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State announces $7 million in funding to help disabled obtain federal benefits

by jmaloni


Mon, Jul 27th 2015 11:05 am

Legal assistance aids those appealing denial of benefits

The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has announced more than $7 million has been awarded to help provide legal assistance to people who have been denied federal disability benefits.

A total of $6.8 million is being awarded through the Disability Advocacy Program to 12 agencies to provide legal representation to people whose disability benefits, including Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance and SSI State Supplementation Program, have been denied or may be discontinued. The funding ensures applicants will have legal advocates as they continue to seek disability benefits by moving through the federal appeals process.

"Providing this vital support enables individuals in need of assistance to have continued access to services without interruption," OTDA Commissioner Samuel D. Roberts said. "Helping eligible individuals receive Social Security benefits improves their financial situation while reducing associated costs to the state and local governments."

These services will be provided by not-for-profit legal services corporations, not-for-profit agencies serving the disabled and local departments of social services, with the goal of reversing the initial decision and acquiring approval for these federally funded benefits for the applicants. Without this assistance, these individuals would otherwise be dependent on state- and locally funded programs for support and care.

Additionally, OTDA is awarding more than $400,000 to the Empire Justice Center to provide statewide legal support and administrative services for the Disability Advocacy Program.

"The Disability Advocacy Program has been providing high-quality representation for low-income disabled New Yorkers for more than 30 years," said Louise Tarantino, senior attorney and DAP statewide coordinator with Empire Justice Center. "We applaud OTDA's continued commitment to this program. With this year's increased funding, we anticipate being able to help more of New York's needy, disabled population access federal disability benefits."

"The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York is grateful for OTDA's support of this essential work," said Lillian M. Moy, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York. "Our DAP representation is a great assistance to both our clients and the communities where they live."

"Over many years, Neighborhood Legal Services Inc., has helped thousands of disabled Western New York residents to obtain the federal SSI disability benefits to which they were entitled," said William J. Hawkes, executive director of Neighborhood Legal Services. "We accomplished this with the financial support of OTDA and its funding of the DAP program. The disabled people we've represented have moved out of abject poverty and off of state public assistance. Their federal disability benefits actually save NYS taxpayers money. We are grateful that the state of New York continues to support this sensible investment in assisting those in need."

"The Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York is very grateful for OTDA's DAP funding, which provides support for our work representing individuals with disabilities in 13 counties of Central New York," said Paul Lupia, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York Inc. "The representation, which we provide under this grant, not only helps the individuals who receive the representation, but also directly benefits their communities."

Locally, the Erie County DSS received $162,242.

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