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If You Talk, You Pay

Remember the case of the loose-lipped phlebotomist? It has a happy ending. A few months ago we told you about Leonard, who got his blood drawn at a suburban hospital. He started chatting with the phlebotomist, and it turned out that her nephew worked in the same store as Leonard. A few weeks later, everyone in that store was talking about Leonard’s HIV status. It looked to us like the phlebotomist blabbed about Leonard’s HIV status to her nephew, who then blabbed to co-workers. You can read the original post here. We confirmed our suspicions by talking to the assistant manager at Leonard’s store, who told us that the nephew had indeed disclosed Leonard’s HIV status. And obviously, he could only have learned about it from his aunt. When we first contacted the attorney for the hospital, she said...

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The VA Wises Up

File this one under “You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me, It’s Not 1983 Anymore.” Our client Mark is a disabled veteran. A few years ago he was a raging alcoholic and drug addict. Then he started going to NA and AA meetings every day — yes, every day — for 18 months (hell, I can’t even make my bed every morning). Cleaned up at last, he decided to pursue his life-long dream of becoming a chef. So he signed up for vocational rehabilitation through the Veterans Administration. He began his first semester of culinary school and received all A’s. But a couple weeks ago, one of Mark’s vocational counselors was ready to pull the plug on his employment plan, convinced that a person with HIV shouldn’t work around food. “Would you want someone with HIV cooking your food?” he...

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Another COBRA Success Story

A lot of people think that the only legal cases that matter are the big, headline-garnering lawsuits. But often, a little bit of simple legal assistance can make a huge difference in someone’s life. And it doesn’t come with thousands of dollars in attorneys fees attached. Case in point: a few weeks ago Bill called the Council because he was facing a big problem with his insurance continuation under COBRA. As you probably know, COBRA is a federal law that allows you to continue your employment-based health insurance for at least 18 months after you lose your job, so long as you pay the full premiums yourself. Well, Bill was almost at the end of his 18 months. He had started receiving Social Security when he left his job, but his Medicare wouldn’t start for another 11 months. He...

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Ah, the Heartlessness of the ‘Public Servant’

Just when you thought you’d heard all there is to hear about unfeeling government workers… Our client Doug (not his real name) recently learned he has a Social Security overpayment of about $25,000. He did some part-time work for several years, and Social Security shouldn’t have been paying him benefits for about 24 months, so he has to pay $25,000 back. Social Security, in its infinite wisdom, decided to withhold his entire monthly check for two years to recoup their money, leaving him with no income at all. And believe it or not, Social Security regulations allow this! So Doug went into his local office to ask if there were any other alternative. The Social Security worker said that the best she could do was to give him 36 months to pay back the money. So she divided $25,000...

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Ann Fisher, Queen of the Advocates

I know what you think. You think that executive directors sit around all day in their corner offices eating bon-bons, getting pedicures and telling everyone else what to do. Clearly you haven’t spent much time with Ann Fisher, AIDS Legal Council’s executive director. Consider this story: Four and a half years ago Ann got a call from Sherry (not her real name) whose Social Security check had been cut off. Social Security had received a report of income earned on Sherry’s Social Security number, and since that income was so high she was no longer entitled to her check. The trouble was, Sherry hadn’t done any work. Somehow or other someone stole her Social Security number and was using her name and number to work and file taxes. Such cases aren’t unusual. Often we can contact employers, show them...

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Criminey, They’re Idiots Again

Remember Linda, our client who’s trying to get her Social Security started again? When last we checked in, the (seemingly) helpful supervisor at the local Social Security office informed us that she had spoken to the Payment Center, and Linda would be getting a check in 3 business days. Well, you probably know where this is headed. A week later, Linda had not received a check. So she went into the Social Security office and was told that she must be mistaken. “No one here told your representative that you’d get a check in three days,” they told her. “It will be more like 30 days.” As you might imagine, we got a little hot under the collar when Linda told us what happened. Since then, we’ve left several messages for the once helpful supervisor, none of which she...

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