Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Sep 23

2016

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D.C. Court of Appeals Protects Tenants’ Right to Purchase Building

On September 23, the D.C. Court of Appeals issued its decision in Parcel One Phase One Associates, LLP v. Museum Square Tenants’ Association, Inc., No. 15-CV-773. In this case, the owner of a large rental apartment building near Chinatown wants to tear down the current building and redevelop its property, potentially displacing hundreds of low-income tenants, most of whom are Chinese-American. The tenants sought the opportunity to purchase the building themselves, an opportunity the landlord is required to give tenants under a law known as the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act or TOPA. But instead of offering to sell the building to the tenants at a reasonable price reflecting its actual current value, the landlord asked the tenants to pay $250 million, what the landlord thought the property would be worth years from now after it was redeveloped – a price many millions of dollars higher than its current value. Read more →

Sep 01

2016

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D.C. Appellate Decision Has Broad Impact for Self-Represented Litigants

Last month, the D.C. Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Wylie v. Glenncrest, No. 15-CV-146 (July 21, 2016).  This decision represents a victory by a Legal Aid client against her landlord and is likely to be one of this year’s most important poverty law decisions. Read more →

Aug 31

2016

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TANF in Tatters: 15 Welfare Experts Reflect On The Controversial “Welfare Reform” Program On Its 20th Birthday

This month marked the 20th anniversary of the controversial signing of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a welfare program that guaranteed cash assistance to families with children based on need, with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  Under TANF, states received a capped block grant amount of federal funding regardless of population growth or economic conditions.  Additionally, TANF created a five year time limit on the receipt of federally funded benefits; states could continue to provide benefits for families after five years but would have to pay for it out of their own budgets.  Over the past few years, Legal Aid has highlighted the District’s recent struggles to craft a TANF policy that adequately addresses the many barriers to self-sufficiency TANF families face, including disability, domestic violence, and high unemployment for those with a high school education or less.  These barriers are especially prevalent among families in Wards 7 and 8 where most TANF families currently reside.

But how has the TANF program played out nationally? The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law asked 15 poverty law experts to comment on the impact of ending welfare as we [knew] it and the lessons we can use to improve the program through a series of essays. Below, I’ve curated some of those insights (with some light editing for narrative flow) to chronicle the history of TANF.   Read more →

Aug 12

2016

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Race, Pain Treatment, and Social Security Claims

A New York Times article from earlier this week sheds light on racial disparities in how pain is treated, finding that minorities, and particularly African Americans, frequently receive less effective treatment for acute and chronic pain than whites.  The article points to numerous factors contributing to the disparity, such as inadequately stocked pharmacies in predominately African-American neighborhoods, and less insurance coverage in African-American communities.  But it also specifically addresses the role that racial stereotypes play in causing the disparity in effective pain treatment.  One pain researcher from St. Louis University states that “we believe negative stereotypes impact clinical decision-making.”

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Aug 09

2016

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New Relief Available to Protect Medicaid Beneficiaries

Low-income District residents will have an easier time getting and keeping their health care coverage, thanks to a recent federal court ruling requiring the District to change how it handles Medicaid applications and renewals.

The District has faced a number of problems administering its Medicaid program. DC residents often face long waits at social service centers – many line up as early as 4 a.m. to get in – and lost paperwork is a common problem. In addition, changes to the District’s IT system with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act have caused technological problems and backlogs in Medicaid application processing. This has created challenges to get on Medicaid and to maintain eligibility (which has to be renewed annually).  According to one Court document: “These problems have affected thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries and have deprived many District residents of necessary medical care to which they are entitled.” Read more →