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Case illustrates the value of legal-medical partnership

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When Anthony Gordon finds himself in a situation he does not understand, his eyes will search for his great-grandmother, Rose Gordon.

The look he then gives her is one she knows well. It is his way of asking for help, asking her to step in and make things better. For 19 years, Rose Gordon has loved her great-grandson, gotten him to his medical appointments, made sure he completed high school, and taken care of the situation when she got “the look.”

Now, that look is causing her to worry. At 73-years-old and in declining health, Rose Gordon knows a time will come when Anthony searches for her but she will not be there to answer.

“One day I got to leave him and that’s my major, major concern is someone being there for him,” Rose Gordon said.
 

partnership-15col.jpg Rose Gordon (seated, left) credits attorney Jay Chaudhary (seated right) and 3L Aminta Moses (standing, left) with bringing her peace of mind about her great-grandson Anthony’s (standing, right) future. (IL Photo/ Marilyn Odendahl)

That concern was compounded when Anthony, suffering from developmental and physical disabilities, was denied Social Security disability benefits. Rose Gordon first showed the denial letter to Anthony’s therapist Kristen Williams who quickly filed an appeal then turned to Abhishek “Jay” Chaudhary.

An attorney, Chaudhary is the executive director of the Midtown/Indiana Legal Services Medical Legal Partnership. Started about a year ago, the partnership provides the clients at Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health with the help they need to solve legal problems that, left unresolved, could ruin their credit ratings, leave them homeless and exacerbate their mental illnesses.

Chaudhary turned the file over to his intern Aminta Moses, a 3L at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Together, working with Williams as well as Rose and Anthony Gordon, they were able to get the denial reversed.

“They worked,” Rose Gordon said. “When I say worked, they worked.”

“The outcome of Anthony’s case really shows the power and value of (Midtown and ILS) coming together to serve people who need it and could not access the system otherwise,” said Williams, lead clinician and social worker at Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health.

Running to appointments

Anthony’s great-grandmother has cared for him ever since he was a 2-pound, 2-ounce premature baby. His mother died little more than a month after his birth from what Rose Gordon called, “trusting the wrong people.”

At first, Rose Gordon did not accept the doctor’s diagnosis of Anthony, but eventually she saw and was forced to accept her great-grandson had a special set of challenges. He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and mental illness.

His care, Rose Gordon said, required “running, running, running, running” to this hospital, that hospital, this doctor, that doctor, and a constant flow of medications. A parade of social workers and therapists marched through their lives, changing so often Anthony has said he is used to losing people.

In the midst of it all, Rose and Anthony Gordon made a typical home life. Anthony developed his talent for drawing. And on special weekends, the pair packed some food and clothes and headed to the country to fish for blue gill and catfish.

Rose Gordon knows Anthony’s disabilities will make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to hold a job and care for his own basic needs. Still, like any great-grandmother, she never discouraged him. She let him discover what he could do and shared his dreams.

“I hope he’ll be able to, since he likes art, that someway he’ll be able to do it well enough that he can be independent, he’ll know and feel independent,” Rose Gordon said. “I want that so bad for him.”

She realized with no Social Security benefits, Anthony was very much in danger of falling through the cracks. The Social Security benefits were the key to making sure he has services and the support he needs after his great-grandmother passes on.

But the denial highlighted a unique caveat to Anthony’s appeal. Namely, he presents himself very well, especially on paper. He comes across just like any competent, polite, ambiguous high school graduate who has the ability to provide for himself.

Consequently, the Social Security Administration’s denial of his application for Social Security was understandable.

Moses dug through an estimated 1,000 pages of Anthony’s medical records, drawing out the details that would enable the hearing officer to understand the back story.

She and Chaudhary met several times with Williams. The legal duo also had several conversations with the Gordons, always remembering that Rose knew Anthony the best.

Like Rose Gordon, Williams was impressed with the level of dedication Chaudhary and Moses brought to the case. Even though they were not confident they would win, they applied themselves and put together the best case they could, she said.

In fact, if the denial had been upheld, Williams believed the case would be over for good because Chaudhary and Moses had worked so hard that nothing was left undone.

Their work also impressed Anthony and gave him optimism on the day of the hearing.

“I didn’t have hope we would win, but once I got there, sat down and saw how large the files were, that gave me high hopes,” Anthony said.

Those high hopes were warranted. After the legal team, Williams and the Gordons presented their side, the hearing officer made the unusual move of deciding right then to authorize Anthony’s benefits.

Weeks later, Rose Gordon was enjoying the afternoon on her front porch and still smiling about the outcome. She compared her happiness to being a little child nestled in the loving care of parents.

“That’s the best way I know how to describe it,” she said.

Funding boost

Like the Gordons, the Midtown/ILS Partnership is getting some new support.

The partnership was launched fulltime in 2012 with a $120,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Just as the grant is coming to an end in 2013, Midtown is preparing to start offering funding for the partnership.

The influx of new funding will not only help keep the program going but also enable the partnership to hire a part-time attorney and expand Chaudhary’s role to handling more complex legal matters and doing public outreach.

“This is good news; this is a very important project,” said Norman Metzger, executive director of ILS. “This project has proven its value to the community. It’s a rewarding thing to be involved with.”

In 28 years at Midtown, Margie Payne, CEO of Eskenazi Health Midtown Community Mental Health and vice president of mental health operations at Wishard-Eskenazi Health, has always seen the need clients have for legal help but rarely was the assistance available. The success of the partnership in helping clients enabled Midtown to provide funding.

The money was freed because Midtown no longer had to cover the costs of all its services and medications. Since the partnership has been able to secure Social Security payments and Medicaid for Midtown clients, these individuals are now able to pay the mental health center for the treatment they receive.

“It’s a small contribution compared to the benefit we’re getting from it,” Payne said.•

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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