NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - An advocacy group says a state program is failing disabled people who only want to remain independent. This group claims the end result is people who want to prevent falling are too often denied and risk serious injuries.
Angela Bruton remembers how it felt to be injured after a fall. She wants to avoid it again. It's always on her mind when getting around her apartment, even when putting food in her microwave.
"I'm at a high risk for falls, and I definitely don't want to end up in a hospital or nursing home again, like I've done before," Bruton said.
After enduring a lifetime of health problems, she still wants to remain independent. Still, she says decisions by a state agency put her at risk of falling again. Something the Tennessee Justice Center says they see hundreds of times a year.
"I actually interact with different clients. Hundreds of different clients a year who have difficulties navigating and accessing the CHOICES program," Katiei Hopper, Community Engagement Coordinator for Indepence Team with the TN Justice Center said.
That program, called Choices, is broken up into groups with certain criteria that offers adults care for physical disabilities, nursing home or community based services.
Burton applied, wanting someone to come to her home, just for a few hours a day to make sure she doesn't fall. So how has the state responded?
"I applied about four times now, and every time, I get denied," Bruton said.
Bruton read about what the program offers, and she felt she qualified. But it turns out there are all kinds of red tape. In Burton's case, she got denied, in part, because she worked too hard and got a pension, eliminating her eligibility for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.
She was also told she doesn't qualify because she can care for herself. It's the kind of red tape that Katie Hopper with the Tennessee Justice Center says hinders so many people from getting assistance.
"By erecting all of these bureaucratic barriers in a way of accessing care, you're forcing people into situations where they fall and break a hip, and they're forced to go into more institutionalized settings," Hopper said.
News4 repeatedly asked TennCare for an interview, but they declined. Their response in an email was that Bruton does not meet the other eligibility criteria in their at-risk group, as established in their federally approved waiver.
Bruton says she is at risk. All she can do is be as careful as she can.
"I'm trying to do my best. I'm trying to be careful. I'm trying to be preventative for issues, and it just. I just need that little bit of help," Bruton said.
Bruton gets physical therapy through TennCare, but she doesn't get long-term assistance. Bruton also said it doesn't begin to address her needs for cooking, cleaning, bathing, and laundry.
News4 also wanted to know how many cases TennCare has denied over the past two years for these programs. We will let you know when we receive that information. Bruton's case is now on appeal.