Happy DAP Thank You Day!

Kate Callery and Louise Tarantino April 28, 2014

Monday, April 28th is “DAP Thank You Day.”  Since there is a possibility that some folks don’t celebrate this holiday, we thought an explanation might be helpful.  Let’s start with the basics.

What is DAP?

New York’s Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) is a nationally recognized program that generates significant savings for New York State and local governments while also providing disabled New Yorkers with a stable income stream.  Through the DAP program, local advocates provide low income disabled New Yorkers in every county with legal assistance when their federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD) applications have been denied or benefits terminated.

When did this DAP thing start? Who does it help?

While DAP Thank You Day is a fairly recent addition to the holiday calendar, DAP has been around for a while.  DAP advocates have represented thousands of disabled New Yorkers since the program began over 30 years ago.  DAP clients are among New York’s most severely disabled adults and children—they are simply unable to navigate the complicated legal process without assistance.

If you are wondering if you know someone who has been helped by the program – yes, you probably do. While each case is unique and there is no “typical” client, an individual story can illustrate the importance of this program to the people it directly assists.

Meet Tom

Empire Justice Center’s DAP unit recently represented Tom (not his real name), a 28 year old man, who was suddenly unable to work full time.  As a child, Tom had several brain tumors requiring surgery.  As a result, he suffered a traumatic brain injury.  While the surgery saved his life, he was left with lingering effects such as learning disabilities, memory problems and seizures.  Tom’s parents were strong advocates for him during his school years.  He received special education services and eventually earned an Individualized Education Program (IEP) diploma.  Through diligent monitoring and medication management by his mother, Tom’s seizures were controlled well enough for him to obtain a job and work nearly full time at a restaurant where he was given special accommodations for his disability, including reduced production expectations and limited duties.

When both of Tom’s parents died unexpectedly, he was unable to adequately manage his medications on his own.  Tom’s seizures became more frequent, and his memory problems increased.  It became difficult for him to do his job; he repeatedly missed work or had to be taken off his shift, so his earnings were greatly reduced.  His utilities were shut off and he forgot to pay the tax bill on the house he inherited from his parents. Tom was in danger of becoming homeless.  Reluctantly, Tom applied for SSD benefits.  His application was denied, in great part because he continued to work as much as he was able.  Tom appealed the denial and sought help through the Disability Advocacy Program.

The DAP unit gathered medical evidence documenting Tom’s seizure disorder and contacted his employer for documentation about his increasing difficulties at work and the accommodations provided for him.  A detailed brief was submitted to the Administrative Law Judge outlining Tom’s claim.  After a lengthy hearing, the judge issued a fully favorable decision.  The decision was especially important in Tom’s case because receipt of disability benefits was a prerequisite for increased services.

With the disability finding in hand, he applied for a supervised housing program for people with traumatic brain injuries that provides assistance with managing resident’s medications and with other daily activities including budgeting.  With the added support, Tom looks forward to getting back to work on a more regular basis.

I can see how DAP helps individuals, but how does it help the rest of us?

Despite the lack of holiday spirit displayed by that question, I’ll answer it.  Yes, there is something in it for you.

From a financial standpoint, DAP provides a great return on investment for New York State.  For every dollar invested in DAP, $3 are returned to the local municipality and state in the form of cost avoidance and interim assistance paid by the district.  Additionally, DAP clients receive millions of dollars in retroactive awards that are spent in communities around the state.  Simply put, DAP makes New York stronger.  In addition to the economic benefits just described, DAP moves individuals onto stable federal benefits, bringing much needed stability to their homes and families.

Why thank you? And will there be turkey on this Thank You Day?

In its recently approved budget, New York funded the DAP program at $7 million, the highest it has been funded since 2007.  On DAP Thank You Day we want to express our gratitude to all those who stepped up to the plate for our clients and for the state. This includes Governor Andrew Cuomo; leaders of the Senate Majority Coalition, Senator Dean Skelos and Senator Jeff Klein; Senate Social Services Committee Chair, Senator Tony Avella; Assembly Social Services Committee Chair, Assemblymember Michele Titus; Assemblymember Richard Gottfried; and Assemblymember David Weprin.  So, if you see any of these legislators, say “Thank you,” and tell them about DAP.

Turkey?  Since this is a relatively new holiday, we have not yet worked out the traditional meal.  Feel free to send us your suggestions.

In the meantime, check out DAPWorks to learn more about how DAP works for New York State.