Elder, Health and Disability Direct Client Services
The Elder, Health and Disability Unit advocates handle more than 1,500 individual cases every year. Below are our main areas of direct client services.
Preservation of Housing for Elders
Maintaining stable, affordable housing can make the difference between an elderly person having their needs met with services in a community setting or being institutionalized in a nursing home. In many of these cases, the elder has physical and/or emotional disabilities which put them at risk of eviction. We are able to avoid this outcome by advocating for reasonable accommodation.
For public and subsidized housing cases, we provide full representation at the earliest stage of eviction at administrative hearings. We also go to court to provide proactive, preventive assistance, including assistance in obtaining necessary supportive services. We take cases in every district and housing court in our service area.
Economic Security for Families, Adults, and Elders
GBLS prioritizes representation where an adult, elder, or child is not receiving Social Security or SSI benefits or the benefits are being terminated. These public benefits provide economic security for our clients and are the key to providing stability in their lives. Without these benefits, they often are unable to find housing or access health care.
For elders, we provide representation where there is a denial of Social Security retirement eligibility; denial/termination of SSI and SSDI for both financial or disability eligibility reasons; cases of SSI/SSDI overpayments where the elderly client will have no income. When we can, we assist in some food stamp cases.
For adults, we provide representation in denial or termination of SSI/SSD claims for disability benefits. Priority is given to homeless claimants and others in great need. Clients often have many medical and mental health problems that make their cases very complex.
For children, the Children’s Disability Project (CDP) represents children under age 18 whose SSI claims were denied or benefits terminated. Children are not just "small adults," but have unique needs and requirements. Visit the Children’s Disability Project section of this website for more information.
Strengthening Access to Health Care
GBLS provides reprentation for children, adults, and elders when their public insurance is denied or terminated. The public health insurance programs have complex and conflicting rules, often resulting in loss of eligibility due to bureaucratic mistakes and coverage gaps. We work to reduce administrative barriers to coverage through individual case advocacy and work with partners and the state to change the practices that cause these errors. We also provide representation when elders, adults or children are denied coverage of a specific service by MassHealth to ensure that individuals actually receive needed health services.
Through the Medicare Advocacy Project (MAP), a statewide project, we ensure access to needed services for disabled and senior beneficiaries. MAP saves beneficiaries thousands of dollars in medical costs, secures access to critical medication and eliminates most costly gaps in coverage and financial penalties. MAP identifies systemic problems and works with allies to correct them at a macro level, while working to remedy individual coverage, access, and cost problems.
Advancing the Rights of People with Disabilities
For children with psychiatric disabilities, we represent these clients on issues related to their rights to Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI, a.k.a. “Rosie D.”) services and related special education advocacy for these same clients. Advocacy is needed to ensure that individual children received all the community services to which they are entitled.
For adults, we represent these clients for ineligibility appeals and/or issues related to their rights to services from the state Department of Mental Health (DMH). We especially focus on rights to services within DMH’s new Community-Based Flexible Support service delivery system, Department of Developmental Services, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and EOHHS Interagency Dispute Resolution procedures. (This procedure is for severely disabled “turning 22” young adults with dire needs who have been denied eligibility by all applicable adult human service agencies.) We also provide discharge advocacy for people on locked psychiatric hospital units, in certain cases.
Protecting the Rights of Immigrants
Immigrants are often unaware of the rules about public health and benefit programs. Our work informs immigrants about their eligibility for benefits and helps them receive the benefits that they qualify for. In many of the cases that we see, some family members are citizens, and others are not. There are complex rules in both health insurance and Social Security programs about eligibility for benefits in those cases.
Protecting the Rights of Nursing Home Residents
The elderly and disabled in nursing homes and/or under guardianship are some of our most vulnerable clients. Elderly and disabled residents of nursing homes often have multiple physical and cognitive health issues. They may have lost ties with their communities and their nursing home bed has become only their home.
We defend these clients facing inappropriate discharge from the nursing home to ensure continued care. We also work to ensure that the elderly and disabled are represented in guardianship proceedings, so that their autonomy is not unduly restricted by court order.