Written by Patrick T. Keith, Suzanne Miller-Cormier, and Mirna Hernandez
Published in the Virginia Lawyer Magazine
Jane never imagined a routine exam would land her in an oncologist’s office and ultimately lead to her cancer diagnosis. Her immediate concerns were how this would affect her husband and two small children. The family was struggling financially, and her out-of-pocket medical expenses were going to significantly increase. Jane underwent two surgeries and began treatment. As a part-time secretary, she was not eligible for paid leave. As a result the household income decreased and the family fell behind on all of its bills.
Overwhelmed, Jane was battling her creditors as well as her cancer. She wasn’t able to focus on getting better because of her inability to earn a living while going through treatment. A hospital social worker recommended the nonprofit LINC (Legal Information Network for Cancer). LINC’s mission is to ease the burden of cancer for patients and their families by providing assistance and referral to legal, financial, and community resources. LINC referred her to the Boleman Law Firm for bankruptcy counseling and Clearpoint Credit Solutions for debt management and credit counseling. Both worked with creditors and the hospital to get the household’s finances in order. These collaborative efforts eased the financial burden of Jane’s diagnosis and allowed her to focus on her health.
Cancer patients frequently endure treatments that dramatically impair their ability to financially support their families. Patients often incur significant medical debts, and they use credit cards to supplement their income and pay for medications. This added financial stress is harmful in their battle to overcome disease. Many LINC clients are young and some have small children. They worry about how their sickness will affect their families. It is overwhelming for them to confront their creditors on their own, and providing an advocate for them dramatically reduces their stress.
Patrick T. Keith of the Boleman Law Firm, a pro bono attorney with LINC, said, “Many people decide to obtain their law degree so they can provide a positive impact in people’s lives. LINC provides attorneys this opportunity. As a bankruptcy attorney, I am able to assist clients that are suffering significant financial issues, and provide them relief and hope for their future. Providing pro bono services to LINC clients is rewarding, as you can truly make a tangible difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families. LINC provides them with advocates to ensure they are not alone in facing the financial realities that cancer can create.
“When a resolution is discussed, it is common for the clients to sob as they release the stress they have been holding back. The client has a renewed sense of hope, and this can only positively impact their battle against cancer.
“As a pro bono attorney with LINC, you will be rewarded with the realization that you have assisted a person on their road to recovery against this much-too common disease.”
LINC was founded in 1996 by attorneys Ann C. Hodges and Phyllis C. Katz who are breast cancer survivors. During their treatments, they met other cancer patients who were not receiving needed treatments or were not able to provide for their basic needs because they lacked the financial resources. They saw the need for an organization to help cancer patients find the means to sustain themselves and their families during treatment.
LINC also provides educational services to cancer patients and the medical community. LINC believes that education enables individuals to be more effective advocates. With LINC’s information, resources, and skills training, patients are better able to meet the day-to-day challenges of cancer. Individualized support provided by LINC allows cancer patients to find the means to sustain their lives while in treatment, which enables them to focus their energies on fighting the disease.
LINC provides services free of charge to clients and uses other community resources that charge nothing or a nominal fee. Attorneys who partner with LINC agree to a sliding fee scale or charge nothing, depending on the client’s finances.
LINC needs attorneys and certified financial planners willing to help on a pro bono or nominal fee basis. To learn more about LINC, give of your time to help a LINC client, or make a donation, go to www.cancerlinc.org.
About the Author:
Patrick T. Keith has been on the board of directors of the Legal Information Network for Cancer for four years, and currently serves as the treasurer. He graduated from the University of Richmond School of Law in 2002, and is a consumer bankruptcy attorney with the Boleman Law Firm in Richmond.