Public benefits play a vital role in the lives of thousands of Washington state residents living on low incomes. But applying for and maintaining them can be incredibly complicated and confusing – even for veteran case managers, outreach workers, and mutual aid volunteers.
That’s why Solid Ground teamed up with the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness and REACH to develop new resources aimed at helping service providers navigate public benefits programs and get their clients the support they need. The initiative includes a series of free webinars called Public Benefits Are Key! and a hotline and email service called Ask a Lawyer that case managers can use when they need advice.
“The idea is to reach folks with guidance and advice earlier on, so they don’t end up in a situation where they need help from a lawyer.” ~Benefits Attorney Hannah Rosenberger
Both programs are supported by Solid Ground’s Benefits Legal Assistance (BLA), which for more than 20 years has helped hundreds of individuals and families who’ve been denied or cut off from the state public benefits they need to survive. Benefits Attorney Hannah Rosenberger says BLA’s new initiatives are aimed at reaching even more people by supporting caseworkers at agencies across Washington.
“The idea is to reach folks with guidance and advice earlier on, so they don’t end up in a situation where they need help from a lawyer,” she says.
Too often, people who need and deserve public benefits support encounter steep eligibility requirements, confounding paperwork, and other barriers – some of them insurmountable. Join us for an in-person community conversation about how we can untangle our safety net and make it accessible for everyone who needs it.
Piloted last spring and summer, the Public Benefits Are Key! training sessions started with a webinar on the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD) and Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) programs, which drew more than 150 advocates and case managers. About 60 people attended a second webinar on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and a third looked at Medicaid and Medicare.
“We’ve gotten really positive feedback,” Hannah says. “People are saying it’s helpful, that they didn’t know a lot of the information.”
Each session examines the eligibility requirements for each program, the documentation required to prove eligibility, and the reporting required to prevent someone’s benefits being cut off. Trainers cover common pitfalls that people often get caught up on during the application process and tips for how case managers can troubleshoot them.
One tip that Hannah shares during training sessions is related to medical documents required for ABD. Instead of requesting documents from a hospital and waiting weeks or months for them to arrive, Hannah suggests caseworkers help their clients log into a digital patient portal, like MyChart, so the client can download the documents themselves. “It helps people get access to benefits much, much sooner,” she says. Back by popular demand – and because the content is so useful – BLA is repeating the series this fall.
Upcoming Series: Public Benefits Are Key!
All webinars run from 1:30-3:30pm:
- Th, 10/27/22: TANF Training for Service Providers
- W, 11/16/22: Medicare Savings Program & Spenddowns Training for Service Providers
In addition to the webinars, Ask a Lawyer is a resource caseworkers and others can lean on when helping clients apply for or maintain their benefits. Solid Ground Benefits Attorneys answer questions about eligibility, client rights when dealing with DSHS, the application or appeals process, and more. To get help, email email@example.com with “Ask a Lawyer” in the subject line or call 206.694.6742.
Public Benefits Are Key! and Ask a Lawyer are funded by King County Department of Community and Human Services through October 2023. Questions? Please contact Solid Ground Benefits Attorney Hannah Rosenberger at firstname.lastname@example.org.