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Battle with Social Security leaves a woman homeless

Do you have a sister, brother or parent who is too proud to ever ask for help? If you do, this story may hit home. It illustrates what can happen when members of a family are scattered across the country.

The Washington Post tells the story of how an 80-year-old woman finally proved the federal government owed her $100,000 in unpaid Social Security. The mother of adult children ended up living on the streets of Washington D.C. for years while trying to get someone at Social Security to answer her questions.

A stack of paperwork and a stubborn streak

In 2006, the women had decided to start drawing Social Security, but the checks varied from $900 one month to $300 the next. When she called to find out why, no one had an answer. She did not cash the checks even as her finances ran out.

Her daughters tried to talk her into moving in with family. She wouldn’t leave Washington D.C. without getting the money that the administration owed her. Her children bought her a cellphone, however, so they could reach her.

Once homeless, the woman could not get her mail and Social Security eventually stopped sending letters. Stigma that comes with being homeless lead some people to discount her claims.

Taking the time to figure out what happened

A social worker patiently reviewed the paperwork that the woman had saved over the year. She was surprised how neatly organized it all was and what it showed. She set up an appointment for the woman at a legal clinic for the homeless.

With the involvement of an attorney who handles Social Security disputes, she should be getting a check for almost $100,000. Her first monthly check for $1,464 also arrived.

Even after the progress on her case the woman was not yet smiling. If her family had consulted a public benefits attorney they may have resolved the situation much sooner.

A family member with special needs or a particular stubborn streak may need your help. Once homeless it can be impossible to find someone to listen. When your loved one struggles with mental illness or addiction it is even more complicated. Resources are available though. An attorney who works on elder law and public benefit issues may be able to help or make a referral.

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