Legal Services: More About Our Services
HIV-Related Legal Assistance
The Legal Services Program serves individuals who are HIV-positive, generally in matters related to their HIV diagnosis, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, national origin or immigration status. Legal Services will also represent families, domestic partners or friends of HIV-positive individuals, to the extent that their interests are congruent with the interests of the HIV-positive individual.
Assistance on LGBT Health-Related Legal Matters
Whitman-Walker is the provider of choice for medical and behavioral health services to many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, and in the Legal Services Program, we provide pro bono legal assistance to non-HIV-positive Whitman-Walker clients who cannot afford a private lawyer and whose legal problems are related to LGBT health issues.
For instance, we represent non-HIV-positive foreign nationals seeking asylum or other relief from deportation because of persecution based on sexual orientation or gender status in their home countries. We also provide advice and legal representation in cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity; help lower-income LGBT individuals and couples with wills and advance medical directives; provide assistance with health, life and disability insurance problems; and help transgender individuals with name changes and changes to identity documents (such as drivers licenses, birth certificates, and passports).
Name and Gender Change Clinic
The Name and Gender Change Clinic is a free legal clinic held every other month, where trained attorneys meet one-on-one with clients to provide counseling and assistance with the name and gender change processes, including obtaining court orders, changing drivers’ licenses, passports, birth certificates, and other identity documents and public records. We will also help clients to collect needed letters from their medical providers and to seek assistance with court fees, where appropriate. Having identity documents, Social Security, and other legal records that accurately reflect one's actual name and gender is critical for a transgender individual, who lives with pervasive stigma and misunderstanding, who frequently encounters discrimination in employment, medical care, and housing, and who faces harassment from police and other officials. Whitman-Walker Health Legal Services Program recognizes and appreciates the Trans Legal Advocates of Washington for their collaboration in support of this critical legal service.
Clients are served on a walk-in basis and no appointment is necessary, but clients are encouraged to RSVP to Lee Brubaker at 202.939.7627 or via e-mail for more information.
How To Reach Us
Clients reach us in a number of ways. Many clients are referred through other programs of WW, such as medical, case management or behavioral health services. We also receive referrals from sources outside WW, including social workers at hospitals and public health clinics, staff from other HIV/AIDS and LGBT organizations, and private physicians. Many clients who learn of our services through advertisements and notices in community publications and by word of mouth, contact us directly.
What Legal Issues We Handle
We provide client services, including counseling, advocacy and representation in the following areas:
- Discrimination and workplace rights: counseling, advocacy and representation in proceedings involving discrimination based on HIV/AIDS, sexual orientation or transgender status in employment, health care, education, public accommodations and housing.
- Insurance: counseling, advocacy and representation involving health, life and disability insurance such as obtaining insurance, obtaining continuation and conversion coverage, contesting denials of claims, cancellation and rescission.
- Immigration: counseling, advocacy and representation for foreign nationals living with HIV/AIDS and LGBT foreign nationals on U.S. immigration laws, and assistance applying for immigration relief in the U.S. We counsel and assist noncitizens receiving health care at Whitman-Walker on a wide range of immigration matters. Our immigration services also are available to LGBT persons and persons living with HIV/AIDS who face persecution in their countries of origin, without regard to whether you are receiving medical or behavioral health care at Whitman-Walker.
- Public benefits: counseling, advocacy and representation for clients seeking access to public assistance programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, Food Stamps, transitional assistance for SSI applicants, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and HIV/AIDS-specific benefit programs. We provide assistance with initial applications and with appeals of denials of benefits.
- Return to work after disability: counseling for clients who wish to return to work after leaving their job as a result of HIV-related disability; advising clients on matters such as maintaining Social Security disability and Medicaid / Medicare benefits during a trial work period, the effects of returning to work on private disability benefits, obtaining benefits through the job and securing reasonable accommodations.
- Wills, advance health care directives and powers of attorney: counseling and preparation of simple wills, general powers of attorney, powers of attorney for health care, living wills and declarations as to the disposition of bodily remains.
- Debtors’ rights: counseling on debt management and negotiating with creditors, and assistance with obtaining legal relief from debt obligations in appropriate cases.
- Name and gender changes in legal documents for transgender persons: counseling and advocacy for court orders, and administrative changes to drivers licenses, Social Security records, birth certificates, passports, immigration records and other legal records.
We also recently implemented a red carpet service for clients newly diagnosed with HIV, or clients new to HIV care at Whitman-Walker, in which the clients obtain a comprehensive, holistic “HIV legal checkup” to help them identify and address problems that would become much harder to resolve if ignored.
In addition to advising and representing individual clients, Legal Services lawyers work on a range of law reform efforts, in the District of Columbia and nationally, with an emphasis on health care access and reform, Social Security disability benefits for people living with HIV/AIDS, protections from discrimination, safeguards for medical privacy, and immigration reform. Legal Services lawyers are also available to meet with Whitman-Walker support groups, and community and provider groups, to answer questions and provide general information.