Efforts of VISTA increase LAF’s service of veteran clients

LAF is committed to helping the veterans of our community through our Veterans Rights Project. Jack Brewer, the Americorps VISTA in LAF’s Public Benefits Group, has spent the past year dedicating his time to make sure free legal services are more accessible to the veteran population of Cook County. His efforts have been instrumental to serve this vulnerable and valuable group of individuals.

In spring of 2013, LAF developed a free legal clinic for former and current military service members. The clinic is staffed with attorneys who can guide clients through the process of obtaining disability benefits and pensions, upgrading their discharge status, and access to all of our other services. The clinic is located at 1141 S California Avenue which is conveniently right down the street from the Jesse Brown VA medical center, with a shuttle running back and forth. Many veterans who come to the LAF clinic are desperate and feel like they have run into brick wall after brick wall. The staff at the Veterans clinic show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to Jack, the clinic has served double the amount of clients this year, than in past years.

jackIt has been very rewarding for Jack to see the clinic lift individuals and their families out of poverty: “I think it’s great that we are able to connect veterans with legal advice and give them a remedy that can change the course of their lives. Most clients can receive up to $2500 a month, with these benefits they are no longer living in poverty. That’s huge.’

Jack shared a specific story about a client who had a discharge status of other than honorable, when he deserved a general discharge. He had spent years trying to get this fixed. It wasn’t stopping him from getting any benefits, but it was disheartening to him. He was immensely grateful that Jack was able to get his discharge status corrected for him.

Please help us to continue helping veterans and their families by supporting LAF in this year’s Veterans Charity Challenge, which kicks off today. LAF has a chance to win an additional grant of up to $10,000 if we are one of the top three charities.  You can make a donation to our fundraising page here.

Jack and the rest of our staff are grateful for the Veterans of our community, and we are all honored we get to serve them and help them get their lives back on track!

Medical-Legal Partnership Program

After months of work, we are proud to announce the launch of a Medical-Legal Clinic with our partners at Howard Brown Health Center and AIDS Legal Council of Chicago.

Many people living in poverty face both civil legal issues and ongoing medical problems, which can often exacerbate the other.   Michelle Wetzel, Howard Brown’s Senior VP of Policy, Strategy, and Business Development explained: “For those experiencing eviction or having their electricity shut off, having to choose between paying your bills or paying for your medicine is a dilemma that no one should have to face. And we know that choosing the former can have disastrous health consequences. Having the medical-legal clinic in-house gives our providers the resource to help their patients meet these challenges.”

“Working on site [at Howard Brown’s Sheridan location, where the clients are] will allow us to develop strong relationships with clinic participants in an environment that is comfortable and supportive. And through robust collaboration and relying on each other’s strengths, LAF and ALCC are committed to working together to provide the highest-quality legal advice and legal representation possible,” said Diana White, Executive Director of LAF.

And Ruth Edwards, HIV Project Director and Senior Attorney at ALCC, emphasized that this clinic has incredible potential. “We are confident that this program will strengthen and grow, ensuring that no one falls through the gaps. We believe that everyone deserves equal access to legal assistance.”

The goal of this program is to address the underlying legal issues that can cause health problems for people living in poverty like so many of LAF’s clients, and LAF is proud to partner with the teams at Howard Brown Health Center and AIDS Legal Council of Chicago to make equal justice a reality and work together to break the cycle of poverty.

Americorps VISTA Service Opportunity

LAF has an exciting opportunity for an AmeriCorps VISTA to fill the position of Health Care Access Outreach Coordinator. In this position the VISTA will work with the Director of the Public Benefits Practice Group to increase the number of low-income people meaningfully accessing healthcare through the ACA and Medicaid by increasing health insurance literacy in Cook County and helping identify and strategizing to address specific obstacles to literacy/access identified in our region. In addition, the VISTA will aid in protecting health insurance coverage for Medicaid recipients by increasing awareness of Medicaid redetermination, utilization control, and other initiatives and educating the community and social service providers about legal rights to continued access to health care.

Job description: LAF’s Health Care Access Outreach Coordinator VISTA will conduct outreach and community education on health care insurance availability, eligibility, use of benefits and maintaining benefits; educate low-income communities and those who serve them about the eligibility, enrollment, redetermination, and managed care to improve health insurance literacy and appropriate health insurance use, informing them of their legal rights in order to improve their continued access to health care; and improve health care insurance enrollment processes, eligibility redetermination processes and managed care delivery processes by identifying problems and assisting in formulation of recommendations to address them.

Qualifications: 

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Good writing skills
  • Comfortable with community outreach and public speaking
  • Background with public benefits and Medicaid preferred
  • Excellent organizational skills

Other Considerations:  AmeriCorps VISTA members earn a living stipend at the local poverty level. This is a 365-day position, with the possibility of extension or renewal of up to one year. Individuals are not able to hold another paying position while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA, but are able to pursue education as long as it does not interfere with service responsibilities and is approved by a supervisor.

Program Benefits: A living allowance ($1,026/month), choice of Education Award ($5,730) or End of Service Stipend ($1,500) upon successful completion of service, childcare assistance if eligible, health coverage, life insurance, relocation allowance, and professional development opportunities. In addition, LAF provides a monthly transit pass and a $200/month rental supplement.

Term of service: July 20, 2015 to July 19, 2016. The exact start date will be determined by the AmeriCorps VISTA program.

To Apply: Submit a VISTA application through the MyAmeriCorps website by Tuesday, May 12th. If technical troubles with the website arise, please email dkresse@lafchicago.org.  This position will be filled by an AmeriCorps VISTA member. To qualify for AmeriCorps VISTA, you must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident.

April 2015 eNewsletter

LAF’s clients come in all shapes and sizes.  Many are college-educated or homeowners or veterans.  Most don’t think of themselves as the sort of people who would ever need services like LAF’s.  But when they come to us, most are at the end of their ropes and don’t know where else to turn, like Josefina, whose story you can read in this month’s eNewsletter. Indeed, recent research shows that more than half of public assistance, like food stamps and Medicaid, goes to working families – people with minimum wage jobs who just can’t make ends meet and need help.  LAF is here to level the playing field and get that help for our clients, to find stability, safety, and security through the legal system.
As always, on behalf of the staff, the Board, the YPB, and all the clients we serve here at LAF, thank you for your generosity and support of our work.  You can continue that support by making a tax-deductible donation today, or reading more about LAF’s work in this month’s eNewsletter.

Half of Public Assistance Goes to Working Families

It is a common misconception that individuals who receive public benefits don’t work and solely rely on the government to support them and their families. At LAF, we know this is not the case. According to new research from The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, which you can read more about in this New York Times piece, more than half of funding from public programs goes to working families who still do not make enough money to independently support themselves.

welfareThis report studied the cost of public benefits in all 50 states, for the four major areas of benefits, which include Medicaid, Cash Assistance, Earned Income Tax Credits, and Food Stamps. They discovered that in every one of these areas of benefits, at least 56% funding went to working families.

Even with the improving economy, wages and benefits have been at a standstill for most American workers. This is not only a problem for these individuals who cannot support their families, but also for the federal and state governments, whose budgets are strained with the responsibility to care for their citizens, and the taxpayers who must support these costly and necessary programs. This vicious cycle will continue to occur as low-wage workers continue to struggle to make ends meet. The truth is, most people who receive benefits are working, they’re just not making enough to survive in our economy.

LAF’s Public Benefits Practice Group is familiar with these issues and the stigma that goes along with them. At LAF, our attorneys help their clients receive the benefits they are entitled to, including Food Stamps, cash assistance, Medicaid, Social Security benefits, Crime Victims compensations, and Veterans Benefits. Our clients often come to us in desperation, feeling like they have used up all other options and are relying on our help for survival.

Sponsor in the Spotlight: Veritext Legal Solutions

As we planned out this sponsor highlight series for Justice is Served 2015, we asked our YPB members to tell us the most memorable thing they’ve done with LAF.  Today’s sponsor in the spotlight, Veritext Legal Solutions, is represented by one of our best – and most humble – YPB members. Elizabeth Lewis, a National Account Manager with Veritext, is the heart, soul and brains behind our party planning operations on the YPB.

Simply put, events like Justice is Served would never be as polished or as fun as they are, if Elizabeth wasn’t helping to plan them.  And yet, ever unwilling to claim the credit she deserves, Elizabeth wrote us back: “I support LAF because everyone is entitled to equal justice and access to legal representation to protect their rights.  As far as the most memorable thing, though, I don’t really have anything good here because I can’t do any of the lawyerly stuff (pro bono cases, etc.)…all I do is help throw parties and go golfing.”

To which we say, the parties and the golfing make the lawyerly stuff happen.  Thank you Elizabeth for all of your terrific work on our behalf, and a big thank you to Veritext for supporting us, and all of the wonderful things Elizabeth makes possible as a leader on our YPB.

elizabeth

Elizabeth Lewis with LAF Governing Board member and Justice is Served Guest Emcee Flip Corboy.