The Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) helps New Yorkers who have had federal disability benefits denied or discontinued. This year, New York State’s budget provides $8.26 million in funding. DAPWorks for New York State, the funding campaign consisting of programs throughout the state, and spearheaded by Empire Justice Center, was able to maintain a $1 million increase in funding from 2016. The program is proud to have bipartisan support in the Senate and Assembly.
DAP advocates represent people who may have to wait up to five years for a determination, and they often have to wait nearly two years just for an initial hearing, or even longer. During those years, very few clients return to work. In fact, we often see their health deteriorate, and some clients pass away before they get a hearing. Because they are unable to work, our clients may lose their homes to foreclosure, or have periods where they are homeless or living in shelters. We give priority to clients who receive public assistance for shelter, food or health care. DAP funding comes from matching grants from the state and local social services districts, and the local districts also provide public assistance while our clients wait for a hearing. Local districts are repaid for assistance they provided when we win claims, and clients no longer need public assistance once they begin receiving federal disability benefits.
Our clients receive quality representation, free of charge, from organizations with staff that have years of experience representing people with disabilities. These staff know what medical records to request, what statements from medical providers are needed for the case, and they know to ask for a waiver of fees to obtain the records. Clients who receive favorable decisions in their cases sometimes receive a retroactive payment for the time they waited for a determination, and in some cases are able to repay their debts and stabilize their lives. Sometimes, based on the disability determination, clients petition to have their federal student loans discharged, freeing them from debt they cannot repay. Clients who have waited years to receive their determination may have a small amount to purchase goods and services in their community. Some may use the money to purchase a much-needed car, so they can drive to medical appointments. Others plan to use the money to prepay rent, so they don’t have to worry about their housing stability for the time being. Because DAP does not charge for representation, our clients save thousands of dollars because they did not have to pay a private attorney or representative to take their case.
A “DAP win” means a win for our client, the program and for the community.