SB 1136 has been introduced into the State Legislature. It's purpose is to criminalize Independent Benefits Counselors who charge for their services without being members of the California Bar.
The attempt to make this type of service a misdemeanor is yet another example of something good potentially resulting in something potentially disastrous.
It is true that there are mercenary predators that fradulently target the elderly -- who are often easily confused and frightened -- into purchasing products that don't need and/or can't use and/or that simply don't exist. These swindles result in catastrophic financial losses and devastating humiliation to the victims. However, from what I currently understand of the bill, criminalizing all benefits counseling assistance by persons who are not members of the California Bar is, in my opinion, at best ill-advised and, at worst, dangerous.
Benefits counseling is not simply a job. It is a discipline. It requires years of dedicated study, training, one-on-one counseling as well as direct interaction with the myriad of agencies administering the programs that we attempt to access every day.
I believe the problem lies with the fact that there is no association, board, or certifying body to establish standards and monitor benefits service delivery and allowable rates throughout the state.
The programs that our clients utilize often quite literally mean the difference between life and death. They involve critical necessaties of life: income, healthcare coverage and medication. A midirected and inadquate law such as SB1136, as it is currently written, and may further dislocate an already broken system.