Civil legal aid advocates help eligible low-income and elderly New Hampshire residents preserve public benefits that stabilize their income and their ability to be contributing members of their local communities and economies. Attorneys and paralegals assist individuals and families with eligibility issues for unemployment compensation, state assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and cash benefits for families, and municipal welfare programs.
Heather's Legal Aid Success Story
Heather is 46 years old and currently lives in the Salem area with her husband and two teenage daughters.
She worked as a licensed certified occupational therapy assistant for more than 15 years. But throughout her life, Heather dealt with increasingly painful menstrual periods. Her pain became so severe her physician recommended a total hysterectomy – but that was not the end of Heather’s struggles.
After the operation, Heather developed post-operative bleeding and other life-threatening complications. She underwent multiple nerve block injections, months of physical therapy and additional surgical procedures without relief. As a result, she now suffers from severe pain, increased with any form of physical activity.
After she exhausted her medical leave, Heather’s employer fired her. It wasn’t long before she and her husband, who works as a security guard, fell behind on the mortgage.
“I couldn’t do anything. I was watching the girls learn to cook, to clean, to be in charge of the house because my husband was picking up extra shifts, and I couldn’t do anything to help. It was a horrible feeling, that helplessness,” Heather says.
Heather applied for Social Security Disability benefits in 2015, but her application was denied.
“It’s a shameful feeling, to go from working and supporting your family to asking for help. I didn’t want to do it, but there’s no way I could do this on my own. We were drowning,” she said.
NHLA represented Heather at her appeal hearing in 2017, and presented new and compelling physician opinions to support Heather’s own testimony about her pain and symptoms. Later that month, almost three years after losing her job, Heather was approved for disability benefits.
“It was a hard, hard day. I was so nervous, it made my pain so much worse. And I’m someone who, when I’m hurting, I don’t want anyone to know. But it was good, really, for the judge to see how bad it is. I was red, I was sweating. It’s horrible, this pain, all the time, but I was so scared, so worried about what might happen if I was denied again, it was worse,” she said.
With NHLA’s help, Heather was granted on-going disability support and awarded a retroactive lump sum of more than $48,000, which she used to pay off the overdue mortgage payments just a few months before the foreclosure auction.
“It’s the only real home my girls have known, and I can’t imagine them losing this, and us losing every bit of equity we had built up and having to start over somewhere,” Heather said. “I just can’t imagine where we’d be without legal aid.”
Horace's Legal Aid Success Story
Horace* graduated from basic training with the military on his 18th birthday.
“I’m just patriotic, I guess. I wanted to serve,” he said, reflecting on his two years in the Air Force and his decision to re-enlist in the National Guard when he returned home to Littleton.
During his time with the Guard, he suffered a back injury that left him with herniated disks, unable to lift much weight, or stand or sit for extended periods of time. It effectively ended his career in construction and trucking.
“They told me I’d be in a wheelchair by the time I hit 60, . . . but when I applied for Social Security, they denied I had a disability,” Horace said.
“I was really at a loss, I didn’t know what to do,” he said.
An NHLA advocate worked with Horace to secure his benefits.
“If it wasn’t for (my advocate) I would still be fighting to get my disability benefits. I wouldn’t have gotten it if she hadn’t directed me through that maze. I never wanted to be rich, but it’s made my life so I can tolerate it. It’s just made such a difference. I’m no longer on food stamps. It gave me back some of my pride.”
*Client name has been changed