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Legal Determinants of Health in the Aftermath of Harvey

Although we hope that all of our colleagues and patients were unaffected by Harvey, there may be plenty of local folks with legal needs related to flood or other property damage. Others may have family in the coastal area with a variety of health-harming legal needs.

Socio-legal determinants of health post-disaster can run the gamut from food and financial insecurity to a dangerous physical environment. Disaster victims may find themselves entangled in battles with their employers, their house/medical/disability insurance companies, their landlords, their neighbors, and, likely, with emergency needs assistance such as FEMA. Others may have pressing legal matters that are simply delayed by the weather.

Long-term, unhealthy living conditions, such as mold, difficulties with contractors, and insurance claim denials are common legal problems.

Fortunately, legal remedies may be available. For example, emergency SNAP benefits are available for those of modest income who are displaced from their homes, and expedited hearing is an option for anyone denied. Or if someone did not receive a regularly scheduled payment from Social Security as a result of a disaster, they can go to any open Social Security office and request an immediate payment.

Texas Legal Services Center, Austin MLP’s legal partner, has three resources that you may find useful:

  •  Disaster Assistance Manual at (plain language, but targeted at lawyers)
  • Live chat with an attorney at (Monday-Friday, 10a-5p)
  • The TLSC Disaster Legal Helpline at (800) 889-3199 (Monday-Friday, 8a-5p)


Written by Keegen Warren-Clem, JD, LLM