Accessing Benefits and Health Care
Civil legal aid helps veterans, seniors and people with disabilities obtain state and federal benefits and access to health care through Medicare and Medicaid. Civil legal aid also helps children obtain the education to which they are entitled.
Molly and Sabrina's Legal Aid Success Story
Her adopted daughter, Molly, was having trouble at school, and Sabrina felt overwhelmed trying to advocate for her.
Molly, 11, has a diagnosis of autism. She entered the foster care system when she was an infant, arriving with her new family four days before Christmas when she was just 8 months old.
“This is my kid. I’ll do whatever it takes,” Sabrina said. “She’s gotten the shaft since she was born. Her parents were teenagers. We think she was exposed to drugs and alcohol. We think she was abused, maybe shaken. She certainly wasn’t nurtured the way a baby should be. I’ll do whatever I can for her.”
Sabrina works full time to support the family, which includes her husband, who is disabled, and their adopted teenage daughter. She had to take dozens of hours off work each month to attend meetings at Molly’s school, adding financial worries to the emotional stress of Molly’s difficulties at school.
“I’m an educated person,” Sabrina said. “I’ve even worked in schools. But walking into those IEP meetings was utterly overwhelming. Things were happening in a language I couldn’t understand.”
“Our lawyer made sure I knew exactly what Molly is owed by the education system — a free and appropriate public education — and how I needed to write things, how to word it all to get us there. She was our voice when we didn’t know what to say,” she said.
“To have someone be that voice for us, it meant the world.”
Molly used to experience anxiety on Sunday nights about returning to school. Now, “she jumps up and down excited about school,” Sabrina said. “She is learning. She is happy to come home and tell me what she learned. I have a happy kid now. There are possibilities, now, for her future.”
Errol and Joanne's Legal Aid Success Story
Errol married his high school sweetheart Joanne in 1962, when they were both 20 years old. He is now Joanne’s primary caregiver, after she suffered several silent strokes and the beginning stages of dementia.
Last spring, her needs became too intense for him to handle on his own, so Errol admitted Joanne to an assisted living facility until he could arrange for visiting nurses to help him with her care at home.
When he enrolled her in Medicaid to cover the high cost of her stay, the facility scheduled her for discharge immediately, claiming there were no beds available for Medicaid patients at that time. An ally at the state Medicaid office told Errol to call New Hampshire Legal Assistance.
“(Our advocate) took it on like it was her own problem. She gave me the legal support for me to push as hard as I need to to get Joanne home in an appropriate way at the right time,” Errol said.
“Whatever I have to do for my family, I’ll do it. But unless you’ve got some legal backing, it’s hard to know if you’re doing the right thing. Having legal assistance made me sure I was doing the right thing, and not saying something that could end up proving my case wrong.”
With help from visiting nurses every day, Errol is caring for Joanne at home again. He plans to care for her at home as long as he is able.