Arizona Tries to Bully Family with Cerebral Palsy Member to Cut Costs

This anecdote comes from a local Arizona Dept. of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) case worker’s decision to refuse to continue attendant care benefits to a wheelchair bound person suffering from Cerebral Palsy (CP). I learned about it from an advocate for the family involved.

Everyone is already aware that funding for the disabled in Arizona has been slashed as a result of the economic downturn (and the utter failure of state government to put aside funds during Arizona’s real-estate bubble heyday for the inevitable downturn—every penny from property taxes was spent before it was even collected, thanks Janet Napolitano!). Across the board reductions in certain programs and the complete elimination of others explain how some of the cuts were achieved, but here is an example of the dirty underbelly of the state system which very much resembles what I reported on a few months ago from an Ohio case.

A few months ago a DDD case worker was doing the annual review of her CP client, and without warning suddenly announced that she was cutting 100% of the family’s Medicaid funding for “attendant care”. This person requires assistance with virtually all of her life skills, including bathing, dressing, brushing hair and teeth, etc. Attendant care is the funding which enables a family to obtain assistance for such care. This person had been receiving approximately 180 hours a month in attendant care ever since she began receiving Medicaid. No explanation was given to the family, which then sought the assistance of an attorney.

The attorney pursued the matter through the 2 levels of administrative appeal (inside DDD’s own organization), where appeals are routinely turned down. This forced the attorney to file suit in Superior Court for denial of the person’s rights guaranteed under federal and state law. DDD filed an Answer denying that the family’s rights had been violated and the case was scheduled for trial. What happened next puts Arizona right next to Ohio on the Wall of Shame.

The attorney for the state rushed over to the family’s attorney with a settlement agreement in his hand moments before the trial was to begin. As in the Ohio case (see my Nov 28, 2012 post), the key issue for the state of Arizona, whose bluff had been called by a family willing to bear the costs and mental anguish of the litigation process, was to prevent the case from being publicized. The family got all of their attendant care benefits restored retroactively, but were barred from speaking about the matter forever. Obviously the state is afraid that if it becomes known that they are using intimidation and the internal appeals process (where the family always loses) to deny legal rights to persons with disabilities they will face a deluge of litigation which they can not win.

Families receiving government benefits for a disabled family member need to be aware of these unscrupulous tactics.

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