PILA Corner: Making a Small Dent to Help End Seattle Homeless

Making a Small Dent to Help End Seattle Homeless

by Baily Mullins

For my 1L summer, I interned at the Seattle Community Law Center, as part of the Disabled Homeless Advocacy Project. This unique program assists folks who are experiencing homelessness with their applications for Social Security disability benefits.

Making the Bureaucracy Work for Poor People.
people-844213_960_720During this internship, I was able to participate in numerous stages of the SSDI application process. Much of my time was spent interviewing clients and collecting preliminary information to start their disability applications, which included their medical history, work history, and any information pertinent to their disabilities. I quickly learned that the benefits application process is relatively colorless and standardized. So to paint a more holistic picture of our clients, I wrote “medical summary reports,” which accounted for my client’s personal background beyond the information that could be found in their medical records.

I was also able to work on an “On the Record Request,” which is a legal brief sent to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, requesting that a decision about our client be based on the “record,” or the medical evidence alone. To write an effective request, I had to understand the criteria outlined by the social security administration to meet a disability requirement, and provide specific evidence about how our client met the disability. It was very much an “IRAC” situation!

Meet People Where They Are.

Most of my work at SCLC was spent in the office completing routine paperwork, but SCLC also believes in meeting people “where they are,” so I often accompanied my supervising attorney to meet clients at local shelters, temporary housing, and medical facilities. These were some of my favorite days because we were bringing legal resources to clients who otherwise would be unable to access them.

This internship often involved tedious work, but I enjoyed the challenge of trying to creatively advocate for our clients with the administrative tools that we had. I am grateful for the experience I had at Seattle Community Law Center and appreciate the inspiration it has given me to continue my public service track.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2015/07/14/06/10/people-844213_960_720.jpg