Success Stories — achieving better outcomes
Our staff and volunteers are proud to assist our county’s citizens who need help in fairly resolving complaints that involve government agencies. We also serve as advocates for residents of nursing homes, long-term care and assisted living facilities, and other adult care services.
Here are just a few recent examples of how we have helped your neighbors successfully settle important issues that have impacted their lives and well-being —
This week a woman contacted the Ombudsman because she had received a “weird” letter from our Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services (MCD JFS).The letter told her that they had notification that she had moved to Montgomery County from another Ohio county, which was not true. The letter also asked her to respond to the letter by a certain date, yet she did not receive the letter until two days after the date a response was requested. She attempted to call the telephone number provided on the letter but was disconnected each time she tried. Furthermore, the woman had never received any benefits from the Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services, and did not apply for any benefits from the department.
She contacted the Ombudsman for assistance to sort out why she received the notice and how to respond. The Ombudsman sent an inquiry to the department that day. Within hours a response was received that explained the inconsistencies. The Social Security Administration had sent an application to the MCD- JFS on the woman’s behalf and without her knowledge. This application was sent in an effort to ensure that the woman was receiving all the benefits to which she is entitled.
The staff at MCD JFS explained that there is a “glitch” of some sort with the Social Security Administration sending such applications to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, so that they all appear to be related to the wrong county. The staff person clarified that the only address in their system was the correct address for the woman. The staff person at the MCD JFS elaborated that the woman was found over the income eligibility for Medicaid and would be receiving a letter of denial in the mail in a matter of days.
The woman was relieved to learn that the letter she received was due to a series of errors and that she should have no concerns and did not have to take action in response. She was grateful for the swift action of the Ombudsman.
The man asked the mother who received the payment to return a part of it, but she declined. The man has been shuttled among the three counties where support is owed, and now does not now where to turn. Therefore, he approached the Ombudsman Office for assistance.
The Ombudsman Office assists residents of Montgomery County with problems with government agencies. The man and one of his children live in Montgomery County. The large payment he made, the one that was applied to one case instead of distributed among the three, was made in Montgomery County. Therefore, the Ombudsman accepted the case.
We contacted the Montgomery County Child Support Enforcement Agency and presented the man’s dilemma. Staff at the Montgomery County Child Support Enforcement Agency (MCCSEA) were sympathetic to the man’s problem. The man made the payments at the Montgomery County Child Support Agency and received a receipt showing how his payments were applied. Because the man’s cases are managed in another county, Montgomery County does not have the ability to make modifications or adjustments. However, Montgomery County staff agreed to contact the other counties to see what alternatives were possible. The man’s frustration at being directed from one county to another was understandable. With the intervention of the Montgomery County staff person with the county managing the man’s cases, a solution was found. The managing county will take future payments from the man’s employer so they can be fairly redirected to the underpaid cases. The man was grateful that there was a way forward with his payments.
The Ombudsman received a call from a man asking assistance in getting streetlights in his neighborhood restored. He reported that the lighting has been out for over a month. He reported that he had spoken to several agencies, but that he has received no clear answer to his inquiries.
The Ombudsman contacted the lighting company about replacing the wires. The representative for the company reported that a company trimming trees requested the overhead wires feeding the streetlight to be removed so the crew could safely work in the area. The representative agreed to contact the tree company to get a timeframe for completion of the work so the lights could be restored.
The Ombudsman then contacted the homeowner to explain the delay in restoring the lines. The homeowner was advised that when he observed the tree trimmers working on his street then he would know the restoration of lighting would be coming shortly.
Within two weeks the homeowner called the Ombudsman to report that the streetlight wiring was reconnected, and the lights are now working. He was grateful for our intervention.
A man wrote the Ombudsman seeking help with a parking ticket. The man received a notice to pay a parking ticket through the mail. The ticket was issued to his car license, but the make and year of the car were not the same as his. The ticket was for a parking violation at an address in a neighboring municipality, and the man claimed he had never been at that location.
The man had already called the issuing police department to explain the mistake and ask for help in correcting the problem. He was told to speak with a particular officer, but the man said the officer was never available to take his calls and that the messages he left were not returned.
Then he called the Ombudsman for help. The Ombudsman initially contacted the department to verify the information written on the ticket by the issuing officer. The license number belonged to the caller, but the car was indeed different. Then the Ombudsman spoke to an officer in the department, who offered no suggestions or recommendations for checking into the problem.
So the Ombudsman spoke to the officer’s supervisor, explained the discrepancies between the ticket and the citizen’s automobile, and faxed copies of the ticket and other relevant information to the police department. The supervisor sent an officer to the man’s home to check his vehicle. The man called a week later to say that the problem was corrected, and the ticket was removed.
A homeowner contacted the Ombudsman Office for assistance in determining which company or governmental jurisdiction was responsible for two light poles that had fallen in front of his home. A company did come to remove the light from one of the poles, and the workman informed the homeowner that the poles were not the responsibility of the company. The man had also contacted his telephone service, and that company also denied having any responsibility for the poles. The homeowner also contacted the township office where he lives and was told that the poles did not belong to the township. The homeowner reported that there were no numbers on the poles with which to identify the poles. The homeowner felt as if everyone was denying responsibility for the poles and that each was trying to place the responsibility on another.
The Ombudsman initially enlisted the assistance of a local electric company in order to help determine ownership of the poles. The staff person at the electric company took the relevant information, and agreed to look into the matter. The staff person also agreed to contact the homeowner to determine if the poles were for street lights or for night lights. After several conversations among the electric company staff, the Ombudsman, and the township staff, it was determined that the township was responsible for the poles. The township promptly removed the fallen poles.
The guardian had made arrangements for his move without ever visiting him or discussing the matter with him. The right to determine where we live and with whom we are friends is a fundamental right. The man asked the Ombudsman to help him remain in his home.
During a meeting with the Ombudsman the man stated that at one time he was quite ill and needed to have someone make decisions on his behalf, however, his health has improved and he doesn't believe that he needs a guardian anymore. The Ombudsman informed the man that he could request a re-evaluation of his guardianship status by the county probate court where he was adjudicated incompetent. She also shared that the guardian should allow him to participate in decisions if capable.
The man decided that he wanted to address the situation directly with the county probate court. He dictated a letter to the social worker of the nursing home with the Ombudsman present. The man provided specific reasons as to why he did not agree with the action the guardian was taking and that the guardian did not include him in the decision making process. He also requested the court to re-evaluate his competency and his future need for a guardian.
Prior to the hearing a psychiatrist visited the man for an evaluation and determined he no longer needed a guardian. The county probate court held a preliminary hearing with the man and the guardian present. The guardian then understood that the client did not want to move. The Magistrate decided the man would remain in his current home while a decision about the competency was made. The county probate court Magistrate also ordered a competency evaluation and scheduled a hearing date.
The Ombudsman and staff from the nursing home attended the hearing with the man. The final outcome was that the guardianship was terminated.
A man visited the Ombudsman Office with paperwork from the Social Security Administration (SSA) stating the monthly amount of disability benefits he would receive over the next few months. The man's benefits were being reduced. The man was confused about the reason for the reductions, and offered that nothing had changed in his part-time employment or any other aspect of his life. He also did not understand what the SSA letter was telling him with respect to his Medicare benefits. Finally, the man added that he had a court date to be evicted because he had not been able to pay his rent because his Social Security benefits had been reduced.
The Ombudsman read the information from the SSA, and helped the man to understand that his Social Security was being reduced in order to increase the amount the agency is withholding each month to pay the man's child support obligation. When the Ombudsman expressed concern about the upcoming eviction, the man responded that he had already made arrangements to move in with his father in a nearby municipality. The Ombudsman explained that the letter from the SSA was also informing him that he was eligible for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program through Medicaid, which will pay for his Part B premiums. The Ombudsman explained how the man would apply for those benefits and how that would impact his monthly income. The man was pleased to have the confusion about the changes to his benefits explained.
While the Ombudsman was visiting one of the many Adult Care Facilities in our area, a woman told her that she does not receive enough money to pay for her personal needs and activities. The woman's Social Security benefit income is managed by a representative payee agency that charges a fee for their services. The woman would like to be in charge of her own finances but it has been a long time since she managed her own money. The woman is currently receiving $15.00 per month for her personal needs. If she managed her own money, and no longer paid the agency fee, she would have $40.00 per month.
The Ombudsman contacted the local Social Security office to learn what steps the woman needed to take to become independent of the agency. The woman needs to provide personal identification and her doctor's contact information.
The woman and the adult care facility manager were not initially successful at the face-to-face appointment at the local Social Security office. The woman was told that she would have to know her monthly expenses. The woman does not know that information because all of her bills go directly to the representative payee agency. In addition the woman needed to have her doctor's written verification that the she can manage her own money.
The woman has a doctor's appointment scheduled and believes she will obtain the verification from the doctor at that time. The Ombudsman recommended that she receive a list of all expenses paid for by the representative payee agency and work with the adult care facility manager to create a budget, decide which bank she will use and how the bills will be paid.
The Ombudsman received the good news from the woman that the second appointment with Social Security was successful. The woman provided the doctor's letter and demonstrated that she knew her income and expenses. The woman will be receiving her Social Security benefit check and has opened her own bank account.
Last week a woman contacted the Ombudsman Office seeking assistance in receiving her mail. The woman and her family had recently moved, and had placed a change of address with the Post Office. But then the woman received no mail at all. When she went to the Post Office to inquire about her mail, she learned that the person who had lived in the home before her had the same last name. Now all of her mail which she should be receiving at her new home was being forwarded to the previous resident. The previous resident had brought her the utility bills, knowing that the woman would need to make payments. But the woman was concerned that someone else was getting her mail and wanted to have the problem resolved. The woman had made multiple trips to her Post Office and the previous tenant's post office as well, but she continued to not receive any mail.
The Ombudsman contacted the supervisor to report the woman's mail problem. The supervisor contacted both the local branches and alerted them to the address change and the name situation so the matter could be finally resolved. The supervisor also mailed the woman a confirmation of the address change to prove that the problem was resolved. The woman received the confirmation and now routinely receives her mail.
A homeowner contacted the Ombudsman to complain about being overcharged for her waste container. She has dutifully been paying her bill for waste collection and did not realize that she was paying for two containers. It wasn't until she received an invoice which reflected no water usage at her home that she and her grandchildren examined the invoice more closely. She explained that on the Fourth of July holiday two years ago her container was damaged by firecrackers. She called for a replacement and received one. The damaged can was removed at the same time. She had already talked to the city responsible, and they had agreed to give her one quarter's credit. She also informed the city that she was using water at her residence that was not reflected on the invoice and a new water meter was installed. She was not satisfied with only one quarter's credit and contacted the Ombudsman for assistance.
First the Ombudsman contacted the city and obtained copies of the woman's invoices for the period in question. With the invoices it was verified that the woman had been paying for two containers. The Ombudsman then contacted the city and inquired about the date that the replacement container was delivered, which was July 9, 2015. The Ombudsman requested that the account be credited for the time period involved and the city staff person agreed. The woman's credit is approximately $275.
THE OMBUDSMAN column, a production of the Joint Office of Citizens’ Complaints, summarizes selected problems that citizens have had with government and social services, utilities, schools and nursing homes in the Dayton area. Contact the Ombudsman by writing to 11 W. Monument Ave., Suite 606, Dayton 45402, or call 937-223-4613, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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