Maximizing the MLP Model
Without the Magee Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) and the commitment of LCD pro bono volunteer Lauren Ridley (pictured above with a client), associate at Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP, one young man with a spinal-cord injury might still be living with an uncertain future.
Tom receives services through Magee Rehabilitation Hospital’s Riverfront Outpatient Center where LCD operates a MLP through which he was referred for legal assistance. Initially Tom was denied Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits due to an unstable housing situation. Since Tom was being seen by a Magee case manager and LCD operated an MLP on-site, his Magee case manager identified Tom’s need for legal assistance. Attorneys at LCD immediately met with Tom about his denial of benefits.
As a result of LCD’s pro bono partnership with Lauren’s firm, she agreed to represent Tom. Through this collaboration Lauren worked with LCD Managing Attorney, Esther Miller and Magee’s medical providers to address both his SSI benefits and his need for accessible housing.
“He was basically moving from place to place. When he finally did receive his mail he had missed critical deadlines for his benefits,” Esther explains.
When Lauren took over his case her top priority was expediting approval of his benefits. “Normally when an applicant is initially denied and an appeal is filed, it can take up to a year to have your case heard because there is a large backlog of cases,” said Esther. “Lauren had another option. She requested a decision on the record which bypasses the year wait for a hearing. Tom never would have been able to do this on his own if he had continued to be unrepresented.”
Typically, attorneys representing a SSI client need medical records to prove their case. Attorneys put those requests in writing to the provider. The requests are then directed to a subcontractor who handles all the medical records requests for the provider. However, this is not the case when operating within an MLP. Lauren was able to contact the Magee case manager directly and immediately obtain Tom’s records. These records were essential in speeding up the approval process.
Even with approval of Tom’s SSI benefits, Lauren and Esther saw that their client’s health would remain in jeopardy due to his transient lifestyle. Esther worked with his case manager to push for accessible housing with the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) and his physician to corroborate his need for an accessible housing unit. Lauren forwarded documentation to PHA that his SSI benefits were pending.
“We were able to resolve the case faster because of the MLP model,” said Esther. “Lauren and I could meet with him when he came in for appointments. The MLP is a more holistic approach than legal aid’s traditional practice model of siloing services. If you need SSI, then you have an attorney who only handles SSI matters and may not look at whether housing is an issue as well. At an MLP, we are able to hear more about the client and their situation.”
Now, Tom is living in a subsidized and accessible apartment. Esther credits the MLP at Magee with the positive change in Tom’s life from being income-less couch surfer to a resident with full benefits.