Legal Aid of Nebraska, a statewide nonprofit based in Omaha with a mission to level the legal playing field for the poor, celebrates 10 years of its ElderAccessLine® this week.

The ElderAccessLine® began Dec. 5, 2005. This civil legal service hotline is now assisting more than 1,500 elderly Nebraskans each year by providing both legal advice and representation. It is the only senior legal hotline in Nebraska, partially filling the dramatically underserved legal needs of low income Nebraskans 60 and older.

Supported by the State Unit on Aging, The Area Agencies on Aging, and the Woman’s Fund of Omaha, the ElderAccessLine® provides direct and experienced legal assistance to elderly Nebraskans, helping them to deal with legal issues involving collections, creditor harassment, public benefits, housing, power of attorney documents, advanced directives, and other legal matters.

When someone on a fixed income is forced to choose which bill to pay, a domino effect can occur that can result in difficulties retaining secure housing, sustenance, or other basic life necessities. This targeted service interrupts that cycle. No income threshold must be met to receive services

Once contact has been initiated via a phone call or filling out an online form, the precise legal issues faced by the client are determined by ElderAccessLine® staff who provide advice and/or brief service. If more extended representation is required, the case is referred to an attorney in an office near the client.

The effort is headed up by ElderAccessLine® Attorney Margaret Schaefer. Schaefer and Legal Aid of Nebraska paralegals who take calls provide peace of mind through legal advice and jargon-free information.  Most importantly, they help seniors make educated decision regarding financial matters, decisions that foster stability, and security.

“We have been making justice happen for a decade,” Schaefer said. “We’ve had a wonderful impact. I see it every day.”

A recent success story is indicative of the work done by the service.

“Claire,” a 78-year-old living in Omaha, contacted Legal Aid for assistance with debt.  She was the only caregiver for her adult daughter and had started to receive notifications that she owed credit card debt, which was gradually making it harder to keep up with her responsibilities.

A Legal Aid Omaha staff attorney was able to assist Claire with getting her Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharged, which removed the responsibility of $89,608 in unsecured debt.  In addition, Legal Aid was able to protect all of her property. Claire now has a clean slate to concentrate, not only on her needs, but also on the needs of her daughter.

The ElderAccessLine® closed approximately 1,700 cases statewide from October 2014 through September 2015 .

Boasting several targeted access lines to reach underserved segments of the population, Legal Aid of Nebraska has a history that stretches back to 1963.

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