Disabled Georgians Say State Failures Threaten Their Benefits

ATLANTA (CN) – Three Georgia residents with a variety of disabilities claim in court that the state has put them at risk for losing Medicaid and food stamps.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Atlanta on Monday, the plaintiffs, identified only as R.H., M.L. and H.J., explain they each have physical or mental disabilities that make it hard for them to follow procedural rules to be eligible for Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which are benefits provided by the Division of Family and Children Services f the Georgia Department of Human Services.

“They are at imminent risk of losing future benefits during the required benefit renewal process because of Defendants’ continuing failure to have adequate system-wide policies and procedures designed to ensure the provision of reasonable accommodations to public benefits applicants and recipients with disabilities,” the complaint says. “Defendants’ failure violates federal law.”

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Bobby Cagle, director of the Division of Family and Children Services, Robyn Crittenden, of the Georgia Department of Human Services, and Frank Berry, of the state Department of Community Health.

The lawsuit states that in 2015, 14 percent of Georgia Medicaid enrollees had one or more disabilities or were blind.

Plaintiff R.H. has macular degeneration in her left eye, and says her benefits were terminated in 2015 and 2016 after her requests for documents in a larger font size were ignored. According to the complaint, a DFCS staffer told her she needed to talk with a senior food stamps officer, but gave her a disconnected phone number.

Plaintiff M.L. has a mental disability and was unable to complete the required paperwork on his own and his food stamp benefits were discontinued, the complaint says.

Plaintiff H.J. is deaf and relied on food stamps. According to the complaint, DFCS failed to provide her with an interpreter and denied her food stamps.

“As a result of Defendants’ longstanding failure, Plaintiffs and thousands of other individuals with disabilities face a risk of the imminent loss of critical, subsistence-level benefits when—without the reasonable accommodations that DHS and DFCS are required, but fails, to provide—they cannot comply with Defendants’ application and procedural rules,” the complaint says.

The plaintiffs seek reasonable accommodations of their disabilities as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.

A representative of defendant Cagle declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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