U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics are embedding lawyers in their health care teams to address nonmedical barriers to care. A new piece in Health Affairs traces the benefits of these medical-legal partnerships for Veterans in California, Connecticut, and New York, and looks ahead to how the VA may grow these programs.
By David Tuller
“Monica Ross, a thirty-five-year-old single mother of three who served in the Navy from 2001 to 2005, faced eviction from her Bronx apartment in the fall of 2013 when she was unable to pay her rent. The problem was that her eligibility for subsidies through the federally funded Section 8 housing voucher program, which she received through a program for veterans with a history of homelessness, had been terminated because of a bureaucratic snafu.
During an appointment at the James J. PetersVeterans Affairs Medical Center in the Bronx in September 2013, Ross’s social worker referred her to the office of LegalHealth, a division of The New York Legal Assistance Group. “Without a lawyer, I didn’t really know what to do,” says Ross. “One of my counselors advised me to go see the lawyers downstairs, so I went downstairs and explained my situation.”
LegalHealth accepted Ross’s case and represented her in housing court. Through her lawyer’s intervention, the New York City Housing Authority, which administers Section 8 vouchers for city residents, restored Ross’s eligibility in February 2014, at the same time paying the landlord almost $11,000 in overdue rent. Three months after that, the housing authority also agreed to lower Ross’s share of the rent because she had stopped receiving unemployment benefits. The entire process involved nine court appearances. Ross was able to stay in her home the whole time.”