Staff Attorney Sara works with Texans 60 or over on the Legal Hotline for Texans. She speaks about Covid-19's impact on seniors, accessibility, how serving her clients feels like serving the country that gave much to her and her family.
Staff Attorney Sara works on our Legal Hotline for Texans, serving clients aged 60 and over. The hotline has existed since 1989. The hotline offers advice and counsel to Texans 60 or over as well as Medicare beneficiaries. It can help with a wide breadth of legal issues that typically affect the elderly and disabled — and Sara has a mastery of Medicare ins-and-outs from serving her clients.
Lately, she's encountered more Covid-era concerns, like nursing home and tenant evictions. Complicated policies, uncertainty about healthcare, and the general disorder stemming from the pandemic considerably affect homebound seniors.
On the legal matters she most frequently encounters
This is a tough one; the Legal Hotline for Texans can help with many issues that impact older people. Concerns like advance directives, power of attorney, adult guardianship, public benefits, and financial security can all come into play. The most frequent questions I'm getting lately are:
Evictions: Ex. What are my rights? When do I have to leave? How can I appeal? What if I'm being evicted from my nursing home?
Medicare: Ex. What are the differences between Medicare Parts A and B? What about Medicare Savings Programs?
Medicaid: Ex. Medicare doesn't cover my nursing home costs. How do I qualify for long-term care? Do I have any options or rights?
On the hotline's educational role
While the hotline's main goal is advising and referring clients, the Legal Hotline for Texans provides other services to the state too. We partner with all 28 Texas Area Agencies on Aging, supporting the Benefits Counselors and Ombudsman. Texas Legal Services Center provides the state training for new Benefit Counselors or Benefit Counselors II. Our curriculum centers around advance directives, skilled nursing facilities, and Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D. The team on the Legal Hotline for Texans is a big part of that training effort.
On the hotline's accessibility for seniors
Serving clients over the phone is critical for accessibility. But with Covid-19, it proved especially important. Seniors are advised to stay home, and a hotline model lets them easily access our services. The hotline model also bypasses technologies that seniors may not be comfortable using.
While I think a Zoom-based model or maybe even a LiveChat could work for serving some of our clients, the phone-based model has staying power. Some of our clients don't have email addresses or internet access. Phones are easier for most of our clients and lend peace of mind in a time when peace of mind is hard to come by.
On providing for our seniors
My clients are usually seniors who have worked hard all their lives and just want the security of a home and healthcare; and a goal of living a peaceful, conflict-free life. Many times there are legal remedies that can make these goals a reality.
The Legal Hotline for Texans
800-622-2520, Option 3 or Apply Online
Monday — Friday | 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (CT)
On choosing poverty law
For me, poverty law has always been the only option. My parents are immigrants. They wanted my brother and me to live in a place where we have the freedom to be ourselves, where there is always the possibility of justice.
I've visited and have family members living in a country where justice and human rights are practically non-existent. People are free to abuse the elderly, beat their wives or children, steal, and commit other egregious acts — so long as they have the money, 'correct' religion, or political standing to bribe the government. To me, this work is about giving back to a country and a people who welcomed my parents and made it possible for me to live a good life.