Summer 2014 Newsletter
Because we know you can’t wait to get back to that beach read, we’ll keep the summer 2014 DLC newsletter short and sweet.
In this edition, DLC attorney Rob Denton highlights some alternatives to guardianship. Becca Gattrell, from our intake team, tells us where to get help applying for Social Security Disability benefits. Andrew Riggle shares the latest news on Medicaid expansion and reminds us how important it is to show the governor and legislators we support it. Finally, remember to mark your calendars for some exciting upcoming events.
In this issue:
- bLAWg: Alternatives to Guardianship
- Ask the Advocate: Getting Help Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits
- Public Policy: Medicaid Expansion Update
- You’re Invited!: DLC Public Hearing and the Community Justice Awards
Guardianship is one way to help ensure the needs of an individual with limited mental capacity are met. However, it is a drastic one. When a court finds a person is incapacitated and a guardian is appointed, a person loses freedom to direct their life and make basic choices.Thankfully, guardianship is not always necessary to ensure an individual has food, shelter, clothing, and medical care.
Less expensive options may allow an individual to keep more of their freedom and independence. For example, when an individual is unable to give informed consent to medical care, an advanced directive can appoint a substitute decision-maker. The directive can also include an ordered list of relatives as default decision-makers for medical care.
A durable power of attorney allows a person to grant someone the authority to make decisions in financial matters. The power of attorney can remain in effect after a grantor loses their capacity to make informed choices. Trusts are another way that an appointed person can manage the financial affairs of someone else.
If a guardianship is necessary, the law prefers it to be limited to specific areas of decision-making. These areas could include medical, financial, residential, educational or employment among others. The medical and functional evidence should prove decision-making deficits in each of the areas the petitioner wants to be included in the guardianship. The focus must be on what the alleged incapacitated person can currently do, or will likely be able to do in the near future.
Situations may arise when a person needs greater support or intervention. Steps can be taken on an individual’s behalf that are limited in both scope and time. For example, a court has the ability to grant an emergency or temporary guardianship when circumstances change or when a guardian is not performing their duties. In some cases, a temporary or time-limited guardianship may be enough to meet the person’s immediate critical need.
Of course, none of these options are available when the individual has a mental impairment, such as an intellectual disability, which prevents them from becoming competent. The alternatives mentioned in this article cannot be created by an individual after he or she becomes incapacitated, so advance planning is required.
Ask the Advocate: Getting Help Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits
By: Becca Gatrell, DLC Short-Term Assistance Team
How Do I Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?
The initial application process is relatively simple:
Schedule an appointment to file your disability claim. Call the Social Security Administration (SSA) appointment line at 1-800-772-1213 and choose an appointment time. You can file for disability at any SSA office in your local area. If you are deaf or hearing impaired, call TTY 1-800-325-0778 to make your appointment.
Visit the “Social Security Disability” website at www.ssa.gov. Locate the online SSA disability application. Click on the “Apply for Disability” button at the bottom of the page, then follow the instructions on the screen.
Where Can I Get Help?
While we know the process can be complex, confusing, and frustrating, the DLC cannot help individuals complete the application process. However, there are options if you need more guidance:
- Utah Legal Services (ULS) assists Utahns with disabilities with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits, as well as overpayment issues. You must be a low-income Utahn to qualify for ULS’ help. You may call them at 1-800-662-4245 or visit https://onlineintake.utahlegalservices.org.
- Some private attorneys are willing to provide their services on a contingency basis, which means they won’t charge you up front, but may take a percentage of any back payment you receive for the period of time between your entitlement, or application, date and the date your benefit is approved. You can search for a disability attorney at www.utahbar.org.
- The Social Security Administration (SSA) publishes their Adult Starter Kit. It includes the following information:
Checklist: Use one of the two following checklists to get ready for your appointment or when filing online:
When filing online, use the Checklist for Online Adult Disability Application
If your appointment is in-person or by telephone, use the Checklist—Adult Disability Interview.
Worksheet: “Medical and Job Worksheet – Adult“
The worksheet can help you prepare for your disability interview. It lists information SSA will ask you during your disability interview and provides space to write it down.
Reports indicate that Governor Herbert is making progress negotiating a Utah solution with Secretary Burwell and the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC to provide quality, affordable healthcare coverage to the state’s 111,000 residents who don’t earn enough to qualify for help purchasing private insurance, but make too much to qualify for Medicaid.
Right now, it sounds like there are about eight items which still need to be ironed out. If they are resolved relatively quickly, it is possible the governor may call the legislature into special session in August or September to consider the proposal. However, Governor Herbert is not likely to take that step unless he’s pretty sure he has the votes to pass the bill. Just like the governor, legislators are unlikely to take such a politically risky position unless they’re convinced their constituents will support them come reelection.
That’s where you come in. Sign Utah Communities for Healthcare Coverage’s petition to show the governor and legislators you are one of the 88% of registered Utah voters who support covering the uninsured.