SCLS has veteran accredited attorneys who can assist low-income veterans and their families navigate through the record request process for VA compensation and VA pension benefits claims. These attorneys are available to share legal information on the benefits process to VA offices and others who serve veterans and accept referrals.
Veteran claims, especially VA Compensation Claims, can be a very record intensive process. An Official Military Personnel File and treatment records can prove a service connection for a veteran’s disabling condition which may be dismissed without those records, particularly in cases where a veteran is applying for benefits long after their separation from service. Applying for assistance early in the claim process can improve odds of success by allowing a representative to help develop a record and present a clear case for the claims. Even with some limits on record processing in place, it is better to make referrals or apply for assistance early.
COVID-19 seems to continue to have a disproportionate effect on the low-income communities served by South Carolina Legal Services(SCLS). This is especially true for elderly and people of color who live in rural communities. Unfortunately, these are also the demographics, that are least likely to understand the value of and how to locate resources to prepare end of life documents. These documents let family members know loved ones’ wishes about providing medical treatment, deciding who will handle necessary affairs and determining ownership of property at death.
SCLS is looking for and is eager to partner with faith-based organizations, non-profits, civic and social groups and other agencies to educate low-income communities about the value of advance directives and preparation of these documents. To help SCLS help people who need these documents you can:
Agree to partner with us.
Distribute educational materials to the targeted communities.
Assist applicants in contacting SCLS for an intake.
Provide a COVID-19 safe location to meet with applicants.
Publicize events that will be held in your community.
The Florence Office of SCLS has partnered with and attended The Homeless Connect Event since 2012. This event, with participation from several other groups, provides a one stop shop for services to the low income and homeless community. The idea behind the event is to have enough services to attract attendees to the event and to make it easier for them to avail themselves of all the services (thereby eliminating obstacles to getting needed help). Intakes for potential clients are done at the event with interviews scheduled shortly thereafter. Because this event was a great success, SCLS wants to participate in and accept referrals from your homeless shelter.
Here is an example of the kind of help SCLS can provide to you. John came to us through our monthly homeless event for help to get his birth certificate. He was born in Taiwan. His parents worked at the embassy. Because of serious legal troubles, he was estranged from his parents and had been for years. He did not have a valid state ID and could not get his birth record. He was working very hard on becoming employed and getting services including rehabilitation. John was born abroad, therefore, the application had to be made through the State Department (DC Consular U.S. Citizens born abroad). This made the process to get the birth certificate much more complicated. We waited for months and due to the COVID-19 shutdown, it seemed to be hopeless. As diligent SCLS staff, we continued to work with the Consular over an extended period of time and were able to obtain John’s birth certificate. Our partnership and participation with Homeless Connect allowed John to gain employment and housing.
We have listed some questions and answers to commonly expressed concerns of parents with children in need of special education services.
Question: What about kids with an IEP who, in a normal, non-COVID world, are required to receive supportive services? Are those services gone? Or can those students somehow receive physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy virtually?
Answer: Those students CAN and SHOULD receive those services virtually.
Turns out, physical therapy and speech therapy have been happening virtually or via tele-medicine for years. Physical therapists in some areas have been reaching out to clients with smart phones and internet connections well before COVID-19 made such a thing seem “normal.”
The occupational therapists (and the insurance companies) took some time, but they have now swallowed the bitter COVID-19 pill and embraced virtual appointments.
Question: Can the school deny a student special services because of COVID-19?
The IEP is a contract that requires the school to provide those services. Parents should certainly be somewhat flexible with schools given the unique nature of these COVID-19 times. However, now that we are 10 months in, schools need to have found a way to provide those services.
Furthermore, any service time your child did not receive because of COVID-19 should be made-up by the school at some point soon. We call this make-up time “compensatory education/services.”
Question: Can the school require a student to come physically to school in order to receive special ed services?
In some cases, a school might deem is appropriate for a student to come physically to school to get their services, instead of providing a virtual option. You do not necessarily have to send your child to school, if you believe it to be unsafe. However, the school offering this option fulfills their obligations under the IEP contract.
Question: Due to my student’s disability, they are unable to get an appropriate education at home via virtual school. The school is 100% virtual. What can I do?
Answer: This is a hard one (and a fact-pattern from an actual case). The child is eligible for compensatory services in the future. That’s easy. However, that does not do much to help with the opportunities the student is missing right now. To force a special exception for in-person schooling, you would likely have to retain an attorney and file a Due Process Hearing Request. Even then, I do not know that it is a very strong case, as the school has a legitimate obligation to protect the health and safety of students and staff.
This is the time of the year when we count our blessings and meditate on all the opportunities, events, relationships and people that we appreciate. COVID-19 has made the last eight months particularly difficult for SCLS to effectively offer legal representation, advocacy and legal education to low-income South Carolinians at a time when it was most needed. You, the agencies, faith-based organizations, social services providers, non-profits, civic and social organizations, have made our job of sharing legal information, providing legal representation and advocating for our clients possible. We are especially grateful to those of you who, with swift and prompt action, distributed our flyers to advise and encourage citizens to seek available CARES Act monetary resources. We received numerous calls from deserving folks who desperately need this money to survive in these extremely difficult times. Truly, without your support and willingness to get this information to these people who are struggling daily, we simply could not have reached so many of them. Thank you for working with us. Thank you for caring about these people. Thank you for joining our endless mission to make the lives of low-income South Carolinians better in any way we can. This is the meaning of Thanksgiving. For your work and support, we give thanks.
South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) provides free legal assistance in a wide variety of civil (non-criminal) legal matters to eligible low income residents of South Carolina.