Obici grant supports legal aid

Published 10:23 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A grant from the Obici Healthcare Foundation will help more people obtain disability, Medicaid and other government benefits.

The $100,000 grant to the Virginia Legal Aid Society will fund the program’s Medical Access Project, which allows attorneys to serve eligible clients by helping them apply for the benefits.

Rhonda Knight, director of development for the legal aid society, said the grant has been awarded for about 10 years now.

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“This year’s grant award is the largest amount of money we’ve received from them thus far, which has really helped us sustain that program in Suffolk,” said Bethany Walker, grant writer and communications coordinator for the legal aid society.

Walker said people, mostly adults, with disabilities will benefit from the assistance in filling out their applications. Many of them already have been denied for benefits, sometimes for reasons as simple as not filling out the paperwork accurately.

Navigating a denial often requires a hearing before an administrative law judge or repeated visits to court, Walker added.

“A lot of times, when you’re dealing with the red tape, depending on individual abilities, they may or may not be able to navigate that themselves, and they may need an attorney,” she said.

Knight said an attorney can make the difference between denial and approval.

“It is so hard and arduous to work with the Social Security applications and gathering all the medical records, it takes an attorney,” she said. “We have expertise in that, and Obici (Healthcare Foundation) very much appreciates what we do for Suffolk citizens. We are a part of insuring more people.”

Knight said the grant also will help the legal aid society do more outreach in the community so more people are aware of the service.

The program is available to residents of Suffolk, Franklin, and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

The Virginia Legal Aid Society’s Suffolk office is located at 155 E. Washington St. Its attorneys are able to provide legal assistance with a number of civil issues, including housing, income, public benefits, family issues, consumer lending and assets.