April 22, 2009

Holocaust Survivors Receiving Help From Baker & Daniels

Baker & Daniels is playing a leading role in helping Holocaust survivors who worked while living in German-controlled ghettos during World War II. A pro bono team of professionals is assisting Indiana-based survivors apply for a one-time payment of €2,000 Euros (about $3,000 USD) through the German Ghetto Work Payment Program, which the German government announced in 2007. An estimated 60,000 survivors may be eligible for the payment, including several hundred who live in Indiana.

Baker & Daniels is serving as the statewide coordinator in an organized national program with Bet Tzedek, a legal service provider based in Los Angeles. The firm is developing the infrastructure for administering the program in Indiana through partnerships with the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation of Great Indianapolis and Elder Source of Greater Indianapolis.

Several dozen Baker & Daniels lawyers, representing every Indiana office in the firm, have volunteered to help. To assist in the difficult application process, teams of pro bono lawyers are being matched with survivors. Having been part of the first Baker & Daniels team to assist a survivor, Kris Hagan subsequently volunteered to help design and administer the firm's Holocaust survivors program and trainings.

Other Baker & Daniels volunteers include: Mike Allen, Steve Bennett, Adrienne Busby, Abby Butler, Angie Castille, Mary Beth Claus, Jeff Cohn, Alli Fetter-Harrott, Caryn Glawe, Kris Hagan, Ryan Hamilton, Pete Hatton, Jeff Heck, Ryan Hurley, Amol Jain, Krissy Katzenstein, Scott Kosnoff, Tom Kus, Mitzi Martin, Clay Miller, Matt Morris, Kathy Osborn, Jim Pope, Sara Powell, Tom Pytynia, John Schaibley, Drew Soshnick, Stephanie Spirer, Cindy Springer, Lee Tumminello, Tom Vogtner, Kelly Witte and Emily Zoch.

In working with the survivors, Baker & Daniels has been able to intervene with the state of Indiana on policies affecting Holocaust survivors. In early 2009, an Elder Source social worker contacted the firm after an administrative law judge had upheld a state determination denying a Holocaust survivor food stamp benefits because reparation payments were considered income (approximately a third of all survivors live below the poverty line.) A Baker & Daniels team - including Jon Laramore, Adrienne Busby, Amol Jain and Kris Hagan - represented the survivor in his appeal of the decision.

Baker & Daniels professionals researched the applicable regulations and filed the appeal, then worked informally with Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration to address the issue. By pointing the state to federal guidelines that exempt Holocaust reparations received as income for benefit determinations, the firm volunteers not only won the survivor's appeal but also changed state policy. Effective immediately, Indiana recalculated and restored the survivor's food stamp benefits to its former levels and agreed to issue retroactive benefit payments to make up for the loss. Additionally, Indiana changed its policy statewide in manuals/handbooks and circulated an electronic alert to caseworkers throughout the state so that no other survivors will have the same problem in the future.

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