Under Title III-B of the Older Americans Act mandates, the South Carolina Department on Aging funds the provision of legal assistance through the various Area Agencies on Aging throughout the state. Legal assistance means legal advice and representation. In South Carolina, that assistance must be provided by an attorney.
Legal Assistance can be provided to older individuals (60 years of age and older) within the state who are of greatest economic or social need (with particular attention to low-income minority older individuals, older individuals with limited English proficiency, and older individuals residing in rural areas).
The South Carolina Department on Aging has long-standing partnerships with the SC Bar and the SC Bar Pro Bono Program, the Access to Justice Commission, SC Legal Services, and other agencies (governmental or otherwise) who can provide legal advocacy for the target population.
The Department actively seeks to develop partnerships with entities who can provide legal assistance in keeping with the tenets of law and regulation as set forth in the Older Americans Act, the Legal Services Corporation Act, and the regulations promulgated under these laws. If you are a service provider and are interested in providing education or legal services, please contact us at 1-800-868-9095.
The SC Bar is instrumental in providing assistance using volunteer attorneys in various areas of the state for education, wills clinics, and “Ask A Lawyer” programs targeted to the senior population or appropriate for caregivers. Please contact them at (803) 799-6653 to find out how you can participate in the effort to ensure that seniors have the legal services they need at no cost.
Areas of Legal Services
Legal Services can be provided in eleven specific categories including:
- Income Protection
- Health Care
- Long Term Care
- Protective Services
- Guardianship/Defense Against Guardianship
- Age Discrimination
Senior Citizen's Handbook
The 2012 South Carolina Senior Citizen's Handbook - A Guide to Laws and Programs Affecting Senior Citizens was published by the South Carolina Bar Association under grant funding provided through the South Carolina Department on Aging from the Administration for Community Living. This guide, which was named as one of the Notable Documents in SC in 2012, may be downloaded or referenced online and is updated as private attorneys can dedicate their commitment, work, and time to the product.
Last year, Area Agencies on Aging spent approximately $330,000 funding legal services for SC’s most vulnerable population. Our service provider handled 1,160 legal cases in the eleven (11) Priority Areas. The program successes are not measured in dollars but in the impact that we make, every day, on people’s lives. Examples of the positive impact of this program may be found below.
A client was facing the loss of his home due to a mortgage foreclosure sale caused by a tax error made in the County Assessor’s Office. Through legal assistance, the error was corrected, the mortgage was brought current, and the monthly payments are now in the correct amount, allowing the client to sustain his own home.
Upper Savannah Region
A client with disablities received assistance after she received notice of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ intention to recover $81,375.76 from her deceased mother’s estate. The only asset in the estate was a modest mill village home that the client had shared with her mother for over forty years. With the assistance provided by the Title III-B Legal program, the client applied for and received an undue hardship waiver. The debt for $81,375.76 for the deceased mother’s medical expenses was forgiven, allowing the client to maintain the home.
A client was going to be discharged from a nursing home because her agent under her Power of Attorney (POA) was keeping the client’s money instead of paying the nursing home bill. With the assistance provided by the Title III-B Legal Program, the POA document was revoked, and the client’s retirement company redirected the retirement check to the nursing home. The nursing home allowed the client to remain in the facility even without restitution for the unpaid balance.
A long term care policy denied coverage to an individual, alleging that the individual had exhausted the benefits. Legal assistance determined that the policy language was inconsistent and contained a provision that the total benefits were for 2190 days (six years) though other sections stated three years. After receiving a demand letter and various legal actions, the company negotiated a settlement and client accepted one additional year of coverage.
A senior who was the victim of domestic violence perpetrated by her husband had obtained a 90-day restraining order from the Family Court and was instructed by the Family Court to file an action for divorce or separated support and maintenance in order to receive additional protection. Through the assistance of the Title III-B Legal program, the legal provider filed a case in Family Court for the senior before the Order of Protection expired within the allotted 90 days. With this assistance, the client was protected from more violence and she received the full use and possession of the marital home and a vehicle for transportation.
Vantage Point (Pee Dee)
A client was denied Social Security retirement because the name on his Social Security card did not match that on his birth certificate. Under the Title III-B Legal program, the client was able to get his name changed and an amended birth certificate so that it matched his Social Security card and was then able to get his retirement benefits.
A 93-year-old woman with the onset of advanced dementia was hospitalized for unrelated medical issues, diagnosed with dementia during her hospital stay, and then transferred directly to an assisted living facility. The resident needed to be transferred to a secure nursing facility because she wandered, and had to be monitored closely. After three months, the nursing home tried to discharge the resident, claiming she had “recovered”, no longer needed nursing home care, and tried to discharge her without a care plan. The client who was her agent under a Power of Attorney received assistance from an attorney, appealed the nursing home decision. Review of records showed irregularities resulting in the withdrawal of the discharge order. But for assistance rendered using Title III-B funds, the client would have been wrongfully discharged from the nursing home.
A client’s Social Security was wrongfully garnished by Wells Fargo. Social Security is her only source of income. A South Carolina Legal Services attorney intervened under the Title III-B Legal program and got the money back, with some additional settlement. Without this program, the senior would have had no money to pay rent or bills and could possibly have become homeless.
A client had a termite bond on her home that excluded damages under the contract. The pesticide company did not re-treat for over 15 years and despite the year before showing no termite signs, they found a termite infestation with extensive damage. The attorney argued that the pesticide company breached the contract by not re-treating as necessary and that they were negligent in the previous inspection, given the amount of damage (more than was possible in one year). The client received $4,000 to cover the damages. Without assistance using Title III-B funds, the client would not have been compensated for her loss.