A homeless mother and her children are now receiving public benefits, thanks to their HPRP lawyer. But the process was not quick or easy for the client. She completed an online application for TCA, food stamps and Medical Assistance. Although she was eligible for each program, her applications were denied.
The problem: As the client pointed out in her applications, she experiences significant anxiety and panic attacks as symptoms of a mental disability, which affects her ability to leave the homeless shelter and attend outside appointments. Instead of addressing this concern, the department sent her a letter asking her to come into its offices for an in-person meeting as a necessary requirement to determine her eligibility. When she did not make the meeting, her applications were denied.
Staff Attorney Michelle Salomon wrote a letter to DSS that explained that under federal and state law, DSS is required to adjust the application process to ensure that clients with disabilities have equal and meaningful access to public benefit programs.
“By requiring my client to appear in person at the DSS office in order to receive public benefits to which she is legally entitled, DSS is effectively excluding her from participation in and access to these program benefits, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act,” Michelle said.
In response to the letter, DSS acknowledged that it was necessary to modify its program rules in order to avoid discrimination against the client on the basis of her disabilities. DSS arranged for telephone interviews and a home visit to obtain the information it needed to determine her eligibility. As a result, the client and her family are now receiving TCA, food stamps, and Medical Assistance.