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New Program Provides Free Legal Assistance to Seniors

Friday, December 16, 2005

  • Organization: New York State Bar Association

This article is reprinted from the Winter 2005 edition of the New York State Bar Association's Pro Bono News

Seniors across the state now have a new resource for help with legal matters. On December 1, the New York Seniors Legal Assistance Project (NYSLA) began offering free assistance to seniors. This Project is made possible by a generous grant from the federal Administration on Aging and is hosted by Legal Services for the Elderly (LSE) and the City Bar Justice Center (CBJC), both based in New York City. The New York State Bar Association support of the grant request was critical to our success in obtaining the grant.

LSE and CBJC together have more than a hundred years' experience delivering legal services to needy New Yorkers. LSE specializes in issues affecting seniors, using a range of delivery models, from traditional neighborhood storefront methods to hosting statewide projects, including the Mid-Atlantic Pension Counseling Project, an Administration on Aging-funded program. CBJC, the legal services arm of the New York City Bar, has expertise in both hotline and direct representation services, a history of innovative partnerships, many of which serve seniors, and a cadre of volunteer attorneys eager to undertake pro bono opportunities.

NYSLA will offer advice and shorter services on legal issues that most commonly affect low-income seniors: health care issues (including the new Medicare drug plans); income security issues (Social Security and other benefits); advance directives (living wills, health care proxies, living wills, and other wills, and powers of attorney); consumer issues (bankruptcy and debt collection); nursing home transition issues; and other elder law issues (such as guardianships). NYSLA expects that, in the first six months of operation, the bulk of clients will have questions about Medicare Part D and that staff will spend considerable time assisting clients in selecting Part D plans and in explaining the interplay of Part D benefits with other prescription drug programs.

The Project was designed to supplement the services available from legal services agencies serving low-income seniors across the state by handling the advice or shorter-service cases, thus freeing up local legal services agencies to provide more extended representation. Priority will be given to lower-income clients and clients who face barriers to obtaining legal relief without assistance, such as callers with limited-English skills or personal factors such as fear and stress, frailty and ill health, absence of support mechanisms, living alone, and mobility restrictions.

NYSLA's services will be available by telephone to all seniors in the state, regardless of income and resource levels. Calls from outside New York City will be toll-free. The number within New York City is (646) 442-3333 and outside the five boroughs is (866) 382-7955. The Project will operate from 10 a. m. to 1 p. m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays.

NYSLA seeks volunteer attorneys, particularly to provide assistance with requests for advance directives and with Medicare Part D appeals. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Luz Laulo, Project Coordinator, at CLE credit is available for pro bono activities.

Ann Biddle is the Deputy Director of Legal Services for the Elderly, and Alice Morey is the Managing Attorney at City


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