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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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They’re Still Not All Idiots

Here’s an update on Linda, our client trying to get back on Social Security. You will recall that a few weeks back, we went to a local Social Security office with Linda to try to straighten out the mess they made of her case at a different Social Security office. (Did you know that Social Security allows you to do your business at any local office? Remember that the next time some government flunky tells you that you have to go to the office nearest your home). Linda is trying to get back on benefits through a process called Expedited Reinstatement, which is available to people who lost their benefits due to excessive income but then stop working. Well, the lovely, friendly, patient Social Security representative who met with us straightened everything out, and then sent the file to…(ominous...

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Yet Another Way to Not Get Your HIV Meds

File this one under “Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down” (to quote the 60s soul duo Sam & Dave). You’ve probably heard of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, or ADAP, run by the Illinois Department of Public Health. It provides free HIV medications to financially eligible people in Illinois through a pharmacy service called PharmaCare. It’s a great program, run by friendly, responsible, hard-working people who genuinely care about serving people with HIV. The program even helps people who have private insurance with big copays; if you have 80/20 prescription drug coverage through your work-based health insurance, for example, your 20% drug copays could be a few hundred dollars a month. ADAP can pick up these costs. But in recent months, we at AIDS Legal Council have been contacted by working people caught in an impossible predicament. They have...

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