2022 — VLA in the Media
December 15, 2022 – Ghosn & Smiley: Voices of people experiencing homelessness
Commentary by Brianna Ghosn, a senior at the University of Vermont, and Ned Smiley, a senior at Champlain College. They both volunteered at Vermont Legal Aid this semester to work on this project.
December 7, 2022 – Expensive housing is limiting who gets to live where in Vermont – and clouds the state’s future
Vermont has room to chart a more inclusive future, noted Rachel Batterson, who directs the Housing Discrimination Law Project at Vermont Legal Aid.
November 28, 2022 – Vermont regulators unanimously approve extension of all-payer health reform contract
These types of programs are more tangible to Vermonters than the comparatively abstract, behind-the-scenes efforts to change payment formulas, said Mike Fisher, Vermont Legal Aid’s chief health care advocate.
November 24, 2022 – For Vermonters with disabilities, the search for housing is even harder
Rachel Batterson, director of Vermont Legal Aid’s Housing Discrimination Law Project, said they receive more than 100 complaints of discrimination each year. She estimated that “at least a third but probably close to 50 percent” involve people with disabilities.
November 23, 2022 – Staffing costs drove $90 million loss for UVM Health Network
Mike Fisher, chief health care advocate for Vermont Legal Aid, said he was heartened that UVM Health Network’s strategy in the coming year did not include seeking an additional commercial rate increase.
November 18, 2022 – UVM Health Network records “sobering” financial losses in last fiscal year
Mike Fisher from the Office of the Health Care Advocate commended the Health Network for not making any cuts. He added that health care networks across the country are finding themselves in a similar position to UVMHN.
November 16, 2022 – New health care regulators ask OneCare executive for measurable results
“On a high level … it’s important that any regulated entity, like OneCare going before the board, gets a good, careful review,” Mike Fisher, chief health care advocate at Vermont Legal Aid, said after the hearing. “And so I’m pleased to see the level of questioning from the board.”
November 15, 2022 – State announces new cold-weather policy for homeless Vermonters
“Tomorrow’s a snowstorm,” Rebecca Plummer, a staff attorney at Vermont Legal Aid, said Tuesday. “And maybe, technically, it falls through the cracks of this — which is just evidence of how insane it is to be parsing it like this.”
November 2, 2022 – Judge dismisses 18-year-old arson case against disabled man
Treadwell agreed with arguments raised by Arthur Parker’s attorney, Sara Kagle of Vermont Legal Aid in Springfield, who said that the charges should be dismissed in the interests of justice because of the lengthy delay.
November 1, 2022 – ‘I want my money back’: Rental application fees rampant despite Vermont’s prohibition
“It's a big problem,” said Jack McCullough, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid. Landlords, he said, have been known to collect fees for each of the potentially dozens of applicants for a single listing. “The housing market is so tight and tenants are so desperate they don't have a choice but to pay illegal fees.”
October 31, 2022 – The push for a ‘just cause’ eviction standard is back in towns and cities across Vermont
Vermont Legal Aid, which provides legal services to people with low incomes, says such “no cause” evictions are surging amid the state’s white-hot housing market, and in 2021 represented more than half of all evictions that made their way through the courts.
October 20, 2022 – Elder law project helps seniors
Addison County Independent:
Vermont Legal Aid’s Elder Law Project focuses on the legal needs and problems of Vermonters older than 60. Through our Senior Citizens Law Project (SCLP) and Medicare Advocacy Project (MAP), the project provides a full range of legal services that includes advice, assistance with documents such as powers of attorney and advance directives, advocacy and full representation.
October 12, 2022 – Is your landlord selling the property? What renters should know
Maryellen Griffin, a staff attorney with Vermont Legal Aid, says it should transfer to the new property manager. By law, they’re required to see it through, but that doesn’t mean the transition is always easy.
October 10, 2022 – ‘It’s never ending’: After eviction, St. Albans man struggles to get back on his feet
“We're finding that landlords, in fact, still want to get rid of the tenants — kind of regardless of the payment status,” said Devon Ayers, a paralegal at Vermont Legal Aid. “We were really surprised by that shift.”
October 7, 2022 – In Vermont’s gubernatorial race, the housing crisis takes center stage
Landlords can and do evict tenants year-round in Vermont. Rebecca Plummer, a staff attorney at Vermont Legal Aid, which provides legal services to low-income people, wrote in an email to VTDigger that it was “shocking that the Administration’s housing policy seems to be based on a myth.”
September 23, 2022 – Vermont Legal Aid on helping those in need as rental assistance program ends
“Vermont Edition” on Vermont Public radio:
Interview with Rachel Plummer Medical-Legal Partnership project director at Vermont Legal Aid
September 23, 2022 – State employees gear up for fight over cost-cutting Medicare Advantage plans
Mike Fisher, the state’s health advocate with Vermont Legal Aid, said he’s generally concerned about what the explosive growth in Medicare Advantage plans means for the stability of the Medicare Trust Fund.
September 21, 2022 – Vermont Wants Evidence That Pandemic Unemployment Recipients Were Eligible
Staffing and technology issues delayed initial payments to many, while those deemed to have been wrongly paid often waited months for appeal hearings, leading to a class-action lawsuit from Vermont Legal Aid.
September 20, 2022 – Thousands of Vermonters will soon loose pandemic-era rental assistance. Here’s how they’re trying to stay housed
Rebecca Plummer, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid.
September 19, 2022 – In one Vermont school district, the practice of physically restraining students has drawn scrutiny
Rachel Seelig, the director of Vermont Legal Aid’s Disability Law Project and the former chair of the Vermont Special Education Advisory Panel, said that the Harwood district’s moratorium is “a very small step in the right direction.”
September 16, 2022 – Free legal advice clinic available for Vermont seniors
“Vermont Legal Aid is hosting a legal advice clinic by telephone from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29, for free civil legal assistance to Vermont seniors aged 60 and up.”
September 14, 2022 – Vt. health regulators embrace challenges, opportunities
“The whole set of Vermonters who get their insurance through their employer -- that’s the group that’s particularly hit by this this year,” said Mike Fisher, the state’s health care advocate.
September 12, 2022 – Coalition calls housing plan a moral imperative
Times Argus mentioned Rebecca Plummer and VLA:
With rents rising due to an acute shortage of housing and temperatures starting to trend in the other direction, Rebecca Plummer, a lawyer with Vermont Legal Aid, said phasing out the program without something to replace it was ill-timed.
September 12, 2022 – As pandemic-era housing assistance ramps down, advocates call on Scott to re-do housing plan
VT Digger mentioned Rebecca Plummer and VLA:
“The state is ending the rental assistance program just when Vermonters need it most. Unless we take action, evictions will increase dramatically, and many more people will become homeless,” Rebecca Plummer, a staff attorney at Vermont Legal Aid, said Monday.
September 11, 2022 – Amid confusion, Vermont education officials say masks can be required in certain school situations
VT Digger mentioned Rachel Seelig, Disability Law Project:
“What we were hearing was that it was often confusing to square up (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations, state recommendations, and guidance that had been issued by the U.S. Department of Education on the issue of how we reasonably accommodate students in the context of Covid,” said Rachel Seelig, director of Vermont Legal Aid’s Disability Law Project.
September 10, 2022 – UVM Medical has a new CEO
Valley News mentioned Mike Fisher, HCA, and VLA:
Mike Fisher, chief health care advocate at Vermont Legal Aid, said via email Eappen would take the helm of an “immensely important institution” to the Vermont health care system. That health care system has a lot of vulnerabilities from both a hospital perspective and from a consumer affordability perspective, Fisher wrote.
September 8, 2022 –Scott makes 3 appointments to Green Mountain Care Board
VT Digger mentioned Mike Fisher, HCA and VLA:
Mike Fisher, the state’s health care advocate with Vermont Legal Aid, said he was grateful the board had a full roster — and one with ties to Vermont.
August 5, 2022: Health insurance rates to rise for thousands in Vermont
WCAX-TV quoted Chief Health Care Advocate Mike Fisher:
“We have to predict that the current system we have will continue to produce rates that more and more Vermonters will be priced out of.”
Seven Days quoted attorney Grace Pazdan:
Grace Pazdan, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid, said VHFA could do more to communicate with frustrated homeowners. But even when homeowners know what's causing the delays, there's little they can do to move the process along.
July 22, 2022:Climate change is making Vermont heat waves more common. Here's how to stay cool and safe.
Vermont Public quoted Vermont Legal Aid attorney Maryellen Griffin:
“Even though we have really specific rules about heat, and how much heat the landlord has to ensure is available in the apartment, we don't have similarly detailed rules about air conditioning.”
Brattleboro Reformer, VT Digger, and Valley News mentioned Chief Health Care Advocate Mike Fisher:
“Unfortunately, as Chief Health Care Advocate Mike Fisher recently wrote, this federal support is set to expire at the end of this year. The loss of these subsidies will make rising premiums sting even more.”
VT Digger commentary by Mike Fisher of the Office of the Health Care Advocate (HCA):
“If the increases requested by the two insurers that sell health insurance policies to individuals and small businesses in Vermont are approved, premiums will go up an average of 15%. Although Vermonters would experience a different rate of increase based on the policy they choose and their income level, the net effect for just about everyone would be higher premiums.”
July 1, 2022: UVM Health Network requests double-digit rate increase, citing inflation and pandemic pressures
Valley News and VT Digger mentioned HCA’s Mike Fisher:
“Vermonters can’t afford it. It’s not a comment on whether hospitals need it or not, but the increases in commercial rates translate directly to increases in the cost to Vermonters.”
July 1, 2022: Feds extend Vermont’s Medicaid waiver program to help underinsured residents and boost Medicaid reimbursements
VT Digger mentioned Mike Fisher of the HCA:
“Mike Fisher, chief health care advocate at Vermont Legal Aid, said the agreement offers a ‘real positive change for a small subset of people.’ But he also said he hoped any increase in Medicaid payout to providers would prompt health care systems to reduce service charges on privately insured Vermonters.”
June 24, 2022: Vermont health care organizations support reproductive rights in light of Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade
Vermont Biz mentioned the Office of the Health Care Advocate
June 12, 2022: Vermont has rules about suspending students. Parents and advocates say some schools are breaking them.
VT Digger mentioned attorney Rachel Seelig:
“When the student is not at school, they're not getting any educational services,” said Rachel Seelig, director of Vermont Legal Aid’s Disability Law Project and chair of a state special education advisory panel. “And they're not being allowed to interact with their peers or be included in a classroom setting.”
May 31, 2022: Vermont Reach Up Coalition
The World Online mentioned former VLA attorney Jessica Radbord:
Jessica Radbord, a consultant at Vermont Legal Aid, noted, “TANF work requirements were rooted in racist, sexist, and classist narratives. We advocated for elimination of Vermont’s strict and arbitrary work requirements because we believe – and evidence shows – that engaging Reach Up families collaboratively to remove barriers to employment and to identify goals is the best way to help them achieve long-term economic stability.”
VT Digger quoted attorney Rachel Seelig:
Rachel Seelig, director of Vermont Legal Aid’s Disability Law Project, said she has seen districts undervalue extended school year programs in the past, a problem the pandemic has exacerbated. “We have gotten some calls from families who are struggling to get extended school year (services) for their students because staffing is inadequate,” Seelig said.
Burlington Free Press quoted VLA attorney Jean Murray:
“Our experience has been that landlords are ending tenancies to sell the buildings or raise the rent," wrote Jean Murray of Vermont Legal Aid…In 75% of all eviction cases in Vermont, landlords have lawyers while tenants do not, according to a 2019 report by Vermont Legal Aid.”
WCAX-TV3 interviewed Eric Avildsen about his long tenure at VLA
Caledonian Record reported on Eric Avildsen’s retirement
April 19, 2022: Rachel Batterson: When it comes to housing, be a YIMBY
VTDigger published a commentary by attorney Rachel Batterson:
“I’m issuing a challenge. Be a YIMBY. Show up and say, “Yes, I do want affordable housing in my backyard.” Let’s make all of Vermont’s communities welcoming and inclusive for all. ...”
April 19, 2022: Why Vermonters carry less medical debt
WCAX interviewed Chief Health Care Advocate Mike Fisher:
“We want Vermonters to be able to get the care they need and the care that their providers recommend,” said Mike Fisher, the chief health care advocate for Vermont Legal Aid.
March 23, 2022: ‘All you hear about is the bad stuff’: Ephram Lahasky has a new investment model for America’s nursing homes. Regulators have questions.
MarketWatch mentioned long-term care ombudsman Alice Harter:
The new management changed the facilities’ phone and computer systems and started operating the homes under new names—without having licenses for the facilities, says Alice Harter, a Vermont long-term care ombudsman. “It’s like putting the cart before the horse,” she says.
Seven Days mentioned Vermont Legal Aid attorney Rachel Seelig:
Rachel Seelig, the director of Vermont Legal Aid's Disability Law Project, said that for years she has seen students with disabilities denied admission to — or asked to leave — independent schools because of their special needs.
March 13, 2022: ‘I’m not that person anymore’: Proposal seeks to expand eligibility to clear past crimes
Seven Days mentioned Vermont Legal Aid attorney Mairead O’Reilly:
“This bill is important,” Vermont Legal Aid attorney Mairead O’Reilly said, “because it provides greater access to record clearance for folks who have served their sentence and paid their debt to society and really need and deserve to be reintegrated into our community.”…Eventually, T.N. said, he was able to get his record sealed — with assistance from Vermont Legal Aid — due to his young age at the time of the offenses. He said he is now working in the tech field as a recruiting coordinator.
He said he would like to see the process of clearing criminal records in Vermont expanded to help improve the lives of more people. “I did it and it changed my life,” he said.
February 17, 2022: Vermont working through appeals for denied unemployment claims
WCAX mentioned Vermont Legal Aid:
Nearly 600 Vermonters were waiting up to six months to have their appeals heard, long past the 30-day requirement in state law. So in December, Vermont Legal Aid filed a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Labor to speed up the process. Under an interim settlement reached this week, the state has begun working through the backlog with more administrative judges and making internal changes.Legal aid says it’s already making a difference. They’re hoping to clear the backlog by May.
February 16, 2022: Proposed Legislation Seeks to Keep More Vermonters Out of Medical Debt
Seven Days mentioned Mike Fisher, chief health care advocate:
"Vermonters want to pay their bills. They want to make good on them. In desperation, all they know how to do is not go to the doctor again…We clearly touched a nerve," said Mike Fisher, Vermont's chief health care advocate, a state-funded position at Legal Aid. "Almost everybody that I talk to says, 'Yeah, I've got a friend...' or 'I've got a brother...' or 'I know somebody who's really being hurt.' It's prevalent."
February 16, 2022: Bove Brothers Plan to Evict Low-Income Refugee Families in Winooski — and Raise Rents
Seven Days and VPR mentioned paralegal Devon Ayers:
The Boves' plan to evict, renovate and raise rents reflects an increasingly common practice in Vermont, said Devon Ayers, a paralegal at Vermont Legal Aid. "You don't have to evict 24 households to make it a safe and habitable place to live," Ayers said.
The Mountain Times mentioned attorney Jean Murray:
“Vermonters whose landlords repeatedly refuse to make needed repairs do have legal protections depending on the circumstances,” Vermont Legal Aid staff attorney Jean Murray said. “If a renter requests a repair and is met with a notice to vacate, the eviction may be considered retaliatory and thus void,” Murray added…“We’re hearing a lot about inadequate heat,” she said. “For me, Vermont law isn’t strong enough requiring landlords to make sure that places are insulated.”
February 6, 2022: Valley News - Jim Kenyon: Quechee renters shown the door en masse, with little recourse (vnews.com)
Valley News mentioned paralegal Devon Ayers, HELP and VLA:
“The law doesn’t protect tenants even when they’ve done everything right,” Devon Ayers, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid in Burlington, told me. “The landlord has the right to kick them out.”… Vermont Legal Aid, the nonprofit that assists low-income residents in civil matters, told me it’s interested in hearing more from the tenants in Quechee. “We’re seeing similar things in other towns,” Ayers said. Vermont lawmakers are now considering a proposal that places a moratorium on no-cause evictions through June 30, 2023. The bill “recognizes that we’re in one of the most extreme housing crises we’ve ever been in,” said Ayers, who testified before a House committee on Thursday. “Without systematic change, people are going to keep losing their housing.”
February 3, 2022: Staffing Shortages Main Challenge Facing Long-term Care Facilities | Local News | caledonianrecord.com
Caldonia Record mentioned Alice Harter and Sean Londergan of the Vt. Long-Term Care Ombudsman Project:
The annual report, produced by state ombudsman Sean Londergan and the project’s team of regional ombudsmen outline staffing as a critical need for the facilities and agencies, as well as the people they care for…Alice Harter, the Northeast Kingdom representative of the VOP, said staffing concerns are as prevalent in the NEK as they are in the rest of thestate. “Staffing pre-COVID was bad and the pandemic made it 100 times worse,” said Harter, who is approaching retirement after serving 30 years as an ombudsman across numerous regions. “I feel bad for both the residents and the facilitiestrying to get staff in and do a good job,” said Harter. “They are really suffering from this.”
February 2, 2022:With Schools in Crisis Mode, Kids With Disabilities Are Being Left Behind | Education | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice (sevendaysvt.com)
Seven Days mentioned attorney Rachel Seelig:
Parents looking for advice often contact Vermont Legal Aid and its Disability Law Project, according to director Rachel Seelig. Since August 2021, the project has opened 80 education cases. That's about a 20 percent increase from before the pandemic, while funding for the work has stayed flat. When staffing is a barrier, as it has been this year, "these cases are becoming more difficult to resolve," Seelig said.
February 1, 2022: Quechee renters forced out
VT Digger mentioned attorney Jean Murray:
“Vermonters whose landlords repeatedly refuse to make needed repairs do have legal protections depending on the circumstances”, Vermont Legal Aid staff attorney Jean Murray said. “If a renter requests a repair and is met with a notice to vacate, the eviction may be considered retaliatory and thus void”, Murray added. “We’re hearing a lot about inadequate heat,” she said. “For me, Vermont law isn’t strong enough requiring landlords to make sure that places are insulated.”
VT Digger mentioned attorney Sean Londergan:
This was an issue before the pandemic and it’s only gotten worse,” said Sean Londergan, Vermont's long-term care ombudsman and author of the report.
January 13, 2022: Jimmo Update: CMS Reminds Providers and Contractors of Medicare Coverage to Maintain or Slow Decline - Center for Medicare Advocacy
Center for Medicare Advocacy mentioned Vermont Legal Aid:
The Center for Medicare Advocacy and Vermont Legal Aid brought the Jimmo v. Sebelius class action lawsuit on behalf of beneficiaries who were being denied Medicare coverage for skilled care on the basis that they were not improving or did not demonstrate potential for improvement.
January 11, 2022: More Than Money: Solving Our Housing Problems by Barbara Morrow - Newport Dispatch
Newport Dispatch mentioned attorney Maryellen Griffin:
Maryellen Griffith, a lawyer with Vermont Legal Aid, produced a study showing that (pre-Covid) the average amount of rent arrears before eviction was $2,000.
January 10, 2022: Stowe family pleads with town to hold landlord accountable (wcax.com)
WCAX mentioned attorney Maryellen Griffin:
Mary Ellen Griffin, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid, said the law isn’t always clear when it comes to heating issues. “The statute just says that the landlord has to make repairs in a reasonable amount of time. Often inspectors will set deadlines, but there’s not a firm deadline in the statute,” Griffin explained.
January 10, 2022: VISA update: Lawmakers review religious school public tuition, ‘explosive’ behavior problems, learning losses | True North Reports
True North mentioned Vermont Legal Aid:
“Representatives from VISA, the Council of Independent Schools and Vermont Legal Aid’s Disability Law Project spent much of this week working out revisions to the rules to clarify language and create the needed assurances.”
December 28, 2021: Rental assistance program still available for Vermonters | News | rutlandherald.com
Rutland Herald and Times Argus mentioned Vermont Legal Aid:
The Vermont Landlord Association can provide additional help for landlords and Vermont Legal Aid can provide additional assistance for tenants.