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Suit alleges state wrongly denied Medicaid benefits to VA pensioners

Miami Herald, August 31, 2011

Irene Czajkowski, 84, is the widow of a military veteran, living in a St. Petersburg nursing home with a fixed income of roughly $20,000 a year. Apparently, she's too rich to qualify for Medicaid assistance. The Department of Children and Families recently notified Czajkowski's brother Michael Buckley -- who has power of attorney -- that it planned to remove her from the long-term Care Diversion Program. But in a lawsuit filed in federal court late Friday, attorneys argue that Czajkowski is one of an untold number of Veterans Administration pension beneficiaries, living in nursing homes across the state, who have been wrongly purged from the Medicaid rolls, in violation of a 1987 injunction spurred by the class-action suit Mitson v. Coler. "Shockingly, the State of Florida has failed to comply with the Court's permanent injunction, and class members have suffered, and continue to suffer, injury as a result," according to the motion to reopen Mitson, in which the state's Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services was ordered to refigure its Medicaid qualification standards. The suit seeks Medicaid reinstatement for Czajkowski and other class members and potential damages for the state's failure to provide their benefits in the past.