March 01, 2013

A More Detailed Look at Legal Services by Older Americans Act Funded Providers

David M. Godfrey

(Note: For a footnoted version of this article, please download the pdf issue of BIFOCAL Vol. 34, Issue 4.)

Background

Very limited data is available to assess the scope of legal assistance provided to older adults by programs receiving funding from Title III B of the Older Americans Act. Data collection at the national level tells us only the number of provider agreements, the number of in-house providers, the amount of funding, and the number of hours (units) of service. In 2010, the most recent year that data is available, providers reported 971,390 hours of services. No details are reported on the kinds of legal issues or level of service. The limited reporting system was designed to generously comply with lawyer–client confidentiality and legal ethics requirements, while still being part of a unified reporting system.

With this in mind, Commission staff took the initiative last year to request and collect more detailed information in order to provide a snapshot of services in states across the country. To encourage this voluntary provision of data, results are being shared in aggregate only, and state-by-state data has not been retained. While the results below may not reflect a national picture of Older Americans Act legal services, they do provide an interesting snapshot.

Approach

To get a better look at the scope of legal issues and level of services, Commission staff, with assistance from law student researchers from Stetson College of Law in Gulfport, FL, put out a request for additional statewide data in Legal Service Corporation (LSC) Case Service Report format. To encourage volunteer submissions, programs were asked to report on the most recent 12-month period for which they could most easily provide data. Thus, some states reported on the 2011 calendar year, while others reported on a 12-month period that spanned 2011–2012. Because legal needs and clients services can vary regionally within a state, only statewide data has been included, eliminating partial data that might be skewed to the interests of a particular locality. The data collected was from cases that would be reported as Older Americans Act (OAA) services, without regard to actual funding used to serve the client. For some providers, this included every client age 60 and older, others reported cases funded with OAA monies. States report a nearly dollar-for-dollar match on OAA legal services funding, some of this is programs reporting a match of eligible cases, served beyond the scope of available OAA funding. The request, sent out to about 25 states, generated submission of complete statewide data from eight jurisdictions: DC, KS, NE, MI, ND, WY, AK, and NM.

Results

Data was reported as Legal Service Corporation problem codes in the following broad categories: consumer, education, employment, family, juvenile, health, housing, income, individual rights, and miscellaneous (including estates and advance directives). The table below gives an overview of the code breakdown while also highlighting subcategory standouts.

The distribution of issues is largely as would be expected for clients age 60 and older. Nearly 1 in 5 cases was in consumer law; within this, collection cases were about half of the reported cases. This is as expected in the prevailing economic climate. A small number of cases fall into three categories: education, employment, and juvenile, this is as expected based on the target client. In family law, the majority of the cases are split between divorce and guardianships. In health care, Medicaid accounts for just over half of the cases with the remaining cases well distributed among the categories. Housing is dominated by homeownership (not foreclosure) and private landlord tenant issues. Issues in income are evenly spread with the highest numbers being in Social Security, Social Security Disability, and Supplemental Security Income. LSC reporting puts wills and estates and advance directives in the miscellaneous category. The miscellaneous category received one-third of services with 14.61% total services being for wills and estates and 12.72% for advance directives. A surprising 8.52% of cases did not report the legal issue involved. More detail on the data can be found below.

Older Americans Act Legal Services Data Collected in 2012 from DC, KS, NE, MI, ND, WY, AK, and NM in Legal Service Corporation Case Service Report format by Problem or Issue Codes

 

Cases Reported

Consumer Finance

 

01-Bankruptcy

1044

02-Collections

3916

03-Contracts Warranties

1113

04-Collection Practices

213

05-Predatory Lending (not mortgage

21

06- Loans

106

07-Public Utilities

251

08-unfair deceptive sales

145

09- Other Consumer

538

   

Education

 

12-Disipline

3

13-Special Education

2

14-Access

1

15-Vocational Ed

1

16-Student Fin Aid

20

19- Other education

2

   

Employment

 

21- Employment Discrimination

64

22- Wage Claims

30

23-EITC

133

24- Taxes (not EITC)

310

25-Employee Rights

47

26- Agricultural Worker

1

29-Other employment

200

   

Family

 

30-Adoption

25

31-Custody/Visitation

107

32-Divorce/Separation

962

33-Guardianship

852

34-Name Change

57

35-Partental Rights Term

5

36-Paternity

9

37-Domestic Abuse

121

38-Support

317

39-Other Family

202

   

Juvenile

 

41-Delinquent

2

42-Neglect/Abuse/Dependent

14

43-Emancipation

 

44-Minor Guardianship/conservatorship

140

49-Other Juvenile

74

   

Health

 

51-Medicaid

1191

52-Medicare

260

53-Childrens Health Ins

1

54-Home and Community Based Care

35

55-Private Health Insurance

47

56-Long Term Care Facilities

97

57-State and Local Health

7

59-Other Health

738

   

Housing

 

61-Federal Subsidized

538

62-Homeownership (not foreclosure)

2459

63-Private LL-Tenant

1870

64-Public Housing

188

65-Mobile Homes

98

66-Housing Discrimination

13

67-Mortgage Foreclosure (not predatory lending)

780

68-Mortgage Predatory  Lending/practices

43

69-Other housing

394

   

Income

 

71-TANF

25

72-Social Security (not SSDI)

272

73-Food Stamps (SNAP)

178

74-SSDI

227

75-SSI

278

76-Unemployment Comp

86

77-Veterans Benefits

88

78-State and Local Income

32

79-Other income maintenance

369

   

Individual

 

81-Imigration

61

82-Mental Health

119

84-Disability Rights

24

85-Civil Rights

24

86-Human Trafficking

 

89-other Individual Rights

636

   

Misc.

 

91-Non-profits

1

92-Indian/tribal law

17

93-Licenses (driver, occupational)

59

94-Torts

689

95-Wills/estates

5615

96-Advance Directives/POA

4889

97-Municipal Legal Needs

29

99-Other Misc.

1621

   

No Issue Code Reported

3277

 

David M. Godfrey

About the Author: David Godfrey is a Senior Attorney at the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.