Justice In Aging

Through targeted advocacy, litigation, and the trainings and resources we provide to local advocates, we ensure access to the social safety net programs that poor seniors depend on, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income.

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$2.6M

Annual Revenue

83%

Spent On Programs

5%

CEO Compensation

Advocacy

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Awareness

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Direct Service

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Private Sector Collaboration

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Policy Legislation

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Research

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Financials

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Management

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About Justice In Aging

Since their incorporation over 45 years ago, Justice in Aging (JIA) has been using the law to fight senior poverty. JIA fights on behalf of those who have traditionally lacked access to legal help, including women, people of color, people with limited English proficiency, and LGBT individuals. They help these groups gain access to affordable health care and improve their economic security by acquiring government benefits such as SSI and SSDI. They reach their goals through a mixture of programs, including advocacy, litigation, and providing knowledge to those closer to the individuals, such as caretakers, medical professionals, and local legal advocates.


Why We Chose to Feature This Organization

All too often, those who lack resources end up being ignored or wronged by the government. Lawyers are expensive, and fighting legal battles, especially against the government, can go on for years, resulting in legal bills in the thousands. Much like JIA, we believe that all people should receive equal legal protection. They’ve had numerous successes in their 45 years: from helping elderly and disabled construction workers receive benefits to helping implement the Nursing Home Reform Law in California. As the older population continues to grow, more and more people will be needing JIA on their side. In funding JIA’s work, we are helping those who often cannot help themselves.

Policy & Legislature

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Financials

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Management

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In addition to fighting for low-income and underserved groups such as LGBT seniors, Justice in Aging provides resources, trainings, and consultations to help people advocate for their clients on their own. In fact, every year Justice in Aging conducts over 150 in person and online trainings, produce numerous fact sheets and policy briefs, and provide consultations to advocates across the country for free.

Webinars

Justice in Aging’s webinars cover a range of topics pertinent to low-income and underserved seniors. Past topics have included Medicaid Long-Term Services and Support, Medicaid and Transportation for Older Adults, Defending Evictions from Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities, and Medicare Savings Programs. We attended the webinar covering Supplemental Security Income Basics, which we will discuss in detail below.

SSI Basics Webinar

In this webinar, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) facts, misconceptions, and eligibility requirements are discussed. Historically, SSI enrollment is low, and one goal of the webinar is to increase this number. SSI is considered “subsistence level income” for older adults and those living with disabilities. The reason it is referred to as subsistence level income is because the maximum monthly payment is $750 for an individual, with the average payout being closer to $550. This number is far below the federal poverty level, which is considered to be an income of $1005 per month. It isn’t enough to live on but it certainly helps. In addition to helping out with monthly bills, those who are eligible for SSI are automatically eligible for Medicare (with the exception of 9 states).

The basic requirements for SSI are as follows: the person must be blind or disabled, or aged 65 and above. They must have limited income and limited resources, and they must be a US citizen or a specific type of immigrant. Refugees and asylum seekers may also be eligible).

As with any governmental program, there are many complex rules that must be followed. For example, when considering income, they look at both earned income (work, government benefits, etc.), and in-kind support and maintenance. In this case, the government considers in-kind support as food and/or shelter that is paid for by someone else. For example, if you live with a roommate and pay 30% of the rent instead of 50%, SSI considers that 20% as in-kind support, and the amount will count towards income totals. Food stamps, tax refunds, and loan repayments are not considered income. A person can have no more than $2,000 worth of resources, nor can they own a second vehicle, a second house, or burial funds and life insurance over $1500. If someone receiving SSI is abroad for more than 30 days at a time, they will be ineligible for benefits until they are back in the US for another 30 consecutive days.

In general, we found the webinar very informative, professional, and interesting. During the call, we had some technical difficulties and they helped us get back online quickly. The day after the webinar they sent a PDF of the slides along with a link to download the audio. It was a great introduction to SSI and will help caretakers and individuals alike in obtaining SSI.

When we talk about policy and legislature work done by a charity, we normally mean that they help create and advance certain policies and laws. For Justice in Aging, we are looking at it through a different lens. They focus on litigation and represent individuals in court who have been wronged or subjected to unfair treatment. While many laws and protections are in place for low income seniors, they aren’t always properly implemented and enforced. Justice in Aging fights to make sure that the individuals they represent obtain justice, and that a precedent is set for hundreds of thousands of other seniors nationwide. We will discuss a few of their cases below:

Martinez v. Astrue

In 2008, a 52-year-old disabled woman named Rosa Martinez lost her disability benefits due to a 1980 arrest warrant for a drug offense in Miami, Florida. However, the arrest warrant wasn’t hers: Ms. Martinez had never been to Miami, never been arrested, and was 8 inches shorter than the person that the warrant was intended for.

Ms. Martinez had her benefits revoked due to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) policy of denying or suspending benefits for those who have an outstanding felony arrest warrant, whether or not the person knows that such a warrant exists. Those who are considered “fleeing to avoid prosecution” for a felony and those who are considered “fleeing to avoid custody or confinement after conviction” can also be ineligible for benefits. While clear statutory and regulatory language exists to define who is actually “fleeing”, the SSA chose to instead deny and suspend benefits for individuals who had an outstanding felony warrant without following the proper procedures of determining if the individuals in question were indeed fleeing.

This policy had been challenged in court many times, and each time the court decided that the language of the policy did not allow for the suspension of benefits due to an arrest warrant. However, these cases were individual appeals at the district court level, meaning that future cases would have to be individually determined, as no precedent was being set.

This all changed in October 2008 when plaintiffs came together to file a proposed class action lawsuit in the federal court of the Northern District of California. They challenged SSA’s implementation of the “fleeing to avoid” sections of the statues. After much negotiation, the parties reached a settlement that immediately changed the “fleeing to avoid” policy for new and pending claims. They also restored and retroactively provided benefits to those who had previously lost their coverage due to the old policy.  

This case was a huge success, setting precedent and challenging the status quo of an unfair policy. Going forward, SSA agreed to neither automatically deny nor suspend benefits due to the existence of an arrest warrant, unless that warrant included a charge for escape or flight.

Held v. Colvin

Hugh Held and Orio Masters have been married since 2008, the year when same-sex marriage became legal in California. When calculating SSI benefits, those who are married receive less than those who are single. Despite numerous attempts at telling SSA that they were legally married, and asking how their benefits would be impacted, their payments continued at the same rate (nearly $900 a month) up until June 2014, when they were suddenly and without warning reduced to $300. To make matters worse, he received a $6000 bill from SSA for the alleged overpayment by SSA before they had recognized his legal marriage to Mr. Masters.

Similarly to Mr. Held and Mr. Masters, SSA didn’t recognize the marriage of Kelley and Kena Richardson-Wright until a year and a half after the Defense of Marriage Act was defeated in June 2013. Kelley and Kena were struggling, with Kelley barely earning minimum wage and Kena suffering from health problems so severe that she was unable to work. The couple began receiving confusing and distressing letters from SSA regarding Kelley’s benefits, claiming that they would start to withhold a large portion of her disability payments due to her suddenly recognized marital status.

The judge dismissed the cases of Mr. Held and Mrs. Wright-Richardson, on the basis that they should work with SSA and their multi-year administrative appeal process to resolve their problems.

Despite the lawsuit being dismissed, some good has come of it. In response to the lawsuit, the SSA issued new policies to recognizing same-sex marriages and adjusting benefits accordingly. The agency now provides waivers for the overpayment, which should be granted if the individual isn’t at fault for the overpayment, as was the case for Mr. Held and Mrs. Richardson-Wright.

Management

Justice In Aging

Kevin Prindiville

Executive Director

Experience and Education
  • Staff Attorney at the Pennsylvania Health Law Project
  • Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Bachelor of Arts in Literature from the University of California, San Diego
Compensation
$150,000

Justice In Aging

Eric Carlson

Directing Attorney

Experience and Education
  • Director of the Nursing Home Advocacy Project at Bet Tzedek Legal Services
  • Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley
  • Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Compensation
$132,000

Justice In Aging

Jennifer Goldberg

Directing Attorney

Experience and Education
  • Supervising Attorney and Director of Advocacy for Elder Law and Health Care at Legal Aid Bureau, Inc.
  • Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School
  • Master of Laws and Advocacy from Georgetown University Law Center
  • Bachelor of Arts in Social Studies from Harvard University
Compensation
$123,000

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