HISTORY OF JUSTICE IN AGING
Since 1972, we’ve used the power of law to fight for the rights of the low-income older adults. We hope you enjoy this journey through our history of advocacy.
1972
Terry Hatter, Director of the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Los Angeles, submits an application to the Office of Economic Opportunity (part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty) to create a national legal “back-up center” to support local legal services programs serving low-income older adults, and NSCLC was funded. Los Angeles office opens.
1973
Paul Nathanson becomes first Executive Director of NSCLC; offices are opened in Washington, DC and Sacramento, CA. Paul institutes practice of inclusive decision making by all staff for substantive decisions, a practice that continues to this day. NSCLC files first lawsuit: Ponce v. Construction Laborers Pension Trust for Southern California, which resulted in thousands of elderly and disabled construction workers receiving pension benefits they were due. Attorneys Sally Hart Wilson and Anne Silverstein are hired to share one job—a radical concept at the time!
1974
NSCLC begins publishing the NSCLC newsletter, an attorney-written publication that evolved into the NSCLC Washington Weekly, becoming a must-read publication until around the turn of the century when information became more readily available online. The Washington Weekly was later replaced by the Washington Report.The Supplementary Security Income (SSI) program launches; NSCLC lawyers become (and remain) the nation’s top legal experts on SSI.
1980
In response to an effort to deregulate nursing homes, NSCLC launches the nursing home reform movement that culminated in landmark legislation in the Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987.
1981
NSCLC files Gray Panthers v. Schweiker, challenging Medicare’s practice of using “paper hearings” for benefit disputes of less than $100 on the grounds that the practice violates due process requirements.
1987
NSCLC plays key role in drafting and ensuring passage of the Nursing Home Reform Act, which provides strong quality of care standards for nursing home patients nationwide. NSCLC wins the lawsuit Dameron v. Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, establishing an important legal precedent that stopped the common employer practice of awarding base pension benefit levels on an estimate of social security benefits based on the highest monthly wage of the employee.
1988
Using the precedent from Dameron v. Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, NSCLC files Forbush v. JC Penney to challenge JC Penney’s practice of using estimated social security payments as a basis for denying pension eligibility.
1992
As a result of NSCLC’s lawsuit, Valdivia v. California Department of Health Services, the State of California is forced to implement the Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987.
1995
NSCLC files Calaf v. Secretary, a case challenging the SSA’s refusal to pay benefits to an otherwise eligible person convicted of a felony and sentenced to an electronic monitoring program under which he must pay all of his own expenses. We obtained the desired result through a combination of litigation and legislative advocacy. The statute was amended during the pendency of the appeal to make it clear that benefits had to be provided in these circumstances.
1996
NSCLC files Singleton v. Chater on behalf of people applying for both SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, to require the SSA to pay SSI benefits first and then pay SSDI benefits. The suit resulted in SSA changing its policy enabling residents of Georgia, Florida, and Alabama to receive $50 million more in Medicaid benefits each year.
1997
NSCLC argues two successful challenges (Russell v. Smith in Georgia and Thorington v. James in Alabama) to a common state practice of terminating Medicaid benefits of people whose SSI benefits were terminated on the grounds that they were no longer disabled, without first determining whether or not there was another basis for SSI eligibility and while they may have had a pending appeal of their SSI termination.
1999
NSCLC receives an award from Vice President Al Gore for its work with the Social Security Administration to ensure language access for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) beneficiaries.
2000
NSCLC secures a $5.5 million settlement in Evans v. the US State Department, a class action on behalf of older federal workers who were laid off because of their age. This case was one of the largest federal payments ever made in an age discrimination case.
2004
In Kerr v. Holsinger, NSCLC wins reversal of a decision by Kentucky to stop Medicaid benefits totaling $45 million a year for more than 3,300 older adults and people with disabilities in nursing homes.
2005
Attorney Jeanne Finberg opens NSCLC’s Oakland office to help ensure that low-income seniors are protected in California and across the country as Medicare Part D is implemented. NSCLC stops Mississippi from cutting off an estimated $110 million in Medicaid prescription drug benefits for 48,000 older adults and people with disabilities. Attorney Eric Carlson authors a comprehensive study on critical assisted living issues in all 50 states, which is still used today by advocates, lawmakers, assisted living facilities, and consumers to improve assisted living as a long-term care option. Building on its national work for Limited English Proficient beneficiaries, NSCLC persuades California to translate key consumer materials about Medicare Part D into the state’s most common languages for the million or so Californians who were dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.
2006
NSCLC files Situ v. Leavitt against the federal government for widespread failure to enroll more than 6 million Medicaid beneficiaries in cost-saving Medicare Part D plans. The case was ultimately settled in 2008 after the government agreed to substantial changes to its enrollment and subsidy system.
2009
In the case Martinez v. Astrue, NSCLC, along with Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, stops the Social Security Administration’s illegal practice of denying benefits based solely on the existence of an outstanding warrant for an alleged felony, restoring $750 million in Social Security and Supplemental Security benefits for people who were wrongfully denied.
2010
NSCLC releases “Stories from the Field,” a landmark report and video series on the experiences of LGBT seniors in long-term care facilities, leading to the federal government developing an online learning tool, “Building Respect for LGBT Older Adults,” for use by long-term care and other aging service providers. The report remains our most downloaded publication today. NSCLC argues Clark v. Astrue case with Proskauer Rose LLP, which would eventually restore nearly $1 billion in benefits for more than 100,000 low-income Social Security and SSI beneficiaries whose benefits were illegally terminated or denied due to alleged outstanding warrants for probation or parole violations.
2011
NSCLC, along with Disability Rights California, the National Health Law Program, AARP Foundation Litigation, and Morrison & Foerster LLP (pro bono counsel) reaches an agreement in Darling v. Douglas to preserve California’s Adult Day Health Care as a Medi-Cal benefit. The case was filed on behalf of 35,000 low income people with disabilities, including older adults, who would be threatened with institutionalization.
2012
NSCLC plays a crucial role in mounting a strategic defense of the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court. We partnered with other organizations working to preserve the benefits of the law and wrote numerous articles defending its constitutionality. We also submitted an amicus brief with partners arguing the benefits of the ACA to individuals 65 and over. NSCLC advises attorneys on Supreme Court case, Douglas v. Independent Living Center. The case addressed whether individuals have the right to sue states when states enact harmful laws that are in conflict with federal regulations. The case was sent back to the Court of Appeals.
2013
NSCLC launches a major effort to fight senior poverty through the introduction of the Supplemental Security Restoration Act bill in Congress, which will make much needed updates to this cornerstone poverty prevention program. NSCLC helps prevent cuts to California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, through Oster v. Lightbourne, a lawsuit filed with Disability Rights California and provider unions. Settlement of the lawsuit preserved Medicaid funding of this important program that allows low-income seniors and persons with disabilities to stay safely in their own homes. In partnership with national and state aging and disability organizations, NSCLC successfully advocates for $12 million in federal funding to establish consumer assistance ombudsman programs to help low-income Medicare-Medicaid beneficiaries in new health care systems.
2014
NSCLC trains thousands of advocates on how to preserve benefits for the millions of people eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid (dual eligibles) as states begin to transition the delivery systems of their health care and long-term services and supports to managed care plans under the Affordable Care Act.
2016
Justice in Aging reaches a settlement with the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the class action lawsuit, Hart v. Berryhill, filed on behalf of thousands of older adults and people with disabilities in California who were deprived of disability benefits because of SSA’s reliance on medical reports from a disqualified doctor. As a result, thousands of Californians will have their benefits (either SSI or SSDI) reconsidered and some will be eligible for retroactive benefits.
2019
SSI recipients in California become eligible for food benefits through CalFresh. Our advocacy, in coalition with others, ended an unfair rule that barred people receiving SSI from qualifying for food benefits. As a result, all low-income California seniors and people with disabilities who receive SSI are now able to apply, with 400,000 newly enrolled into the CalFresh program since June 1, 2020. With the maximum SSI benefit below the official poverty line, every penny of food benefits makes a difference for those surviving on SSI and trying to stay nourished and healthy.
2020
Justice in Aging wins a favorable ruling in the lawsuit Patrick Kelley & Matthew Reed v. California Department of Health Care Services, et. al, filed with co-council Bet Tzedek, Western Center on Law & Poverty, and Disability Rights California, with pro bono partner McDermott Will & Emery. Thousands of Medi-Cal beneficiaries with significant disabilities will now be able to access affordable care at home rather than going into a nursing facility. This victory will prevent thousands of Californians and their caregivers from falling into poverty due to the high cost of in-home care.
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