Health insurance and a new home for Maxine

Friday, September 1, 2017

When work-related injuries forced Maxine to stop her job as a Nurse’s Aide, she was denied disability benefits multiple times. When her house burned down shortly after, her health began deteriorating. With help from her health center’s medical-legal partnership, Maxine appealed and won disability pay, which was only the first victory.

For 35 years, Maxine Riche guided nursing home patients through their daily routines of getting up, getting dressed, eating and bathing. It was tough work, but she kept going even as her own health deteriorated.

Maxine broke multiple bones on the job and developed osteoporosis, arthritis, high blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, a sore back and neck pain. Being a Nurse’s Aide was the only job she knew, but after coming down with a serious illness and breaking her hand, Maxine was forced to stop working entirely. With no new income, Maxine couldn’t afford to keep paying her home insurance. Six months after Maxine’s insurance expired, a fire destroyed her home. For two years, she slept in shelters, friends’ homes or her car.

Maxine applied for Social Security Disability pay, but after a year of waiting, her application and a subsequent appeal were both denied. With no home and no way to work, her doctor at the Council Bluffs Community Health Center, referred her to their medical-legal partnership attorney. The Social Security Administration (SSA) said Maxine was healthy enough to do “light work” jobs, but her doctor felt Maxine was in no shape to exert the 20 pounds of force that categorizes “light work.” In a letter to the SSA, her doctor documented Maxine’s medical issues. When the attorney submitted the doctor’s letter, he included a request that the SSA make a decision based on Maxine’s medical records.

The agency quickly approved Maxine’s application, and she began receiving more than $800 a month in disability benefits. To cover the months when her application had been pending, the SSA paid her a back benefit of $18,000. Once Maxine was approved for Social Security Disability income, she became eligible for Medicaid, and Council Bluffs Community Health Center and the Jennie Edmundson Hospital received more than $7,000 in Medicaid payments for previously uncompensated care.

Maxine recently moved into a new home.