Sometimes it really does take a village to help the homeless.
David turned 65 in February. For the last 11 years, he has been homeless, spending the bulk of those years living in his truck. Each month, he received $282 in social security retirement and $155 a month in food stamps — not nearly enough to afford a home.
Over at our Helen Galloway clinic, Kathleen Tyndall, PA-C was treating David for uncontrolled blood pressure and diabetes. Kathleen met David at the YMCA, where he maintains a membership to have a safe place to be inside and shower. Knowing he needed more than medical care alone, she referred David to our Community Cares office.
The Care Team went to work signing him up for insurance. Applications for Medicare and Medicaid as well as the Extra Help plan that assists with paying prescription costs, were submitted. As expected, David was approved for all three and could finally address his long-standing dental issues. The team also believed the he should also be eligible for Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI), and referred him to apply at the Social Security office. All in all, February was a great month.
March comes in like a lion.
The first sign of a problem was a change in his Medicaid eligibility. David was designated as Title XIX recipient of full benefits. His status was now being changed to Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) which only covers Medicare Part B premium. This indicated that the state had discovered assets the client hadn’t revealed to the coordinator.
The work we do with our clients in Community Cares is as different from the cast to case as the clients themselves. you have to work through the complex realities of each client’s situation and do whatever it takes to access the services they need. You are constantly switching hats between advocate and investigator. Client after client, you need the endurance of a long-distance runner and the quick response of a hurdler.
David’s was a case in point. Soon our team was confronted with another red flag: denial for SSI. Rochelle Bryant, GraceMed’s Director of Community Cares, went with David to the Social Security office and learned that tax records showed he owned property in Fredonia, KS. David insisted he lost all his property in a 2002 bankruptcy, but an online search of Wilson County tax records still listed him as the property owner. To qualify for Medicaid XIX and Supplemental Social Security Income, David cannot have more than $2000 in assets.
So we set about proving that David was not the legal owner. The law office that handled the bankruptcy graciously provided copies of the final ruling showing all assets forfeited in 2002. But they also included a statement that the property in question had no value, leaving the impression the bank didn’t wish to take ownership. We shared the information with Social Security. Their response? Not good enough.
The bankruptcy attorney said David could complete a deed in trust to the U. S. government. Since David was unable to pay however, they could not provide that service. Kansas Legal Services also declined to assist. So we were stuck with a piece of property that the bank said had no value, the client insisted he didn’t own and the county assessed to be worth $2470.
No one ever accused the Care Team of being quitters.
As they say in crime dramas, then we got a break in the case. Rochelle discovered that someone had paid taxes on the property through 2016, and David confirmed it wasn’t him. A call to the Wilson County tax office revealed that a resident of Texas had paid the taxes, but they were now delinquent. The property was coming up for sale at a tax auction. Why was a stranger from Texas paying taxes on land he didn’t own? Another call to Mike Jeffers, president of the bank listed on the bankruptcy documents, produced a fax letter with a copy of the purchaser’s check, acknowledging that the bank did take possession, sold the land and the new owner failed to file a proper deed.