Blind woman seeking TennCare benefits gets nonprofit help, case hearing

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville woman is hoping a Nashville nonprofit advocacy group and a hearing will get her the needed help from TennCare she needs.

Janet is blind and fighting TennCare trying to get home-based services because she lives alone.

Blind from birth, Janet attended the Tennessee School for the Blind. Her parents shielded her from the outside world. Janet’s never worked.

RELATED: Blind Knoxville woman requests in-home care services, state says no

Janet has lived alone since her mother was diagnosed with dementia and was moved to a home about an hour away last December. Janet’s father died 20 years ago.

Without help and no family nearby, it’s impossible to navigate the front steps of her home. In addition to being blind, Janet has Crohn’s disease, a chronic intestinal illness that’s she suffered with for years.

In late spring, she applied for part-time caregiver services under TennCare’s CHOICES program — established for people with disabilities and the elderly. TennCare denied Janet the services in September saying her blindness is “not a functional deficit.”

“I was told I can’t get help because I can dress, bathe and feed myself,” she said.

WATE 6 On Your Side contacted the Tennessee Justice Center’s Katie Ann Twiggs with Janet’s permission on her behalf. The center’s nonprofit lawyers assist people like Janet with difficult appeal cases before TennCare.

In October, TennCare sent more than 90 pages of documents — none of it in braille — so Janet can prepare for a hearing before an administrative judge. That hearing was scheduled Nov. 19.

“We spoke with a judge and they agreed to postpone or continue the hearing to a later date so we have more time to talk with Janet’s doctors,” Twiggs said.

There’s a possibility that Janet may qualify for assistance. The Justice Center intends to argue that Crohn’s is debilitating for Janet.

The next hearing with TennCare about her eligibility is scheduled for Dec. 12. Janet has opted for a face-to-face hearing to plead her case. She’s hoping to get needed documentation from TennCare in braille soon. The Tennessee Justice Center will provide legal representation.

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