA, you may contact the
      Justice Department at www.ada.gov or 1-800-514-0301 (voice)
      1-800-514-0383 (TTY).

      This article was written by Davida Dodson and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

      How can I appeal a decision in the health insurance Marketplace? Close

      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!

      How can I get my child extra support in school? Close

      A pre-school, elementary or high school student with a disability
      may need extra support in school. Some disabilities keep students
      from participating in school in the same way as other students, like
      deafness or being unable to walk. Other disabilities, like dyslexia
      or low IQ, may keep a child from learning in the same way as
      other students. Disabilities such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
      Disorder (ADHD) or Oppositional Defiance Disorder may keep
      a child from controlling their behaviors. Children with disruptive
      behaviors may miss a lot of class time or have trouble paying
      attention in class.

      If a student can learn the same way as other students, but is not
      succeeding in school, that student may need accommodations.
      Examples of accommodations are a wheelchair ramp, a sign
      language interpreter, and extra breaks for a student with ADHD.
      Accommodations should be recorded in a 504 Plan.

      If a student is not learning in school, the school should try
      interventions. Interventions may include tutoring or a special
      reading group. If interventions do not help, a student with a
      disability may need an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An
      IEP records the plan for helping a child meet goals specific to that
      student. Examples of IEP goals are learning math facts, improving
      speech skills, and developing coping skills.

      Both a 504 Plan and IEP are legal documents created by a team at
      the school that must include the parent. If a school does not follow
      a 504 Plan or IEP, a parent can file a complaint.

      A parent can request that a 504 Plan or IEP be created for a
      child by writing a letter to the school. Date the letter and state that
      the child has a disability which contributes to struggles in school.
      Give the letter to the school district office but be sure to keep an
      additional copy of the letter. If the school does not respond or
      denies the request, contact the Ohio Department of Education at
      1-877-644-6338. For more information about requesting special
      education, see https://lasclev.org/i-think-my-child-needs-special-education-classes-what-is-the-process/

      This article was written by Danielle Gadomski Littleton and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

      Am I entitled to an attorney in guardianship proceedings? Close

       

      Sometimes mental health or physical illnesses make it difficult for
      a person to make decisions about their basic needs, finances, and
      medical issues. If you or someone you care about struggles to
      make these kinds of life decisions, a court can appoint someone
      else to make the decisions. This process is called “guardianship.”

      A guardianship starts with an application in Probate Court. Often,
      the application is filed by a family member or a social service
      agency. If someone applies to be a guardian for another person,
      that person has the right to be at all Court hearings. The Court will
      ask a doctor to evaluate the person, and the person has the right to
      ask for an independent expert evaluation (a second opinion from a
      different doctor). The person also has the right to have an attorney
      represent him or her. If the person cannot afford an attorney or
      independent expert evaluation, the court must pay these fees.

      After the Court approves a guardianship, the person who struggles
      to make decisions is called a “ward” and the “guardian” must
      make decisions in his or her best interests. The guardian has to
      talk with the ward when possible. If a ward later feels capable of
      making independent decisions, he or she can ask the Court for a
      “Guardianship Review Hearing.” A review hearing can happen
      once a year; a request to modify or end the guardianship can be
      made anytime.

      Before 2013, few Ohio probate courts appointed the ward an
      attorney in the Review Hearing. However, in January 2013, the
      Ohio Supreme Court decided that all Probate Courts must appoint
      an attorney if the ward could not afford one
      in the case State ex rel. McQueen v. Cuyahoga County. Now,
      Ohio law requires probate courts appoint an attorney to represent
      a ward at any hearing reviewing or challenging the guardianship,
      if the ward cannot afford counsel and requests an attorney.

      For more information about guardianships, see Ohio Guardianship
      Guide at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Files/Publications. Helpful
      forms and other information may also be found at Disability Rights
      Ohio, www.disabilityrightsohio.org.

      This article was written by Deborah Dallman and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

      What is FMLA and how can it help me? Close

      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!

      What is an ABLE account, and how does it help people with disabilities? Close

      Ohio launches first-of-its-kind saving and investment account for people with disabilities to pay for qualified expenses without jeopardizing eligibility for benefits – Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account program.

      The ABLE Act of 2014 is federal legislation that authorizes states to establish accounts for people with disabilities that are tax exempt and are not counted when determining eligibility for means-tested federal programs. Ohio is calling its program the State Treasury Achieving a Better Life Experience (STABLE) program.

      The accounts will allow people with disabilities to save and invest without losing eligibility for benefits. The STABLE program is open to anyone across the country who meets eligibility requirements, though the fees are higher for people who live out of state.

      Ohio residents will pay $2.50 per month to maintain the accounts, while residents of other states will pay $5 per month. Participants can use the money from the account for qualified expenses, including education, health care, housing and transportation.

      Participants will be able to choose between five different investment strategies that range in risk levels, including a banking approach that offers no risk and is backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  For more information, see http://www.stableaccount.com/.

      I am a U.S. Veteran – how can I get an ID card? Close

      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.

      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

      photo
      Legal Aid Secures Health Coverage for a Foster Baby
      When Debra Weita found she could formally adopt Lizzie, she wanted to be able to provide for her future health needs.

      Read More

      Learn more about Legal Aid's Public Benefits Specialty.

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

      Read More

      Learn more about Legal Aid's Public Benefits Speciality.

      photo
      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."

      Read More

      Learn more about public benefits.

      photo
      Legal Aid Helps Lorain County Family in Need
      It has lifted a great weight off my shoulders knowing my son is being cared for while I am away at work. Gene is now getting the care he needs and his spirits are much better. Fred

      Read More

      Get help with public benefits.

      • photo1
      • photo1
      • photo1
      • photo1