“Sandra” (not her real name) was referred to MLSA for help when she told her healthcare provider she had unexpectedly lost her Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Her healthcare provider is part of the Montana Health Justice Partnership with MLSA, and screens patients for legal issues that impact their health. Sandra had been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance for approximately 10 years, and while her original diagnosis had changed since she had been approved, she had continual and severe symptoms. Because Sandra’s diagnosis had changed, appealing the benefit termination was complicated. An MLSA attorney went to work to gather the necessary medical records, many of which were over 10 years old and no longer stored at Sandra’s doctors’ offices. The attorney also worked with Sandra to prepare her for her Social Security hearing. At the hearing, Sandra and her attorney won her appeal. Soon, her benefits were reinstated, including back-payment for the months she did not receive her benefits. As she and the attorney left the hearing she remarked “Who knew we could receive this assistance by filling out that weird questionnaire about housing at the doctors?”
The Montana Health Justice Partnership is a collaboration between MLSA, the Montana Primary Care Association, and six Community Health Clinics located throughout Montana. The partnership provides legal assistance to patients in some of Montana’s most vulnerable communities, working to solve legal issues that impact patient health – such as unsafe housing, family violence, and denial of earned benefits.