Ensuring equal access to the benefits and services New Yorkers need to stay healthy.
He didn’t have an identity. No money, no housing subsidies, no health insurance. Nothing.
Recently, Health Law Unit Staff Attorney Erika Hanson worked with a client who had just been released from prison after 40 years of incarceration. He was legally blind and had been incarcerated under an alias. As Erika explains, this meant that when he was released, “he didn’t have an identity. No money, no housing subsides, no health insurance. Nothing.” So, Erika had to start at the very beginning: getting this man his identity back. For her, this was an exciting challenge. “I got to use my position as a lawyer to push things along.” After weeks of work, she secured his birth certificate and social security card, signed him up for Medicaid, Medicare, cash assistance and food stamps, and referred him to resources for employment and affordable housing. Through her tireless efforts, she helped this man get back on his feet and on a path towards a brighter future.
When you are under stress about your medical coverage or debt, it can affect everything. Something I enjoy about my job is that I can take the burden of dealing with the system away from my clients.
Fighting for Medically Necessary Dental Coverage for Medicaid Recipients
Under Medicaid coverage regulations, there is a categorical ban on dental implants and limits on replacement dentures. The program requires an eight-year waiting period for new dentures, even in instances where replacement dentures are required through no individual fault. Many clients with bone erosion, however, are unable to wear dentures without dental implants—which are not covered by Medicaid.
This can have severe impacts on the health of our clients. One particular client suffered from complex health conditions including end-stage renal disease—which required that he follow a special diet. He was unable to follow this diet, however, because other medical conditions made him unable to chew his foods. This summer, we filed a class action lawsuit against the New York State Department of Health (DOH) in the matter of Ciaramella v. Zucker on behalf of clients denied medically necessary dental coverage under Medicaid.
Through this suit, we hope to push for the removal of this categorical ban on dental implants and time limits on replacement dentures and ensure full access to dental care when medically necessary.
By the Numbers
The efforts of our Employment Law Unit, Consumer Law Project, and Government Benefits and Disability Advocacy Project ensure hardworking New Yorkers have access to the rights and benefits to which they’re entitled.
65% of individuals applying for federal disability benefits are denied—usually for failure to provide sufficient medical evidence.
1 million New Yorkers, roughly 11.2% of the city’s population, have disclosed living with a disability.
Our Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic reduced tax liabilities by $2,825,654 and recovered $69,646 in tax refunds.
Going Beyond Benefits
Legal Aid Society client TJ recently transitioned to female after being assigned male at birth and had been struggling with both gender dysphoria and depression. After two periods
of incarceration beginning at age 17, she was now homeless and living in a women’s shelter. TJ believed she was being discriminated against because she was transgender—she
wasn’t receiving the correct amount of benefits, was unable to get new EBT and NYS identification cards, and needed assistance applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on the basis of her anxiety and depression.
Our staff advocated directly with the Human Resources Administration’s (HRA) legal department about these issues and succeeded in getting them to accept her court-ordered
name change and issue a new EBT card. In addition, we helped TJ apply for SSI and a new state identification card. We also identified an error in the HRA’s processing of TJ’s initial benefits application, resulting in an increase in the amount of benefits she received as a result. To address this mistake, we succeeded in forcing HRA to pay TJ retroactive benefits.
A contribution to The Legal Aid Society is about more than money.
Every donation helps us offer essential legal services to thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers, helping people buy food, pay rent, and care for themselves and their families.