MBP benefit helps members appealing Justice Center rulings against them
By SHERRY HALBROOK
Serving the public can be challenging, especially if the persons you are serving have special needs. Sometimes it can get so complicated that a PEF member is charged with failing to meet that challenge.
That’s what happened to a PEF member working at a state facility for the mentally ill in New York City. The member, a licensed master social worker with more than 15 years of service, was investigated by the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, which ruled that a report of neglect against the PEF member was “substantiated.”
The member felt he was being unfairly blamed for something that was not his fault and he turned to a free legal service to PEF members in that situation that is provided by the Membership Benefits Program.
With the help of that legal service, which provided more than 23 hours of representation, the member’s name was cleared when an administrative law judge with the Vulnerable Persons’ Central Register Administrative Appeals Unit reviewed the previous finding of substantiated. After the appeals judge reviewed the evidence and heard testimony in the case, he reversed the decision of substantiated, and he found that understaffing and other issues were to blame when the agency temporarily lost track of a person in its care.
That’s not a fluke. Since MBP began last year providing the legal services of Lippes, Mathias, Wexler and Friedman to members appealing Justice Center findings that charges against them were substantiated, the firm has won 59 cases and lost just eight. (In 12 other cases the members withdrew their requests for the benefit, and in six additional cases the employees lost eligibility for the benefit.)
The case of the social worker mentioned above is a good example of how members may be blamed unfairly for situations they could neither control, nor prevent.
“This is an example of how our members are sometimes held accountable for things beyond their control,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “I’m glad this member took advantage of the free legal services that are provided by the Membership Benefits Program. It is very important to protect our members’ rights to due process and to help them achieve justice in such situations that are potentially devastating to their careers.”
MBP Administrator Scott Harms said he is very pleased the program can offer this service to PEF members. “We want to help members. So, please contact us if you want to appeal a Justice Center finding that charges against you of serious abuse or neglect are substantiated.”
During the initial stage of investigation, you are entitled to representation under Article 33 of the PS&T contract. Once the initial stage is concluded, if the Justice Center determines the report against you is substantiated, you may appeal the determination through the administrative review process, as in the case described here. That appeal process is when the free legal representation becomes available through the MBP Justice Center Benefit.
For more information about this benefit go online to https://ssl710.fusionbot.com/b/q?k=Justice+Center+Benefit&sitenbr=161531886.