Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Leon Liberman: Help is there, just ask for it

My story should have been 
shared long before now and 
I regret not having done so.

by Leon Liberman, for LifeLube.
Read more from Leon here.

When diagnosed as HIV Positive more than a decade ago, I suffered what all newly diagnosed suffer – confusion, humiliation and the fear of ostracization and imminent death. I struggled with concealment... who if anyone should know and from whom my condition should be kept secret.

One of the toughest parts of beginning treatment was downing the first prescribed pill. For someone who never had health insurance and prided himself on being in miraculously good shape in his mid-sixties, I now knew that I would never be without needed medication.

Social Security had referred me to Public Aid for payment of Medicare B premiums because of my low income. Public Aid put on spenddown, which I didn’t understand, and after a short while switched me from one local office to another. The new office to which I had been assigned and dutifully reported claimed not to have been advised of the switch. Not knowing there was help in resolving such problems, I tried unsuccessfully to resolve them myself.

I mentioned the problems I was having with Public Aid to my doctor who suggested that I meet with the hospital social worker about them, which I did. He called Ann Fisher, Executive Director of the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, and I saw her straightaway.

Ms. Fisher accompanied me to the Public Aid office and using her respected professional position of authority and influence, resolved the switching and spenddown problems, had a miscalculation of my income corrected and saw that I was entitled to benefits not previously offered to me. I have since depended upon Ms. Fisher for help in resolving more legal problems that I never anticipated having. She has always been immediately accessible and thorough in her advice and effective in her assistance.

My purpose in writing is twofold. I want people living with HIV and AIDS residing in Illinois who already have unresolved legal problems and those unaware of benefit entitlements to know of the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago and the completely free assistance and representation available from the Council for those with low incomes - if they don’t already know it.

Problems might be discrimination issues, insurance, Social Security benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, wills and powers of attorney, debtor credit, immigration and/or guardianship for children. Call the Council. There are no recorded menu options from which to choose. A real live person will answer the telephone and put you through directly to Ms. Fisher or someone on the Council staff of lawyers, paralegals and case workers. Spanish is spoken. If the problem is one that the Council is not equipped to handle, you’ll be referred to a service that will.

Also, I want to beg support of readers for the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago’s work in providing those with low incomes and are HIV Positive or have AIDS with help in resolving their legal problems and finding out what they might be entitled to that they can use and are not aware of availability.

Your support is needed for the Council’s continued good work and expansion.

Join members of Chicago’s most prestigious law firms and other concerned donors in supporting the Council by calling Ann Fisher or if she is not available, Ricardo Cifuentes, Council Development Director, for information about the AIDS Legal Council and to find out how you can support its much needed services.

The AIDS Legal Council of Chicago is located at 180 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 2100, Chicago, IL 60601. The telephone number is 312 427 8990. (Toll free 866 506 3038.) Information is also available on the Council’s website


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