Juan Figueroa, Derek Manners, Martti Mallinan, and The National Federation of the Blind v. US Department of Health and Human Services

The lawsuit filed by National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and individual plaintiffs Juan Figueroa, Derek Manners, and Martti Mallinen charges the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through its sub-agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and its CMS sub-contractors, with systemically violating the civil rights of blind Medicare recipients.

The action seeks to require HHS to provide blind individuals meaningful and equally effective access to their Medicare information, as required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Section 504). CMS, a sub-agency of HHS, is the largest single payer for health care in the United States, providing health care coverage to nearly 90 million Americans through Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

CMS regularly communicates information to blind persons via inaccessible print and electronic formats which they cannot read. Mr. Figueroa, Mr. Manners, Mr. Mallinen, and many other NFB members have thus faced or been at risk for loss of benefits and healthcare disruption. For example, Mr. Mallinen has received information about denial of benefits and his right to appeal said denial that he could not read, potentially adversely affecting his appeal rights.

The filing follows an investigation launched by DREDF to establish that there were widespread incidences of communication access barriers in CMS systems. In August 2014, in response to complaints filed with the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in 2011 and 2012 under Section 504, CMS entered into an agreement with OCR. The complaints were filed on behalf of blind Medicare beneficiaries, and those similarly situated, who were not provided with notice of their rights or with effective communication under Section 504. The agreement signed by CMS and OCR, entitled the “Commitment to Action to Resolve DREDF Section 504 Complaints” (Commitment to Action), established a timeframe within which CMS would take specified actions to ensure the agency’s compliance with Section 504 in the areas raised in OCR’s investigation of the complaints.

Co-Counsel

The National Federation of the Blind

Brown, Goldstein & Levy

Sugarman Rogers Barshak & Cohen

One thought on “Juan Figueroa, Derek Manners, Martti Mallinan, and The National Federation of the Blind v. US Department of Health and Human Services

  1. steven siano

    With yet undiagnosed Asperger’s, I was socially impaired and had quit fighting and religion and eating meat due to ethical considerations. In 1976 in California, I was misled by a “recruiter” into a contract with the USN where upon entry, instead of noting and respecting my presumed right to my beliefs , I was labeled/rumored “homosexual”, denied the position I’d contracted for, deprived of proper nutrition, and threatened with death. I suffered a mental breakdown and disability (with evident but not yet officially diagnosed PTSD) for which I was hospitalized and discharged early but with a label of “not disabled” which in contrast to evidence in the USN records was then supported by VA, SSA, and other governmental and private entities. Financial and other needs have continued to be denied me and advocacy and legal assistance has been sought but unavailable. Having in 2002 renewed my claim of disability since 1978 compounded by physical disability, those in “authority”, public and private entities have continued, under various pretenses, to deny me access to needed benefits and services, causing me further harm and terror. I’ve been without even an unsuitable apartment as I had prior to being forced out by a VA led conspiracy to conceal the true nature of my disabilities and deprive me of my needs to such degree as was expected to cause my death, all because my initial or primary disability is resultant of bigotry based malfeasance which disability, mental health, legal, and other professionals don’t want to reveal. False assertions and labels by VA and SSA and other professionals including false diagnoses of “paranoia” and “delusional disorder” have provided a disservice by apparently depriving me of a voice with which to express my needs and the situation, thereby denying me access and permitting a life threatening assault (and exploitation) of me (and presumably others) to continue undeterred. For her effort to get me help, my therapist, aware of my situation and the threat to my health and life by willful actions of other professionals, was attacked in much the same manner as was I, with false report against her which if substantiated may have damaged or ended her career in the mental health industry. But I present this in support of the legitimacy of my report and request of assistance. I am homeless, writing on the library computer. You appear to be or have been allied with “disability advocates”. I’ve found the state “official” disability advocates to be worse than useless. I was actually told by the head of the local organization that I have money and other assistance which he presumably knows, through an explanation by me and my primary therapist that I don’t have. In doing so, he very much intimidated and threatened me, implying that he intends to assist and cover up for known crimes against disabled veterans and others in South Dakota.

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