6 On Your Side update: Local blind woman wins TennCare battle, gets in-home care services

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — On Wednesday, WATE 6 On Your Side brings a heart-warming update to an in depth series of reports about a blind woman who took on TennCare last year to fight for the right to have a caregiver, and she won.

Heather Hathaway is a part-time caregiver working half a day, three days a week. She does household chores and provides personal care for Janet, who has been blind since bith.

At 46, Janet has lived alone for the last 18 months at the house she and her mother own.

She had been in her mother’s care until December 2018 when her mom Juanaita was moved to a nursing home an hour away.

“She is just awesome, she’s not only a caregiver, she is a friend. We chat, laugh and talk.”

Janet when asked on why she’s grateful for Heather

Beginning late last summer, Janet, who asked we not reveal her last name, started fighting TennCare to get someone to help her at home. She also has Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder.

Heather is paid through Tennessee’s CHOICES program. It includes either home services which saves the state money or nursing home services and Janet didn’t want that.

“Nobody wants to go to one. My mom’s at one, I didn’t feel like I was at that age. I just needed a little bit of help to live here safely.”

Janet

In November of last year, we first reported Janet had been denied eligibility for the CHOICES program. In this report, a state nurse assessed Janet’s daily living capabilities and concluded she could do them by herself and didn’t have any significant deficits.

Angry with the rebuff, Janet requested an appeal and a hearing before an administrative judge to fight TennCare’s decision.

The state sent 90 pages of documents for her to read in preparation for a hearing in mid-November. Apparently, someone at the state forgot Janet was blind, and not a single page was in Braille.

With Janet’s approval, we contacted Katie Ann Twiggs, an attorney from the Tennessee Justice Center, which takes on difficult TennCare cases.

The process took a few months. Justice Center staff attorney, Vanessa Zapata, Janet, a judge and TennCare attorneys held several conference calls. In March, the ruling was read to Janet by Zapata, the administrative judge reversed TennCare’s decision.

Sometimes obstacles seem insurmountable, but some battles are worth fighting. On her computer with friends, Janet relates how Heather has made her world easier and has improved her quality of life.

“I feel so much better. I feel safer. She comes three days a week. She’s just a bright spot in my day.”

Janet

With family members living far away, and no one able to consistently look out for Janet, that human companionship, through the CHOICES in-home service has made a big difference.

What we saw Wednesday in Janet, was a whole brighter and healthier outlook on life.

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