Public Benefits Task Force

Discharge of Student Loans Made Easier for Certain Social Security Disability Recipients

By law, anyone with a severe disability is eligible to have the government discharge their federal student loans. The Department of Education is now taking it upon itself to identify eligible borrowers and guide them through the steps to discharge their loans. The department has been identifying borrowers receiving disability payments and have the specific designation of “Medical Improvement Not Expected,” which indicates they are eligible for the discharge.

Borrowers identified in the match will receive a letter from the government explaining the steps needed to receive a discharge. They will not be required to submit documentation of their eligibility, unlike disabled borrowers who apply for the discharge on their own.

Read more:

Public Benefits Task Force meeting

Thu, 01/07/2016 - 10:00am - 1:00pm

Meetings will be held in the Baltimore City office of Maryland Legal Aid, unless otherwise changed. 

The April 12 meeting (location to be decided) will be a joint meeting with the ELTF.

Find the GoToMeeting lInk at If you cannot see this link, you are not a member of the Task Force, contact the moderators to become a member.

Location Name: 
Maryland Legal Aid
500 East Lexington Street
Pauline Wenrich and Michele Madaio
MD Legal Aid

Elder Law Task Force meeting

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 10:00am - 1:00pm

If you are a member of the Task Force, find the GoToMeeting information at:

Be sure to sign in to see the page.

The meeting dates for 2016 are:

Feb. 19
April 12 -  Joint meeting with the Public Benefits Task Force
June 7
Sept. 1 -  Joint meeting with the Public Benefits Task Force
Dec. 13 

Location Name: 
Maryland Legal Aid offices
Emily Jaskot
Maryland Legal Aid

Justice Diverted - rent court study & rally

See below – Rally tomorrow, Tuesday December 8, 2015!!!!!!  Please share and distribute widely

Justice Diverted kicks off the 7,000 Families Campaign to stop the eviction pipeline and make lasting change for Baltimore’s renters. Join the Public Justice Center, Right to Housing Alliance, and Jews United for Justice for a rally on Tuesday, December 8, at noon at the War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore to hear about the report findings and launch the 7,000 Families Campaign.

To see the report go to this link - URL (or this bitly link



December 7, 2015


The Public Justice Center published today Justice Diverted: How Renters are Processed in the Baltimore City Rent Court. This new research provides a deep dive into Baltimore’s evictions crisis, where approximately 7,000 families are evicted each year, taking a particularly heavy toll on women and African Americans.


The data in the report demonstrates how the outcome of an eviction case often does not depend on the merits of the case. Rather, the fate of a family’s home rides on a court system that puts long-standing tenant protections and basic housing standards second to court efficiency and landlords’ bottom line. Read the study here.


Key findings from the study include:

Baltimore City’s Rent Court is designed to efficiently handle its immense caseload by diverting renters away from presenting their cases to the judge.

The Court usually turns a blind eye to landlords who are not in compliance with local licensing and lead paint laws, and whose cases should be thrown out.

Nearly 60% of renters had valid legal reasons to fight eviction, such as the landlord’s failure to address mold, pests, or lack of heat. Yet most lost their eviction case because they couldn’t afford a lawyer and didn’t understand their rights under the law. Most landlords have lawyers or other representatives experienced in court process.

The study recommends several reforms:


  • Cut the number of eviction cases being filed in half by requiring a pre-filing notice of eviction, so that most disputes are resolved out of court, as the vast majority of other states do.
  • Demand that landlords document their rent claims and strictly scrutinize their claims of being licensed and compliant with lead paint laws.
  • Level the playing field by increasing tenant’s access to legal information, assistance at court, and legal representation.
  • Expand licensing and property inspection requirements so that all rental housing meets health and safety standards.
  • Fund eviction prevention programs to meet the scale of the eviction crisis.

Justice Diverted is based on hundreds of surveys, extensive interviews, review of court records, and court watches. The Public Justice Center conducted and wrote the study in collaboration with the Right to Housing Alliance, Dan Pasciuti, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University, and Michele Cotton, J.D., Ph.D., of the University of Baltimore. We thank the Abell Foundation for funding this study.

The publication of Justice Diverted kicks off the 7,000 Families Campaign to stop the eviction pipeline and make lasting change for Baltimore’s renters. Join the Public Justice Center, Right to Housing Alliance, and Jews United for Justice for a rally on Tuesday, December 8, at noon at the War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore to hear about the report findings and launch the 7,000 Families Campaign.

Caregiver Conference

The Howard County Office on Aging is hosting a conference for people caring for aging loved ones on Saturday, November 14th from 8am-3pm at the North Laurel Community Center in Laurel, MD. Details and registration are here: www.howardcountyaging/org/caregiver and in the attached flier.

4th Annual Caregiver Conference Nov 14 2015.pdf187.6 KB

Survey About Mediation in Circuit Court Non-Family Cases


The Salisbury University Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution is working with the Maryland Judiciary on a survey research project about attorney experience in Circuit Court Mediation Programs for Civil Non-Family Cases. The survey takes on average 7 minutes to complete and any attorney in Maryland that practices in the circuit court is eligible. The purpose is to examine the rate of use and explore issues and concerns that attorneys say enhances or limits the use of mediation.


This survey research is being overseen by the Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution. The results will be disseminated by MACRO at the conclusion of the project and will be used to improve the use of mediation, when appropriate, in civil non-family cases.

Questions regarding the research can be directed to Brian Polkinghorn, Ph.D., Executive Director, Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution at

Nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries could see record increases in their premiums unless Congress intervenes.

From the NY Times:  The 60 million people on Social Security will not receive any cost-of-living increase in their benefits in 2016, the government said on Thursday, but because of a quirk in federal law, nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries could see record increases in their premiums unless Congress intervenes.

Read the full article at

Fact Sheet on Social Security benefits changes for 2016

Follow the link for a fact sheet containing chnges in various Social Security benefit, earnings limits and tresholds for 2016.

Breaking Barriers 2015

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 5:30pm - 9:00pm

On Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, Maryland Disability Law Center (MDLC) will hold its signature community event, Breaking Barriers. This year, our central theme will be the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Breaking Barriers celebrates the achievements of individuals and organizations engaged in the struggle for the legal rights of people with disabilities, while highlighting the work that lies ahead. In recognition and celebration of the ADA’s 25th anniversary, we will screen Independent Lens’ outstanding documentary “Lives Worth Living” chronicling key events leading to the passage of the ADA. A revered leader of the disability rights movement who features prominently in the film given her contributions to the ADA and other achievements, Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. State Department, will be present to accept MDLC’s “Lorraine Sheehan Lifetime Achievement Award.” Congressman Steny Hoyer who was instrumental to passing this landmark civil rights law will accept the Public Policy Award, Sidley Austin LLP will receive the Legal Advocate Award, and the Grassroots Advocate Award will be dedicated to the late MDLC attorney Gayle Hafner and presented to Thomas Hicks of Helping Other People through Empowerment (HOPE).

Breaking Barriers brings together people from the disability, legal, nonprofit and business communities from across the state. This event will be held at the University of Baltimore’s modern, accessible Wright Theater and Bogomolny Room, conveniently located at Mount Royal and Maryland Avenues in Baltimore. Our event tickets will be reasonably priced to attract a broad audience and include scrumptious food and drink.

For more info, visit:
For tickets, see:

Location Name: 
University of Baltimore Student Center
21 West Mount Royal Avenue
Virginia Knowlton Marcus or Lea Gilmore
Maryland Disabilty Law Center

New Pro Bono Program From the SSA

A new pro bono program seeks volunteers to act as representative payees.  A flyer is attached.  For more information, go to

Rep Payee Pro Bono Program.pdf193.87 KB

Electronic Records Access

I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks negotiating the Social Security bureaucracy to get on line access to client records.   I was unable to understand most of the on line and written materials offered by Social Security concerning this process, and it took quite some time to reach the people who were able to help.

Anyway, I am making a stab at explaining the process as I went through it  in case others have not yet tried to get access.

1. Form 1699, which can be obtained on line, must be completed and faxed to the Office of Central Operations -1-877-268-3827

2. Four to six weeks later, you will receive a user ID and rep ID. 

3. Go to and create a password.  As near as I can tell this will give you access to business services, not client records.

4. Call your local ODAR office and locate the person responsible for electronic access to claimant files.  This person will then send you a second 1699 to be completed and faxed to get Electronic Records Access to claimant files.  (The second 1699 that I received had some handwritten notations which I suppose were intended to make clear that this 1699 is related to electronic access to claimant files rather than to business record access) 

5. Once the 1699 has been processed, you must attend a training at the local ODAR office.  The person at SS who sent me the second 1699 simultaneiously schedules the training.  She merely scheduled the training far enough out to allow for processing.

6. You must bring to the training a cell phone with texting capacity, your driver's license and the letter scheduling your appointment.

Pretty cool new demographic website

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Zip Code look up:

Other demographics:

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income: Vital Components of Our Waning Safety Net

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 8:00am - 5:00pm

Social Security, with its retirement, survivor and disability benefits, and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program are more critical than ever for the financial security of millions of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.  Join experts from leading advocacy organizations for a special pre-conference designed for advocates who work in the areas of Social Security retirement and survivor benefits, Social Security disability benefits, and SSI.

Location Name: 
NLADA Pre-conference
Hyatt Regency Crystal City
2799 Jefferson Davis Highway
Kate Lang, NSCLC
National Legal Aid and Defender Association
NLADA 2014 Annual Social Security pre-conference agenda.pdf161.07 KB
NLADA 2014 Annual Conference Reg Form.pdf82.79 KB

New School Immunization Requirements for Maryland Kindergarten and 7th Grade Students

From DHMH:

There are new school immunization requirements for students entering kindergarten and 7th grade this fall.  All kindergartners must have had two chickenpox (varicella) vaccinations.  All 7th graders must receive a pertussis booster (Tdap) and dose of meningitis vaccines.  School officials and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) are urging parents to make sure their child is appropriately immunized against these diseases prior to the start of school.  Children may be excluded from school if they do not have these vaccinations.

 In preparation for the new requirements, local health departments are holding special back-to-school clinics throughout the state. Parents should call their doctor or local health department to learn if their child needs any of the school-required vaccinations and make arrangements to receive the missing vaccines so their child will not be excluded from school.

Click here for more information.


Dorchester County is evidently unwilling to proceed with a Maryland Energy Assistance Program grant if a tenant/applicant does not have (a) a lease or (b) a form completed by the landlord acknowledging that the applicant is renting.

There is no lease and the landlord is not completing the form landlord. merely says that an applicant must supply proof of renter status. I don't see anything in the regulation that defines what proof of renter status is. Am I missing something? What is the basis for limiting proof to a lease or a form signed by the landlord? Shouldn't a rent receipt or, an affidavit by someone with knowledge (whether that someone is or is not the landlord) be sufficient?

Social Security benefits

We have some clients, both younger and older adults, who receive Social Security benefits in the middle of the month.  Many times this creates a problem with their rent being paid on time.  According to you can't change the date you receive your Soc. Sec benefits.  I know what the website states but has anyone been able to get a client's payment date for Social Security benefits changed and if so, how did you do it.

New Criminal Records Expungement resource!

I hope I am not spoiling anyone's pending announcement too badly ...

There's a new web-based resource for clienbts for clearing their criminal record. Find it at

The website has 3 buttons that explain what expungement is (What Is Expungement?), explain how to clear a user's criminal record (How Can I Expunge My Record?), and helps a user figure out whether their criminal record can be expunged (Can I Expunge My Record?).

I have attached a pdf of the About Us page so you can find more details about the project.

This is very cool!

expungemaryland.pdf252.31 KB

DDA Low Intensity Support Services (LISS) Accepting Applications July 1-31, 2014

News from the
Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration

The Developmental Disabilities Administration, part of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will begin accepting requests for its Low Intensity Support Services (LISS) program beginning July 1. LISS grants assist adults with developmental disabilities and families with a child with developmental disabilities in purchasing services and/or items to address needs.

Applications are being accepted from July 1 through July 31, 2014.

  • Instead of first-come, first-served, a random selection of applicants will be selected after the application period ends July 31.
  • A second round of applications will be solicited beginning January 1 through January 31, 2015.
  • Applications will be accepted in person, by mail or by email for the entire month of July and later during the month of January 2015.
  • Applications will now only be accepted by the provider in your region.
  • The cap was lowered from $3000 to $2000 to reach many more families.

For more information, including the application, information on providers and FAQs, visit DDA's LISS website. If you have any questions about the LISS program, email DDA at or contact one of the LISS providers.

National Council Launches Mental Health First Aid for Veterans


From DHMH:

The National Council for Behavioral Health, leaders from veterans service organizations and mental health advocates recently launched Mental Health First Aid for Veterans. The training program provides participants with information and techniques to recognize and respond to the warning signs of mental illness and addiction. Approximately 30% of active-duty and reserve military personnel who deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have mental health conditions requiring treatment (National Council 2013). The program hopes to offer an innovative source of care for populations with the greatest need.


Click here for more information.

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