We help eligible low-income people and senior citizens
with civil legal problems.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Update on Class Action Settlement for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Recipients

Please help us spread the word about this class action settlement: Martinez v. Astrue

Recently a federal judge granted final approval of a settlement agreement which will end the Social Security Administration’s policy of denying or suspending benefits based on the mere existence of an outstanding arrest warrant.

1 – Make sure addresses are current!
Social Security is sending notices about this to folks but they need to be sure they have their addresses current.   Social Security Address change page:  https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/ICOA/coa001.jsp 

2 – Attached is a short and long version of a notice about the settlement...briefly:
If Social Security or the Veterans Administration stopped benefits because of an arrest warrant, they have to stop collecting overpayments and begin disbursing back benefits or overpayments collected.

There are the types of benefits affected:
§ Social Security
§ Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
§ Special Veterans Benefits (SVB)
3 – If you've experienced this, check to see if you might be in one of the THREE different groups.
Some people will have to re-apply for benefits, others will not.

4 – If you need help:
*  Call your local legal aid office   In Oklahoma:  http://www.legalaidok.org/
*  Call the Oklahoma Disability Law Center: http://www.oklahomadisabilitylaw.org/
*  Private lawyer (there is a fee based on back benefits)  1-800-431-2804

5 – This does NOT apply if you violated probation or parole or if the warrant was for flight or escape.

More information and regular updates about the settlement’s implementation, join the National Senior Citizens Law Center’s “Martinez Settlement Listserv” emailing Oakland@nsclc.org

Read a summary sheet to see if you might be eligible:  http://www.oklaw.org/link.cfm?2839
More information about the policy, the case and the settlement agreement, visit: www.nsclc.org/areas/social-security-ssi/Martinez-Settlement

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

'Tis the season for internet fraud

Unfortunately... well into the season for internet fraud complaints and more than one type... email scams, online shopping fraud. 

Have you seen these emails?  I received an email this morning from someone who had "obtained my contact information from a local bar association" seeking to hire a lawyer to collect some bad debts.  Now, really!  I know my local bar doesn't handle referrals in this manner.  Yes, even lawyers are targets for these kinds of email scams!

Legal Aid has recently had reports that a Florida "business" was sending certified letters to individuals attempting to entice them into sending money to a claim prize money.  Then a few days later the "business" sends another certified letter, enclosing a letter purporting to be from the FBI stating that the business was real... go ahead and send your money in, folks!  Don't be tempted!
Othere online fraud examples? 
Holiday shopping season brings out the best in some of us and the worst in others. 
The FBI's IC3 web site reminds us that cyber criminals continue to pursue creative new ways to steal your money and your personal information.  Here are a few examples:
  • Fraudulent Classified Ads
  • Fraudulent Auction Sales
  • Gift Card Scams
  • Phishing and Smishing Schemes
Tips?  Glad you asked:
  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) email.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited email.
  • Be cautious of email claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses.
  • Only open attachments from known senders-even then if possible, scan the attachments for viruses.
  • Do not fill out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
Always compare the link in the email to the link you are actually directed to and determine if they actually match and will lead you to a legitimate site.

Log on directly to the official web site for the business identified in the email, instead of "linking" to it from an unsolicited email.  If the email appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.  But please, always be cautions, maybe even a bit skeptical.

If you're still in doubt, contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine. 
Read the IC3 Intelligence Note for more information:

More information about Identity Theft and Financial Fraud on OKLaw

Friday, December 4, 2009

HIV/AIDS Legal Resource Project Receives Grant at World AIDS Day Remembrance Service

Pictured Above: The Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma group at the 2009 Oklahoma City AIDS Walk

The Oklahoma City’s AIDS Walk was a huge success this year, with thousands of dollars in grants distributed among several local nonprofit agencies at the World AIDS Day Remembrance Service. Of those nonprofits, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma was honored to receive $8,200 in grants for the Statewide HIV/AIDS Legal Resource Project.

Though the project is physically located within the Oklahoma City Legal Aid Law Office, it serves all 77 counties statewide. The project assists with the civil legal problems of low-income individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. Clients can call the HIV/AIDS Legal Resource Project's toll free number at 866-817-8151 for confidential assistance or to see if they qualifty.

Pictured above: Marilyn Staats & Marveda Stinson

The project, run by Marilyn Staats, Staff Attorney and Project Director, and Marveda Stinson, Legal Assistant, has been assisting clients since 1992.
“This grant is so important because it shows how supportive the AIDS community is of our program. To have our services recognized as being vital to the community says a lot,” said Staats.
The project closed 132 cases in 2008 and each year, the number of cases closed continues to go up. Plans are currently under way to add a third employee in Tulsa under the HIV/AIDS Legal Resource Project so that clients can be better served in Eastern Oklahoma.
“The majority of the cases we deal with have to do with housing or homeless issues,” said Staats, “because most of our clients are disabled, they can often go homeless or are forced to go without medical care if they don’t receive legal help.”
Marilyn and Marveda make it a point to speak with each potential client that calls in. With the client to attorney ratio being so high at Legal Aid, several cases are referred to pro bono attorneys. Marilyn and Marveda are always seeking assistance from private attorneys across the state who are looking for pro bono opportunities.
In addition to the Oklahoma City AIDS Walk, the project is funded in part by the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the Inasmuch Foundation and the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
If you are a laywer who is interested in a pro bono opportunity with the HIV/AIDS Legal Resource Project or would like to learn more, you can e-mail Marilyn Staats at marilyn.staats@laok.org or call her directly at 405-488-6779.