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Legal Aid Society: Legal Help Can Restore Lost Public Assistance Benefits (TN)

Legal Aid Society: Legal Help Can Restore Lost Public Assistance Benefits

"Nashville, TN – For Tennesseans who are dependent on public assistance benefits, a difference of $100.00 or $200.00 in their monthly budgets can dramatically affect the way they live.

If their monthly income drops by even a small amount, it can mean that bills don’t get paid and belts have to be tightened, if that’s even possible. In other words, it’s an emergency.

At Legal Aid Society, we work with many Tennesseans, some of them elderly, who encounter problems accessing benefits that they rely upon for daily living, such as Social Security, SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also referred to as food stamps) and Medicare.
Often, when one benefit is disrupted for some reason, it can create a domino effect that interrupts other benefits.

That’s what happened to one client we worked with this past year. Annette Powell, 74, is a Nashville native who retired from a 25-year career as a switchboard operator at two area hospitals.

Annette is enrolled in SNAP, which provides her $16.00 a month on top of her regular Social Security payment. Each year, SNAP recipients have to complete and send in a new application. Some elderly people have problems filling out the application correctly; others misplace it or claim they never received it. In Annette’s case, she tried to use her SNAP card at the grocery store and it was declined.

“I was really too embarrassed to even talk about it,” she said. “I didn’t understand why it happened and didn’t know how to explain it to other people. I’m still not quite sure what happened.” We learned from the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) that Annette had been eligible for SNAP and had a balance on her card, but had recently lost her benefits because DHS had not received a new application.

In talking to Annette, we also learned that her Social Security benefits had also been cut and she did not know why. We have seen many seniors who have had their Social Security benefits reduced because TennCare has cut them off the Medicare Savings Program (MSP). MSP assists low-income people with Medicare costs, including Medicare Part B premiums and sometimes Medicare deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance for Medicare Part A and Part B. We learned that Annette had also lost her MSP help..."

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Topics:
  • Public Benefits
  • Pro Bono/Legal Services