Individuals and families come to Legal Aid for legal assistance but sometimes also face other significant issues.   Legal Aid staff observed that other problems can interfere with the effectiveness of legal representation.   In the spring of 2009, Legal Aid responded to clients needs by creating a Law and Social Work Partnership Program.   The addition of social work  at Legal Aid  helps maximize the benefit for clients of their legal representation through collaborative advocacy by the client, the attorney and the social worker.


What is the benefit of working with a Legal Aid social worker? Close

The benefits of working with a social worker differ for each client, but are broadly aimed at helping the client work effectively with his or her attorney, and increasing the client’s stability and security.   Specific areas of concern are identified by the client, social worker and attorney and a plan is created to respond to the client’s needs.   The plan may specify assistance in areas such as housing, mental health, substance abuse, communication, benefit applications, medical care, transportation, utility assistance and others.   Clients rely on the social worker for help with these issues and new problems throughout the time they have an open case with Legal Aid.

Can I get help from a Legal Aid social worker? Close

Legal Aid social workers only serve current clients of Legal Aid.   Once a client’s case has been accepted for representation by an attorney, the attorney decides whether or not to refer the client for social work services.   Professionals from other organizations who work with low-income clients in Legal Aid’s service area may call the social work supervisor to discuss the appropriateness of referrals to Legal Aid.

What services do Legal Aid social workers provide? Close

Legal Aid social workers provide assistance to clients at three different levels: referral, limited case management and case facilitation.    

Client Referral identify and connect clients to other community agencies and programs that can help meet the client’s needs.

Limited Case Management includes referrals, while also helping clients schedule appointments, arrange transportation, complete applications and take other such steps toward increasing their security and stability.

Case Facilitation includes both referral and case management, in addition to supporting clients’ effective participation in their legal representation.

How can I get more information? Close

For more information about the Legal Aid’s Law and Social Work Partnership  Program, please contact Anne K. Sweeney, J.D., M.S.W., Social Work Supervisor, at

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 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 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 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  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

    Can I get assistance with utility bills? Close

    Fuel Funds Provide More Utility Assistance to Low Income Electric Customers.

    Electric customers of First Energy, Illuminating Company, and Ohio Edison (not Cleveland Public Power) can apply NOW (March 2014) for additional assistance paying their electric bill.  Individuals must have income below 200% of the federal poverty level and owe no more than $300 on an old account (if trying to start new service) or on disconnect notice (if trying to avoid shut off) .  Required documents include utility bill or disconnect notice, social security numbers for all household members and income verification.

    • Residents of Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain Counties can contact the Consumer Protection Association at 216-881-3434 to request help or in the event of an emergency, can walk in for help at 3030 Euclid Avenue, Suite 105, Cleveland, OH  44115.
    • Residents of Cuyahoga County can also contact the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland at 216-263-6266 or Cleveland Housing Network at 216-912-2211.  Call for location and hours when walk-in applications are accepted.

    What are some common questions about Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney? Close

    Q: Aren’t Living Wills or Health Care Powers of Attorney just for older people?

    A: It is important for anyone over age 18 to think about filling out one or both of these documents. Serious illness or injury can strike at any stage of life. A Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney will help to ensure that your wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment are followed regardless of age, and that when you are no longer able to voice your own wishes, your prior decisions are followed or made for you by the person you choose.

    Q: Can I include the fact that I wish to donate my organs after death through a Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney?

    A: The best way to ensure that your organs will be donated after death is to complete the Donor Registry Enrollment Form included in this packet.

    Q: If I state in my Living Will that I don’t want to be hooked up to life support equipment, will I still be given medication for pain?

    A: Yes. A Living Will affects only care that artificially or technologically postpones death. It would not affect care that eases pain. For example, you would continue to be given pain medication and other treatments necessary to keep you comfortable. The same is true with a Health Care Power of Attorney. The person you name to make your health care decisions would not be able to order the withholding of treatments that provide you comfort or alleviate pain.

    Q: If I have a Living Will, won’t my physician be more likely to give up on me if I become really sick?

    A: No. Physicians have a duty to maintain life as long as there is hope of recovery. A Living Will simply allows you to determine how much life-sustaining treatment you wish to receive in order to postpone dying once two physicians have determined that you will not recover.

    Q: Which is better to have, a Living Will or a Health Care Power of Attorney?

    A: Actually, it is a good idea to fill out both documents because they address different aspects of your medical care. A Living Will applies only when you are terminally ill and unable to communicate your wishes or if you are permanently unconscious. A Health Care Power of Attorney becomes effective even if you are only temporarily unconscious and medical decisions need to be made. For example, if you were to become temporarily unconscious due to an accident or surgery, the person you name in your Health Care Power of Attorney could make medical decisions on your behalf. If you have both documents and become terminally ill and unable to communicate or become permanently unconscious, the Living Will would be followed since it speaks to your wishes in these situations.

    Q: When does a Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney become effective?

    A: A Living Will becomes effective if you are terminally ill and unable to express your wishes regarding health care or if you are permanently unconscious. In both cases, two physicians, not just one, must agree that you are beyond medical help and will not recover. If you have indicated that you do not want your dying to be artificially prolonged and two physicians say that there is no reasonable hope of recovery, your wishes will be carried out.

    A Health Care Power of Attorney becomes effective whenever you lose the ability to make your own decisions, even if only temporarily. At these times, health care decisions will be made by the person you designate.

    Q: Can I draft a Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney that says if I become critically ill, I want everything possible done to keep me alive?

    A: Yes. But you can’t use the standard forms in this packet. You would need to speak with an attorney about drafting a special document. You also may want to discuss this approach with your personal physician.

    Q: If I name someone in my Health Care Power of Attorney to make decisions for me, how much authority does that person have and how can I be certain that he or she is doing what I want done?

    A: The person you name as your attorney-in- fact has the authority to make decisions regarding aspects of your medical care if you become unable to express your wishes. For this reason, you should tell the person you name how you feel about life-sustaining treatment, being fed through feeding and fluid tubes, and other important issues.

    Also, it is important to remember that a Health Care Power of Attorney is not the same as a financial Power of Attorney, which you might use to give someone authority over your financial or business affairs.

    Q: If my condition becomes hopeless, can I specify that I want my feeding and fluid tubes removed?

    A: Special instructions are needed to allow for the removal of feeding or fluid tubes if you become permanently unconscious and if the feeding and fluid tubes aren’t needed to provide you with comfort.

    If you want to make certain that the tubes are removed should you become permanently unconscious, you need to place your initials on the space provided on the Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney form. If you don’t want the tubes removed when you are permanently unconscious, then don’t initial the forms.

    Q: Do I have to use the standard forms for a Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney or can I draw up my own documents?

    A: These forms (click here to access details), which were produced jointly by the Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio State Medical Association, the Ohio Hospital Association and the Ohio Hospice & Palliative Care Organization, comply with the requirements of Ohio law, but you do not have to use these forms. You may wish to consult an attorney for assistance in drafting a document or you may draft your own. However, in either case, the documents must comply with the specific language spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code.

    Can I be court-ordered to receive mental health treatment in or out of the hospital? Close

    Yes. As of September 17, 2014, the law on “civil commitment” in Ohio changed. “Civil commitment” is when a probate court orders a person with mental illness to receive treatment. The court can order treatment in or out of a hospital, under certain circumstances. When a court holds a hearing to decide whether or not to order a person into treatment, that person has legal rights. For example, the person has the right to attend the hearing and to have an attorney represent them at the hearing. Anyone with questions about the new civil commitment law can call Disability Rights Ohio at 1-800-282-9181 to request help.

    Click here for more information from Disability Rights Ohio about the new civil commitment law.

    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

    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.

    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

    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 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.

    What is a “pardon” and does it get rid of my criminal record? Close

    A pardon is forgiveness by the governor for a crime committed. A person who is pardoned cannot be further punished for the forgiven offense and should not be penalized for having a record of the offense.  [State ex rel. Atty. Gen. V. Peters, 43 Ohio St. 629, 650 (1885)].  But, the Ohio Supreme Court also has said that just because the governor grants someone a pardon, the pardon does not automatically entitle the person to have their criminal record sealed. [State v. Boykin, 138 Ohio St.3d 97, 104, 2013-Ohio-4582,¶27].

    The application to ask for a pardon is called an “application for clemency.”  These applications must be in writing and must be sent to the Adult Parole Authority.

    The Ohio Parole Board, a part of the Adult Parole Authority, processes all clemency applications. Your application will be reviewed by the Parole Board. After reviewing your case, the Parole Board gives the Governor a recommendation. The Governor decides whether to grant the pardon.

    The Governor grants pardons to people who show that they have been rehabilitated and have assumed the responsibilities of citizenship.  In 2005 and 2006, the Governor received 63 clemency requests and he granted 29 pardons.  In 2007, the governor granted 39 pardons out of 233 requests.

    The forms and instructions required to file for a pardon can be found on the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections website:

    The Ohio Bar Association answers frequently asked questions about the application process on its website:

    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.


    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
    The Campaign for Legal Aid
    Steady growth in donor support through The Campaign for Legal Aid extends Legal Aid’s reach in Northeast Ohio.

    Read More

    Housing Justice Alliance
    The Campaign for Legal Aid will support the Housing Justice Alliance - and we'll be the first community in Ohio to create a right to counsel when someone's home is at risk.

    Read More

    Working together to #ExtendJustice
    Our leadership with The Campaign for Legal Aid will extend the reach of justice to more families in Northeast Ohio.

    Read More

    • photo1
    • photo1
    • photo1