What is Protection & Advocacy, and What Can It Do for You?

Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As) work at the state level to protect individuals with disabilities by empowering them and advocating on their behalf. The first P&A program - PADD (Protection and Advocacy for People with Developmental Disabilities) – was created in 1975 in the renewal of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights (DD) Act. P&As are federally mandated organizations that provide legal and other advocacy services to people with disabilities in every U.S. state and territory.

The DD Act provided for the governor of each state to designate an agency to be the P&A and to assure that the P&A was, and would remain, independent of any service provider. Most entities designated as P&As are private non-profit organizations created specifically for the purpose of conducting the P&A programs. There are 57 P&As in the United States and its territories, and each is independent of service-providing agencies in their states.

Along with the other Administration on Disabilities grantees, P&As are dedicated to the ongoing fight for the personal and civil rights of individuals with disabilities. P&As provide legal support to traditionally unserved or underserved populations to help them navigate the legal system to achieve resolution and encourage systems change. P&As ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to exercise their rights to make choices, contribute to society, and live independently.

While their focus is most often legal, P&As also engage in a range of other efforts to promote the rights of individuals with disabilities. They often provide information and referrals, as well as training and technical assistance to service providers, state legislators, and other policymakers. They also conduct self-advocacy training and raise public awareness of legal and social issues affecting individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

Disability Rights Mississippi is our state’s P&A organization. The U.S. Senate recently passed a law called the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act (HR 4547).  The bill will increase oversight and protections for some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens by increasing oversight of the SSA’s Representative Payee program.

A representative payee is a person who acts as the receiver of Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income for a person who is not fully capable of managing their own benefits. Unfortunately, multiple investigations have uncovered representative payees who have stolen or misused funds, exploited, neglected, and even abused the people with disabilities they were supposed to be helping.

HR 4547 specifically authorizes the nation’s protection and advocacy systems (P&As) to monitor and investigate how representative payees are administering Social Security funds.  Disability Rights Mississippi Executive Director, Polly Tribble, said “This is a great day for people who have a representative payee. Congress is protecting their interests by providing this needed oversight.” In Mississippi, there are 249,440 people receiving Social Security benefits.

For more information about DRMS go to www.drms.ms or call 1-800-772-4057 for any additional information.

If we can assist you and your loved ones, please contact one of the experienced Medicaid planning attorneys MS at Courtney Elder Law Associates. We will be happy to answer your questions and help you through the process.

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