2012 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Nicholas Levenhagen

Nicholas Levenhagen

Name of Host Organization: Bet Tzedek Legal Services
City, State: Los Angeles, California
Issue area: Elderly
Sponsors: Greenberg Traurig

The Project

Nicholas provided Holocaust survivors in Los Angeles with services and education in the areas of public benefits, estate planning, and vulnerabilities to ensure that they live out their lives in dignity.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Holocaust survivors in the U.S. have been disproportionately affected by the hardships of poverty and social isolation. Of the estimated 12,000 survivors currently residing in L.A., 30% live below the federal poverty level, significantly higher than the national rate. Aging survivors face unique medical needs and often lack traditional support networks, making it vital that they are able to access needed benefits, services, and support as early as possible. This project developed the tools and models necessary for reaching survivors throughout the community, assessing their needs, and providing assistance in the areas of public benefits, estate planning, and vulnerabilities to abuse and neglect.
Fellowship Highlights: 
During his Fellowship, Nicholas:
• Assisted 141 clients to complete Advance Planning documents (Advance Health Care Directives, Powers of Attorney for Financial Matters, and Statutory Wills) through pro bono clinics and individual representation
• Obtained 1,341 new monthly caregiving hours and 1,923 retroactive hours (caregivers paid for prior work) for aging Holocaust survivors
• Avoided $164,747 in losses due to successful overpayment appeals, usually due to government agencies wrongfully counting Holocaust reparations payments as income or resources in determining eligibility for needs-based benefits in violation of the Victims of Nazi Persecution Act of 1994
• Obtained protective orders for survivors who were victims of elder abuse
• Drafted written testimony submitted to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging regarding the special needs of America’s aging Holocaust survivors
• Worked with the Social Security Administration to issue an important policy update and draft amendments to the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) on the exclusion of Holocaust reparations payments from eligibility determinations for Supplemental Security Income benefits
• Conducted 60 presentations for community members and professionals on the needs of aging Holocaust survivors, working with survivors on legal planning, and related issues
Where are they now?: 
Nicholas continues to provide elder law services to Holocaust survivors as a staff attorney with Bet Tzedek's Holocaust Survivor Services team.



Burnsville, Minnesota

Law school:

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