Founded in 2000, the Alona Cortese Elder Law Center provides free legal services to low income seniors throughout the county of Orange. The center has both a classroom and clinical component, allowing students to learn key aspects of elder law while obtaining hands-on experience representing real clients. The center works closely with local legal aid organizations and pro-bono attorneys to maximize services provided to seniors.
Enrolled students help clients with numerous legal issues including claims of elder abuse, will drafting, advance health care directives, representation at administrative hearings, Medicare, Social Security, guardianship and conservatorship. Students also provide guidance about clients' rights as consumers and how to avoid financial abuse. The center is directed by Fowler School of Law Professor Kurt Eggert.
The center was created with the generous support of its namesake, the late Alona Cortese. It depends upon continued private donations to offer these important free services to our clients.
In the last two years, the Elder Law Center has resolved more than 200 cases. In one recent victory, one of our clients had been denied disability benefits despite a severe disabling illness. A Fowler Law student represented her at an administrative hearing and drafted two briefs in support of her position. She was awarded disability benefits and retroactive benefits, going back almost two years. Our client will no longer have to fear that she has to choose between paying her rent and buying groceries or medicine.
In another recent victory, a Fowler Law student successfully represented an elderly client in a Medicare hearing who had been denied Medicare benefits. The client, when close to death, had been airlifted from a small hospital to a large hospital that specialized in her condition. Despite pre-approving the transfer, Medicare then later denied coverage of the transfer, costing the client over $10,000. Fowler Law students convinced the judge that airlifting our client was medically necessary.
Students may also learn to represent disabled or mentally impaired seniors. For instance, two Fowler Law students represented clients in hearings before an administrative law judge, successfully obtaining unemployment benefits for a client and obtaining a ruling overturning a denial of General Relief benefits for a disabled client.