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Happy New Year from Social Security Justice

We’ve had a successful 2014 helping our clients here at Social Security Justice, and we look forward to serving many more in 2015, as well.

We’ll have more of a presence in the coming year via an informative commericial we recently produced. Look for it on television, and have a sneak preview here.

Also, please take a look at this article, which outlines some Social Security benefits changes coming in the new year.

Contact us if you have any questions or call 800-715-2088.

Happy New Year!

Now Hiring: A Compassionate Attorney

Detroit Legal Services has an opening in our Northwest Detroit office for a staff attorney, but before applying, first take a look at what we’re all about. We’re a different kind of law firm. We do not just say that we care deeply for our clients. We put that into practice at all levels.

First of all, we are holistic. That means, if you want to be a Detroit Legal Services attorney, you need to know that we not only need a lawyer who qualifies for our Social Security division, but also one who is compassionate and cares for the disabled, minority and LGBT communities.

We help clients not only win their cases, including following through on any appeals process, but guide clients through the process in a personalized way. We consider the conditions that allowed the legal issue to arise, help them see how it is impacting their lives and explore the healthiest way to resolve all issues.

A Detroit Legal Services attorney is one that understands the distinct struggles people living with HIV/AIDS face while waiting for Social Security benefits. Take a look at our HIV/AIDS Project page and decide if this is the kind of role you are comfortable with.

It is not enough to be a competent attorney. We need those who truly care, who will go the extra mile. It’s a tough, yet rewarding, job for the right kind of applicant.

The position is full-time and a competitive salary package is included. You’ll have to travel within Michigan and Ohio using your personal vehicle, but otherwise plane travel is covered by the firm.

If this sounds like you, then please send your resume to me, Joshua Moore, via e-mail only to josh@detlegalservices.com by December 31.

DLS needs your vote!

Detroit Legal Services is in the business of helping others, but today we are asking for your help.

As you know, DLS advocates for the disabled, the indigent, and those who have been discriminated against. We are major donors to numerous nonprofits, AIDS walk teams, dinners, retreats and holiday gift drives. This is just a small example of what we do in the community.

In order to provide expanded services and ensure our ever-growing current clients receive the exemplary service we provide, DLS trying something new …

We’re competing in the Mission: Small Business grant program. Chase and LivingSocial are awarding $250,000 to small businesses around the country, and DLS needs 250 votes from our friends to begin the application process.

Could you take a moment now and vote? It’s simple and only takes a minute. Click on this link, go to “Log in and support” and type in Detroit Legal Services. When the screen comes up, press the blue Vote button and the system will acknowledge that you voted.

We’ll keep you up-to-date with the contest results!  We’re almost there and only need a few more votes … Thank you so much for supporting the work we do!

Great Expressions Dental Centers runs misinformation campaign

By Joshua L. Moore
President, Detroit Legal Services

Over the past month, Great Expressions Dental Centers has brought forth a campaign of misinformation that is, quite frankly, appalling. I have worked in HIV services for 18 years and have never observed such behavior out of a group of human beings toward the HIV population. I am not sure if they received bad PR advice or if this was a panicked response to a growing movement from a petition on Change.org, but Great Expressions crossed the line with their misinformation and contradictory responses to James White.

Richard Beckman, CEO of Great Expressions, stated that the company was “very sympathetic toward anybody with HIV.” Yet, in the same breath Great Expressions filed a lawsuit against James White alleging, among other things, that James “has fostered an online campaign against Plaintiff seeking to induce other individuals to protest Plaintiff’s services, and paint Plaintiff in a false, negative light.” Let’s be clear, James White did not foster anything online or off against Great Expressions. The campaign online was in response to a POZ Magazine article about James White and his case. The campaign was started by James Harris, a young HIV positive activist who felt compelled to offer his support for James White through an online petition on the website Change.org.

Mr. Beckman’s sympathy spills over to James Harris. The young college student trying to help make a difference was sent a threatening letter from the Great Expressions attorney. The cease and desist letter sent from Great Expressions’ attorney, among other things, suggests to Mr. Harris that he would need to hire an attorney to defend himself against legal action from Great Expressions. Great Expressions sympathy seems to only be for those with HIV that do not question his company’s policies.

Great Expressions states that they did not fire James White because of his HIV status, but instead insist that it was due to James being tardy and absent. The EEOC investigated this case thoroughly and concluded that Great Expressions reasons for firing James were “pretextual.” The EEOC ruled that Great Expressions was untruthful in their reasoning of why they fired James White. Nevertheless, Great Expressions refuses to stop with the nonsense, reasoning they fired James due to unexcused absences.

According to The Detroit News, Mr. Beckman stated that he would not normally comment on something like this but it has “gotten out of control.” So Great Expressions will respect the privacy of their employees and former employees unless the situation gets “out of control.” Great Expressions has stated that they do not discriminate against the GLBTQ (sic) community. However, this is not about the LGBTQ community, this is about discrimination under the ADA and the determination by the EEOC that Great Expressions did subject James to discriminatory discipline, denied reasonable accommodations, and that the reason Great Expressions gave (i.e. tardiness and absences) for firing James was untruthful.

Great Expressions could have chosen to do the right thing and set an example for corporate responsibility. Instead, they have chosen to bully those with HIV and spread misinformation. Great Expressions can still choose to do the right thing. They could choose to embrace the HIV community and educate themselves. As a long term person living with HIV, I can tell them one thing is for sure: The HIV community is not going anywhere and this will not end until they choose to do the right thing.

Legal experts allege further harassment by HIV-positive employee’s former employer

A Detroit-area HIV-positive man who alleges to have been followed around by coworkers with cans of Lysol to spray his work area, relentlessly harassed and ultimately fired from his job because he revealed his status to a supervisor is being further victimized by his former employer, according to his attorneys.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently determined that James White had just cause to file a complaint against Great Expressions Dental Care, a chain with offices in Michigan and six other states. White’s attorneys are preparing to file a lawsuit. The EEOC findings read in part:

“The Commission’s investigation substantiates the Charging party’s allegations that the Respondent organization subjected him to discriminatory discipline, that the Respondent organization denied Charging Party reasonable accommodation, and that the legitimate non-discriminatory  reason offered for the Charging Party’s discharge was untruthful (i.e. pretextual).”

After recent local and national media interest and a petition created by a student on Change.org, which garnered more than 41,000 votes in a few days, Great Expressions responded with threats of legal action. A civil suit claiming false allegations, a “cease and desist” order to the creator of the original Change.org petition (which was quickly replaced by another supporter), and online statements all occurred Wednesday.

“We are outraged by the further, relentless discrimination and bullying toward an individual who has been traumatized more than anyone should ever be,” said President of Detroit Legal Services (DLS) Joshua L. Moore.

Detroit Legal Services has been handling the case for White since charges were originally filed several years ago. DLS continues to represent White, along with attorney Nicole Thompson.

Thompson is glad to see that White has so many supporters, as evidenced by the astounding success of the petition on his behalf, adding that she ” … hopes the legal system will provide the ultimate support to James, by ensuring that he receives the justice that he deserves after everything he has suffered.”

The law firm of Devaney Jacob and Wilson in Troy, Mich., served White with a civil suit on Wednesday alleging innocence on behalf of Great Expressions, in direct conflict with the findings of the EEOC.

DLS has become a sought-after nationwide expert in HIV/AIDS legal matters. Through its specialized program, DLS has successfully used its expertise and resources to provide personalized legal services for more than 300 clients to date who have found themselves struggling within the system.

The firm, headquartered in Detroit, proudly gives 10 percent of its earnings back to the community via donations to HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations.

“We strongly suggest Great Expressions require all employees participate in HIV Education courses,” said Moore. “A workplace imbued with ignorance and fear is unacceptable – no one should have to tolerate it, let alone a person with a serious medical condition. The actions of Great Expressions amount to nothing less than a campaign of intimidation and error.”

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For more information:
Detroit Legal Services Blog
Detroit Legal Services Facebook page
Article on POZ
New Change.org petition

HIV advocates call for justice for workplace discrimination victim

A Detroit-area HIV-positive man was followed around by coworkers with cans of Lysol, relentlessly harassed and ultimately fired from his job because he revealed his status to a colleague, according to a pending lawsuit.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined that James White had just cause to file a complaint against Great Expressions Dental Care, a chain with offices in Michigan and six other states. The company, however, rejected the claim and White’s attorneys are preparing to file a lawsuit.

Detroit Legal Services has been handling the case for White since the charges were originally filed several years ago. DLS continues to represent White, along with attorney Nicole Thompson.

DLS has become a sought-after nationwide expert in HIV/AIDS legal matters. Through its specialized program, DLS has successfully used its expertise and resources to provide personalized legal services for more than 300 clients to date who have found themselves struggling within the system.

The firm, headquartered in Detroit, proudly gives 10 percent of its earnings back to the community via donations to HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations.

The case has garnered national attention, with articles appearing the Huffington Post, numerous online magazines and blogs and Detroit television news.

“We find the actions of Great Expressions Dental Care to be truly despicable,” said DLS President Joshua L. Moore. “We will continue to pursue justice for Mr. White for the unconscionable trauma he has suffered.”

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More information can be found here.

Take action, sign the Change.org petition.

Important message from Detroit Legal Services

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you today to ask for two minutes of your time. I am asking you to go to this link and sign a petition for a client I have been fighting for over three years. James was severely discriminated against by his employer and his story can also be found at this link. The EEOC has ruled in our favor, however, the employer, Great Expressions Dental Centers, is still refusing to settle. Thanks in advance for signing the petition as if it were any of us I am sure we would appreciate the support!

Joshua L. Moore, Esq.
Attorney at Law
Detroit Legal Services, PLLC

Michigan unfairly targets pregnant HIV-positive women

Todd Heywood with The American Independent recently reported that a new study reveals that local health departments have been applying state HIV disclosure laws in ways that jeopardize reproductive freedom and personal privacy.

Detroit Legal Services runs the National HIV/AIDS Project, and has a special interest in the findings of this study.

Read the article here and let us know what you think in our comments section.

What is World AIDS Day?

Each year on Dec. 1 people worldwide unite to bring awareness to HIV/AIDS. It is a day to remember those we have lost to this disease and to show support to those who are still battling it. World AIDS day began in 1988 and is the first ever global health day. HIV/AIDS affects everyone. This day is an opportunity for people to unite and come together to fight stigma, discrimination, and bring to light issues that fuel the HIV epidemic like poverty and health disparities.

Detroit Legal Services will be commemorating the day by engaging in activities in the community to promote awareness and connect people to the exceptional services we provide. As part of our commitment to supporting local agencies in our community, we are sponsoring several events. We hope to engage others by reaching out on this day, sharing our stories and helping others. Look for us at the following events:

Dec. 1, 2011

World AIDS Day Mayors Breakfast with Jeanne White-Ginder
World AIDS Day Detroit Honorary Host Committee Chair Max Fisher, Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh, Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour, and Wayne State University Medical School Dean Dr. Valerie M. Parisi host Mayors Breakfast with keynote speaker and mother of Ryan White, Jeanne White-Ginder.
Location: Fillmore Theater 2115 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48201
Time: 8 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Phone: (313) 961-5451

Michigan Department of Community Health World AIDS Day Meeting
MDCH hosts community meeting for Detroit area schools and community members with educational sessions, workshops and special 30 years of AIDS presentation.
Location: Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers Rd. Detroit, MI 48235
Time: 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Phone: (313) 961-5451

Bad Blood Film Screening and Panel Discussion
Public screening for documentary released in July 2010 telling the story of how HIV entered the blood supply. Panel features producer and director Marilyn Ness and cast members Dr. Glenn Pierce, Dr. Dana Kuhn and Eric Weinberg.
Location: Fillmore Theater 2115 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48201
Time: 4-5:30 p.m.
Phone: (313) 961-5451

Private Reception with Jeanne White-Ginder
Honorary host committee, dignitaries, sponsors and special guests welcome Jeanne White-Ginder to Michigan with special recognition this 30th year of AIDS.
Location: Fillmore Theater 2115 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48201
Time: 6-7:00 p.m.
Phone: (313) 961-5451

Dec. 4, 2011

World AIDS Day Town Hall Awareness
A town hall to help spread awareness about HIV. A community issue that effects us all.
Location: Third New Hope Baptist Church West Campus 5439 Warren Ave Detroit, MI
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Phone: (313) 896-4070

For more information, visit:
World AIDS Day Campaign
World AIDS Day Detroit

Keys to winning a Social Security case

I am often asked what is important for a successful Social Security claim. Please check out my top three suggestions for applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI):

1. Seek mental health treatment: Being disabled is depressing and the Social Security Disability process is very stressful. Seeing a psychiatrist does not mean you’re crazy, it actually means that you’re a normal person going through the depression that many who are disabled face day to day. It also tremendously helps your SSD/SSI case.

2. Never tell your doctor that you are “fine” when you’re not: When the doctor enters the room and asks “How are you today?” your response should not be “I’m fine” or “I’m great” if you’re not. This is the first thing a physician writes down and it is a sure way to kill any chance you have at a successful SSD/SSI claim. So as you’re giving your doctor information, make sure you want the judge to see it later. Remember to tell your doctor every problem you’re having and any medication side effects!

3. Hire an attorney who knows Social Security Disability: I frequently receive calls from people who have had their SSD/SSI cases mishandled. Often this is because the attorney does not know SSD/SSI law. This is similar to choosing a foot doctor for a heart problem. If an attorney is knowledgeable in Social Security cases you will have a much better chance at having a successful claim. Finally, there are non-attorney representatives who represent individuals seeking Social Security benefits. Some are knowledgeable about Social Security matters; however, many are not. Buyer beware! Sometimes there is no recourse against non-attorney representatives for gross negligence.

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