MLRI Basic Public Benefits Advocacy Trainings

A series of 12 trainings for legal, social and health services, and community advocates who assist low and moderate-income individuals and families.

MCLE and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) are collaborating to make annual basic public benefits advocacy training more accessible to the many public and private sector individuals and lawyers who assist Massachusetts residents in qualifying for and receiving public benefits.

2017–2018 BASIC PUBLIC BENEFITS ADVOCACY TRAINING SERIES


 

1. Assisting Families Experiencing Homelessness to Access and Retain Emergency Assistance & Benefits
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
9:30 am–2:30 pm

This program focuses on strategies to assist families experiencing homelessness in accessing and retaining shelter, short-term housing, and services from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Trainers provide an overview of the Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter and services program, including current restrictions on access to EA shelter. The training also includes advocacy tips regarding the range of issues facing families at-risk or experiencing homelessness as they seek access to EA shelter and the HomeBASE program. The training includes an overview of the system, the application process, denials, terminations, shelter placements, and program requirements. This training is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, and community activists who want to learn about the nuts-and-bolts of the EA system and the HomeBASE program.

Faculty:
Kelly B. Turley, MSW, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Lynn
Elizabeth Alfred, Esq., Community Legal Aid, Worcester

Training materials include the most recent edition of the Emergency Assistance Advocacy Guide: A Guide to Emergency Shelter and Rehousing Services for Homeless Families with Children in Massachusetts; relevant DHCD policy notices; and statewide listings for DHCD offices, non-EA-funded community rooms, legal services offices, etc.

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2. SSI & SSDI Basics
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
9:30 am–4:00 pm

Social Security disability programs continue to be a major source of cash and health benefits for individuals with disabilities. However, dealing with a large federal agency can be daunting and overwhelming, especially for an unrepresented claimant. The program begins with an overview of the two disability-based cash benefits programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), with emphasis on eligibility requirements and procedures, including basic disability eligibility standards and non-disability issues such as income, resources, and non-citizen criteria. The faculty provide an explanation of the evidence submission and evaluation rules revised in 2015 and in 2017, followed by an overview of the appeals process for disability applications, including recent revisions. Concluding the program is a review of post-entitlement issues, with special emphasis on the work incentive rules and benefit overpayments. The training is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice who are thinking of representing clients before SSA, social and health workers, and community advocates.

Faculty:
Linda L. Landry, Esq., Disability Law Center, Inc., Boston
Svetlana Uimenkova, Esq., Disability Law Center, Inc., Boston

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3. New Developments in TAFDC, Massachusetts’ Cash Assistance Program for Families
Thursday, December 14, 2017
9:30 am–4:00 pm

This training is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, and community activists who want to learn about the latest changes in TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children)—the cash assistance program for families. An overview of program rules and information about recent changes is provided. There are also sessions on disability protections, dealing with the time limit and work requirement, and child care.

Faculty:
Deborah Harris, Esq., Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), Boston
Sarah Levy, Esq., Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), Boston
Naomi Meyer, Esq., GBLS, Boston
Lisa Bradley, Paralegal, GBLS, Boston
Lizbeth Ginsburg, Esq., GBLS, Boston
Melanie Malherbe, Esq., GBLS, Boston

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4. State & Federal Veterans Benefits
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
9:30 am–2:00 pm

This training is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, veterans’ lay advocates, legislative aides, and anyone else who wants to learn about the basics of state and federal veterans’ benefits. The training covers benefits under M.G.L. c. 115 (administered by the Massachusetts Department of Veterans' Services), and federal benefits for healthcare, service-connected disability compensation, and non-service-connected pensions (administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs). The session covers the basic application process, eligibility rules for veterans (military discharge status, financial eligibility, disqualifying conditions, refund status), and the disability requirements for benefits. It also covers the basics of filing an appeal and upgrading a less than honorable discharge.

Faculty:
Anna Schleelein Richardson, Esq., Co-Director, Veterans Legal Services, Boston
Steven Connor, Director, Central Hampshire Veterans Services, Amherst
Dan Nagin, Esq., Clinical Professor and Vice Dean of Experiential and Clinical Education, Veterans Legal Clinic, Legal Services Center and Veterans Clinic at Harvard Law School, Cambridge
Dana Montalto, Esq. and Betsy Gwin, Esq., Legal Services Center and Veterans Clinic at Harvard Law School, Cambridge

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5. SNAP/Food Stamps 101 Advocacy
Thursday, January 25, 2018
9:30 am–12:15 pm

The federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) remains the first line of defense against hunger for thousands of Massachusetts residents. Families and individuals often struggle with getting their SNAP applications and recertifications approved. Collecting all the required proofs, and having the required phone interview, can be overwhelming for an unrepresented household. Some of the most challenging cases involve the rules for immigrant-headed households as well as the rules impacting childless individuals ages 18 to 50. Households headed by elders and persons with disability often struggle to get all the verifications needed to maximize their benefits. This training is designed for participants who need the basic rules and advocacy tips including new legal services and community advocates, lawyers in private practice, and social and health services workers. It includes an overview of the federal Food Stamp/SNAP program, an update of any changes to SNAP made at the federal and state levels during 2017, and an in-depth look at the nuts and bolts of SNAP eligibility, benefits calculation, on-line tools, trouble shooting and appeal rights.

Training materials include the 2018 Food Stamp/SNAP Advocacy Guide: An Advocate’s Guide to the Food Stamp/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Massachusetts.

Faculty:
Patricia J. Baker, MLRI, Boston
Vicky Negus, MLRI, Boston and others TBA

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6. Tenants’ Rights in Massachusetts
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
9:30 am–3:30 pm

This training is for community and lay advocates, mediators, housing and legal advocates, and others interested in having a better understanding of tenants’ rights in Massachusetts. The training focuses on tenants rights before moving in, security deposit and last month rent issues, dealing with utilities both before and during a tenancy, getting repairs made, and defending against an eviction. While the eviction process part of the program applies to all tenants, the training focuses primarily on rights of tenant in private housing. Materials include a copy of the new, 2017 edition of Legal Tactics: Tenants Rights in Massachusetts.

Faculty:
Jennifer Bosco, Esq., Staff Attorney, National Consumer Law Center Inc (NCLC), Boston
Julia E. Devanthery, Esq., Attorney and Clinical Instructor, Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, Jamaica Plain
Annette R. Duke, Esq., Staff Attorney & Director of Housing Publications, MLRI, Boston
Maureen E. McDonagh, Esq., Managing Attorney Director, Housing Law Clinic, Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, Jamaica Plain
Lauren Song, Esq., GBLS, Boston
Patricia Whiting, Esq., Senior Clinical Instructor, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Cambridge

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7. Health Care Access Programs
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
9:30 am–4:00 pm

This training is designed to help attendees keep abreast of the many recent changes to Medicaid and other subsidized health programs affecting people under age 65. This program provides an overview of the eligibility requirements for MassHealth, ConnectorCare and other programs and the process for applying and enrolling in coverage. It also provides an update on the status of efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act and any resulting changes to health access in Massachusetts in 2018.

Additionally, this program reviews the way MassHealth beneficiaries obtain access to covered services including changes in the delivery of MassHealth services by new Accountable Care Organizations. Trainers also supply troubleshooting tips for resolving common eligibility and access to service problems. This training is designed for new advocates but is also helpful for experienced advocates looking for a review and update.

Faculty:
Neil F. Cronin, MLRI, Boston
Suzanne Curry, Health Care for All, Boston
Hannah Frigand, Health Care for All, Boston;
Nancy Lorenz, Esq, GBLS, Boston
Victoria Pulos, Esq., MLRI, Boston

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8. Income Maximization for the Working Poor (Families and Individuals)
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
9:15 am–1:15 pm

This session is an overview focusing on various supplemental benefits and assistance programs which help working families and individuals to maximize their income and reduce their expenses. The first part is presented in a lecture format and the second part utilizes small break-out groups and case hypotheticals. This training is designed as an overview of benefits. The subject areas are quite broad and this is not an in-depth analysis of any particular program. This training is for new and experienced legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, and community activists who want to learn about or get an update on this subject in order to help their clients.

Faculty:
Ellen J. Shachter, Esq., Cambridge & Somerville Legal Services, Cambridge
Laura R. Gallant, Esq., Northeast Justice Center, Lynn

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9. Immigrants & Public Benefits
Thursday, March 8, 2018
9:30 am–4:00 pm

This all-day training offers the nuts-and-bolts on how immigration status affects eligibility for benefits for non-citizen immigrants and refugees. The trainers include both immigration lawyers and legal experts in different public benefit programs. It covers basic information about immigrants in Massachusetts, how immigration status affects public benefits in general and an overview of the most commonly seen types of immigration status and documents. It also includes a “know your rights” session for community organizations to address fears among immigrants whom they serve, and briefly covers language access issues. Experts in different benefits focus on the immigrant eligibility rules in specific programs including the TAFDC, EAEDC and SSI cash assistance programs, the SNAP (food stamps) program, MassHealth and other subsidized health programs and state and federal subsidized housing programs.

This training is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, and community advocates.

Faculty:
Patricia J. Baker, MLRI, Boston
Emily Leung, Esq., MLRI, Boston
Iris Gomez, Esq., MLRI, Boston
Judith Liben, Esq., MLRI, Boston
Victoria Pulos, Esq., MLRI, Boston
Teresita Ramos, Esq., MLRI, Boston

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10. CORI: Basics of the Law for Community Providers & Legal Aid Advocates
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
9:30 am–12:15 pm

This seminar provides an overview of the basics of the law pertaining to criminal offender record information (CORI) and updates on the law. This includes changes in the legal standard for sealing of cases in court as a result of a Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) case in 2014, decriminalization of marijuana, and occupational licensing requirements such as those that resulted in massive firings of Uber and other transportation network drivers.

Massachusetts keeps “CORI” on every individual who has a criminal case in a Massachusetts state court. CORI is recorded and kept on file even if the underlying case is ultimately dismissed or the accused is found not guilty. CORI is used in screening processes by employers, landlords, government agencies, and others. Clients with criminal records face barriers to employment, housing, benefits and other opportunities for economic stability.

This training is for legal services advocates, lawyers in private practice, social and health services workers, and community activists who want to learn or get a refresher course on the basics of CORI.

Faculty:
Pauline Quirion, Esq., GBLS, Boston
Steve Russo, Esq., Director of The Eastern Region Legal Intake (ERLI) Volunteer Lawyers Project, Boston
Agapi Koulouris, Esq., Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS)
James Mac McCreight, Esq., GBLS, Boston

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11. Unemployment Insurance: Helping Out-of-Work Clients Navigate the Unemployment System
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
1:00 pm–4:30 pm

Unemployment insurance (UI) is a critical safety net during periods of joblessness. This seminar provides you with the expertise you need to understand the UI system and to help your clients get the UI benefits to which they are legally entitled. Our expert panel guides you through the entire UI system from eligibility criteria through the appeals process. (Unemployed workers often cannot afford to retain professional services in pursuing their claims, so if you are a non-legal services attorney, you can register to assist someone in need of help, and in doing so, qualify for reduced tuition.) Training materials include the most recent edition of the Unemployment Advocacy Guide: An Advocate’s Guide to Unemployment in Massachusetts.

This training is co-sponsored by MLRI, GBLS, the Volunteer Lawyers Project, and the Labor and Employment Section of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

Faculty:
Margaret E. Monsell, Esq., MLRI, Boston
and others TBA

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12. Elder Benefits Programs
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
9:30 am–4:30 pm

In these hard times, elders in Massachusetts depend on a variety of benefits programs to meet their income and health needs. These include income supplement programs, retirement benefits, home-based care services, and health care programs. This program provides legal services advocates, lawyers, and paralegals in private practice, social and health services workers, and community activists with an overview and basic knowledge of the resources available to elders, with an emphasis on program criteria relevant to elders and how to navigate the complexities across programs.

Faculty:
Neil Cronin, MLRI, Boston
Donna McCormick, Esq., GBLS, Boston
Rachel Brown, Esq., Community Legal Aid, Worcester
Jan Stiefel, Esq., Community Legal Aid, Northampton
Svetlana Uimenkova, Esq., Disability Law Center, Boston

Click here to register

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