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CASE NOTES

Helping Families Get Disability Benefits

We helped an Indian grandmother who was trying to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) child disability benefits for her granddaughter. The grandmother became the legal guardian after the tribal child welfare office and tribal court decided that the child could not safely be returned to the custody of her Indian parents. The child had severe psychological problems that created safety hazards and made it hard for her to focus on schoolwork and other activities. We helped the grandmother do the paperwork for the SSI application. We also obtained strong medical evidence that showed that the child met the standard for child SSI disability benefits. It is different than the standard for adults. It took several months but the claim was approved. The child received a substantial amount of back benefits. She also gets ongoing monthly benefits. With that money, the grandmother is able to do many things that will help her granddaughter overcome her disability. Some of these things are:

  • More access to health care and supportive services
  • Educational materials
  • A computer and appropriate software
  • Transportation to Native American cultural events
  • Native American books and language materials
  • Materials for Native crafts
  • Safety items for the house
  • Cable TV and DVD's including The Discovery Channel

 

The NAU encourages Indian family members to contact us concerning kids who might be eligible for SSI Disability benefits.

 

Harassment of Micmac Blueberry Rakers at the U.S.-Canada Border

In the last edition of the Wabanaki Legal News we reported that many Canadian-born Indians were harassed when they crossed the border into Maine for the 2009 blueberry harvest. For example, they told us they were confined in separate rooms, aggressively questioned, and detained for up to three hours despite having appropriate documents. Also, dogs were used to search many vehicles. Non-Indians crossing the border at the same time were not treated in the same way.

On behalf of several individuals, we are preparing formal complaints to the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In an attempt to resolve this dispute without filing formal complaints, we sent a detailed letter outlining our clients' concerns to the Area Port Director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Portland. He agreed to have a meeting with us on July 16, 2010. CBP lawyers from Boston also attended the meeting. The CBP officials stated that the extra security measures last summer were because of concerns about possible unintentional transmission of a blueberry fungus called Valdensinia. However, the CBP has not made any public written statement that clearly says that the fungus was the reason for extra security. They have also refused to provide any of their internal communications from 2009 that may have mentioned the fungus. As of the time this newsletter was going to press, the CBP had not given us any definite assurance that rakers will not have similar problems this year when crossing the Maine border.

In the meantime, we encourage rakers to contact us if they are harassed at the border this year.

Publication Volume: 
2010.2
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