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News from LRS - October 2011
News from LRS is the monthly newsletter from the Ohio Legal Rights Services (LRS) providing information and updates about case work and activities of LRS, and other disability-related news.
In this issue:
- LRS Election Day Voter Hotline
- Self Advocates want jobs
- Medicaid spend-down miscalculations
- Action and results: Case summaries
- LRS' priorities for FFY 2012 now available
- Last chance to register for housing conference
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On Election Day if your voting rights are challenged based on disability, or your polling location is not accessible, call the LRS Voter Hotline between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. at 614-466-7264 or 1-800-282-9181; (TTY) 614-728-2553 or 1-800-858-3542. If you have questions prior to Election Day, call our Intake department during its regular business hours between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the same phone numbers.
LRS also provides information about voter rights and assistance on its website and through its Voter Alert email list. For example, LRS' online publication, Voter Rights and Assistance, provides information on issues often experienced by people with disabilities at polling places, such as voter identification requirements, poll worker challenges, assistance with casting a ballot, polling place accessibility, voter assistance and what to do if you believe your right to vote is being violated. This and other resources are available in the Voting section of the LRS website.
Reminder about in-person absentee voting changes
The Ohio Secretary of State issued an advisory (PDF file) that includes a change with in-person absentee voting. If you return your absentee ballot in person, it must be delivered to your county board of elections no later than 6:00 p.m. on Friday, November 4, 2011. The deadline did not change for returning your ballot by mail. Absentee ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than the day before Election Day and received by your county board of elections no later than 10 days after the election.
If you have not requested an absentee ballot form yet, you must request one from your county board of elections or download one from the Ohio Secretary of State website. This is different from in the past when many counties automatically mailed absentee ballot request forms to its registered voters. Applications by mail for absentee ballots must be received by your county board of elections by noon on November 5.
Sign-up for LRS' Voter Alerts
Use the form below to sign-up to receive Voter Alerts from LRS. The alerts are sent during the weeks leading up to an election.
Self advocates in Athens and Toledo told People First of Ohio that they want real jobs and those who have good jobs told others what worked for them.
More than 30 people came to the second People First Employment Forum in Athens, and more than 100 came to the third one in Toledo. Like the kick-off forum in St. Louisville (see People First Kicks Off Its Employment "Call to Action"), these forums were put together and run by Tonya, Sarah and Kyle of the Licking County People First Chapter.
Each session begins with a reading of the People First "Employment Call to Action." This is followed by LRS talking about employment rights, the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (RSC) explaining its employment services and local agencies providing information about their employment services. Afterward, self advocates talk about their work experiences, their employment hopes and dreams and ask questions that are answered by self advocates or agency staff.
People First will use the information gathered from the employment forums to develop recommendations for policy makers and legislators.
In sharp contrast to the first People First employment forum in St. Louisville, all self advocates at the Athens forum had jobs in the community, and several had long careers with their company.
The president of the Athens Chapter of People First spoke about the job he has successfully and happily worked at for the past seven years at a local plant. He stated that opportunities should be open to any person with a disability who wants to work, and that no one should be excluded from working. He also said that many people with disabilities are bullied and pushed around, and noted that people should not put up with such abuse or violation of their rights.
PersonnelPlus staff spoke on how the agency had moved from a social service model to a business model. The agency has success assisting people to open their own businesses, including help with finding a market and advertising the business. The agency also has a Summer Youth Employment Program for high school students. PersonnelPlus was mentored by Diagnostic Hybrids, a successful business that recruits qualified workers, including people with disabilities. The agency developed a business advisory council, joined the Chamber of Commerce and built relationships with area businesses. Its services are based on person-centered planning and range from basic life skills; to pre-employment skills like interviewing, resume writing and skills needed to keep a job; to job placement and coaching; and when needed, long term supports. PersonnelPlus services are an alternative to those provided by the county board developmental disabilities (DD) workshop.
Staff from Bridges To Transition also spoke about the importance of services for transition-age youth. The Bridges project is in its third year of a five-year grant funded by RSC and the Ohio Association of County Boards of DD. Bridges staff assist youth with transition planning, career counseling and exploration, training and coaching.
The Ability Center in Toledo was packed with over 100 people who talked about jobs and shared their experiences, wants and needs for employment. Time ran out on this lively and well-attended discussion.
Staff from the county board of DD's Lott Industries talked about employment services. Lott Industries has an enclave with crews of workers with disabilities and vocational trainers. Other teams work in a variety of places in the community with supervision. Lott also works with people who want community jobs, and those who are interested in setting up micro enterprises. Lott has assisted people in starting up businesses like lawn care, filmmaking and calligraphy where a person creates and sells greeting cards and invitations.
A number of people talked about their community jobs, and why they were successful. One person noted that she started out at an agency as a client. She showed her skills and abilities and was hired by the agency.
Although some success stories were shared, many others told about barriers and problems they continue to experience. People who attend the county board of DD workshop complained that work only lasts a couple weeks and does not pay much. One woman stated that she has been at the workshop for 14 years, but she and others get checks that don't show how hard they work. Another person stated that her friends work as hard as she does, but when they compare checks, the amounts are different. Another woman said that staff give her the "cold shoulder" in planning meetings when she says she wants to work in the community. Another person who goes to a day habilitation program said she asks every day to work in the community.
People mentioned other problems. One person complained that her guardian would not let her leave the workshop to get a job she wants. Another person noted that she lost her food assistance when she went to work and when she lost her job her food assistance was still cut. Another person said that sometimes people are set up to fail.
Next forum: November 3 in Sidney
People First is getting the information it hoped it would by holding forums across the state, and hearing from people who have very different work experiences. The fourth employment forum will be held in Shelby County on November 3, 2011, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Join self advocates at S&H Products, 435 S. Stolle Avenue in Sidney.
If you are not able to go to a forum, you can still be part of People First's Call to Action. Call 740-397-6100, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your ideas will be added to the plan and recommendations to increase jobs in communities, and assure that people with disabilities are paid fair wages.
Some county job and family services (JFS) offices have mistakenly used an old version of a deeming calculator to determine a person's spend-down amount from the Medicaid Aged, Blind and Disabled (ABD) program. This has resulted in a substantially higher spend-down amount for many people than if the correct calculator was used. For example, LRS received a call from a client who was told her spend-down amount was over $3,000 which seemed too high. LRS met with a representative of the client's county JFS office and the representative determined that the office was using an outdated version of the calculator. The client's spend-down was redone using the correct version which determined a much lower spend-down amount of $362.
Deeming is the process to identify whether the income of other people who live in your house who are not eligible for Medicaid should be considered with your income, such as a spouse or a parent. JFS uses deeming calculators to figure any spend-down where deeming of income is involved. Results from using the calculator may reduce or even eliminate the spend-down amount for some beneficiaries.
If your spend-down has changed or seems too high you should contact your county JFS office and verify that the correct version of the calculator was used. You can also contact the LRS Intake department for assistance.
Appropriate waiver services allow client to move back into the community
A client was living in a nursing facility but wanted to move back into his apartment. He needed services and supports to live in the community, so he applied for the Ohio Home Care waiver. Although he met all eligibility requirements, his application was denied because the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) concluded that his health and welfare could not be assured while receiving waiver services. Detesting life in an institutional setting, he nevertheless moved back to his apartment but had virtually no services for several months, despite having a nursing home level of care, although he eventually began receiving very limited, temporary services through his county board of developmental disabilities.
LRS represented the client at a state hearing where the hearing officer upheld ODJFS' decision. LRS, on behalf of the client, won the subsequent administrative appeal, although the administrative appeals examiner ordered another assessment of the client's eligibility. The reassessment concluded that the previous concerns regarding his health and safety had been resolved, but again denied his application because it determined that he was receiving services from the county board and thus met the ICF/MR level of care, which makes a person ineligible for the Ohio Home Care waiver. However, the client's need for services was related to his physical disabilities, not his developmental disability, so he requested another hearing to dispute the latest denial. LRS represented the client at the second hearing, and at the conclusion of the hearing, ODJFS conceded that the client was eligible for the Ohio Home Care waiver. The client will now be receiving the services and support he needs in his own home instead of being compelled to return to the nursing facility.
This decision is important as it held that a person can still be eligible for the Ohio Home Care waiver if he or she has a developmental disability. Typically, a person with a developmental disability has only been provided services through the Individual Options or Level 1 waivers, which have extremely long waiting lists.
LRS assists client to negotiate for accessible parking space
An accessible parking space in front of a client's home has made it possible for her to safely leave and return to her home. Previously, the location of her parking space made it so she had to get in and out of her car several times to navigate through a gate. The process was very slow and caused the client much pain due to her disability.
The client's application to the city for a residential parking space and subsequent appeal were denied. At that point, she called LRS for assistance. LRS wrote a letter to the city and included supporting documentation. The city granted permission for her to have an accessible parking space in front of her home.
Accommodation allows client to keep her job
A client was in danger of losing her job because her employer would not provide an accommodation for her learning disability so she could understand the training required for her to perform her job duties. An LRS attorney and the client met with her supervisors and the employer's disability representative and negotiated for the appropriate accommodations. The client kept her job and is now able to participate in trainings that help her to improve and maintain her job performance.
Approval of 24/7 care allows father to keep his sons at home
LRS successfully represented two children who have a rare disorder that requires round-the-clock nursing or aide care. Their father, a single parent who works outside the home over 50 hours a week, was required to provide so many hours of natural support to each child that he was unable to sleep, take care of the home or be a parent to the clients' teenage sister. Their father developed serious medical problems and needed assistance to be able to continue to care for his sons, but was denied waiver services. LRS assisted the clients in appealing the state hearing officer's decision and the children now each receive 24/7 in-home aide care.
The LRS Commission approved the agency's priorities for Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2012. The current priorities reflect a three-year strategic plan developed during 2010 for the FFYs 2011-2014. In September 2011, LRS staff evaluated the goals and, with input from the public through email and on the LRS website, made adjustments to fine tune the priorities.
LRS would like to thank the many people who submitted comments to help LRS develop this work plan.
LRS is a co-sponsor of the upcoming "Keys to Housing Options" conference, an event to provide information, resources and supports for Ohioans with disabilities who want a home of their own in the community. The conference will be held November 8-9, 2011 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Columbus. Registration is coming to a close so register now!
At the conference, you will learn new and important information about living in a home of your choice, including how to advocate for more safe, affordable, accessible housing in your community. Workshops will cover many topics, such as learning about support programs, preparing for emergencies, connecting with the community, understanding rights and responsibilities and more. Featured speakers are Al Condeluci, Derrick Dufresne, Eleanor Smith and panels of people with disabilities. See the conference brochure for a complete list of workshops and details about the speakers.
The event is organized and sponsored by the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council, the Ohio Olmstead Task Force and Ohio HomeChoice with financial support from LRS. For more information and to register: Keys to Housing Conference