Janet* knows firsthand that life can change in a split second. Several years ago she and her young daughter were in a severe car accident. Janet’s daughter walked away from the scene without injury, but Janet faced severe injuries to her brain and body that left her in the hospital for months.
Months later, Janet underwent an extensive neuro evaluation to determine the full extent of her brain injury. Hoping to return to college to finish her education, Janet was crushed when the doctor informed her that would not be possible. Work was not an option either as she faced difficulties with memory and sight. Janet’s mom stepped in to help, keeping track of Janet’s doctors and documents, all while encouraging Janet to apply for disability benefits. When she tragically lost her mom, Janet applied for disability benefits only to be denied multiple times.
“It is hard for me mentally to even complete the documents and forms. I get frustrated and confused. It’s a really long process and I did the best I could, but it wasn’t enough. My mom was my memory; she helped me keep track of my doctors and information, but she wasn’t there anymore.”
CareRing, a health-service nonprofit helping Janet with her medications and medical insurance, referred her to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. Janet connected with Health Insurance Navigator, Abigail Duemler, who served as a resource when Janet became increasingly frustrated that she was unable to receive the services she needed. After her application was denied again, Janet and Abigail appealed the denial and the decision was finally reversed, providing Janet critical health insurance under Medicaid for Disability.
“[Having access to the benefits I need and at a lower cost] has put me in a better place mentally. I don’t have to worry as much.”
Janet said using her own voice to describe how the accident affected her life during the appeal helped them understand why she needed Medicaid for Disability in a way that words on a paper had not.
“It’s hard for someone to understand what I go through every day, but when I can talk to someone and explain [how my life has been impacted], they get it.”
Abigail’s help gave Janet the extra encouragement and knowledge needed to get through the long process. Janet explains, “I knew what I needed to do [to apply for Medicaid with Disability], but not entirely. [Abigail] helped me so much.” For Janet, the process was long and exhausting, but her main takeaway was to not give up. “It was the extra push and motivation I needed to know someone was behind me, helping me through the process.”
Janet’s experience is just one example of how Medical Legal Partnerships, such as that between CareRing and the Advocacy Center, are central to helping community members. Medical Legal Partnerships form when health care organizations work alongside public interest law organizations to serve their community, playing a crucial role in addressing the needs of people who cannot otherwise afford health or legal services.
Janet is still awaiting a disability approval on her Social Security case, but with the positive ruling of her Medicaid case there is hope. She looks optimistically to the future, and proudly shares how well her daughter is doing in school. “It’s taken awhile but my life has finally turned around to where I want it to be. I’ve learned to deal with [the lasting effects of my car accident] and managing my pain. I’m really happy now.”
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*Name changed for anonymity