Making Justice Real

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

New Hotline at OAH Provides Help to Pro Se Litigants

In the early months of the pandemic, the Office of Administrative Hearings Legal Assistance Network (OLAN) was created by four legal services organizations to address the legal needs of individuals representing themselves (also known as pro se litigants) before the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). The network includes Bread for the City, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, and Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. OLAN is a referral hotline that connects pro se litigants who have pending public benefits and shelter-related cases before OAH with free attorneys.

Originally, the OLAN hotline only assisted with SNAP cases, but recently expanded to assist individuals with the following types of cases:

  • Elderly and Physically Disabled (EPD) Waivers/Personal Care Aide services
  • DC Medical Assistance (including Medicaid, Alliance, and QMB)
  • Interim Disability Assistance (IDA)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Shelter-related cases

Through the hotline, clients like Mr. Whitman* and Ms. Hanson* have received assistance with their public benefits cases. In October 2020, the Department of Human Services (DHS) terminated Mr. Whitman’s IDA benefit without explanation. IDA provides a temporary monthly benefit for individuals who are unable to work and waiting for their Supplemental Security Income claim to be approved. Mr. Whitman kept meticulous records and documentation of his notices and interactions with DHS, but never received any notice that his IDA would be terminated. After connecting with Mr. Whitman through OLAN, Legal Aid attorneys advocated on Mr. Whitman’s behalf, and helped restore Mr. Whitman’s IDA benefits within a month’s time.

Similarly, Ms. Hanson tried for years to obtain home health services through the EPD waiver. The EPD waiver would allow her to receive personal care aide services in her home, which was her preference, rather than in an institution. In 2019, she applied for and was denied access to EPD benefits due to an assessment that did not properly evaluate her medical conditions. She appealed the denial shortly afterwards but did not receive a decision in her case until an Administrative Law Judge referred Ms. Hanson to OLAN in 2021. OLAN connected her to an attorney at the Legal Counsel for the Elderly who helped her secure a new assessment. As a result, Ms. Hanson was approved for and began receiving 8 hours of home health services per day.

The goal of OLAN is to assist more DC residents like Mr. Whitman and Ms. Hanson, who are challenging denials or terminations of their public benefits. We invite you to share information about the OLAN Hotline as we continue to support individuals with public benefits and shelter-related cases.

If you have a public benefits or shelter-related case pending at OAH, please call the OLAN hotline at 202-301-1646.

The hotline is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 am until 3 pm.

If you do not reach anyone, please leave a message and your call will be returned within two (2) business days.

OLAN cannot guarantee representation; however we will do our best to find you an appropriate referral.

*Names of clients changed to protect identities.

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