It wasn’t until last October that Jeanne Tindall walked into the bank with $2,500 in pandemic relief monies on behalf of her severely challenged son that she imagined how he would use the money in the future.
Since the late 1980s, Tindall has been Stephen’s legal guardian. His cognitive handicap prevents him from taking care of himself, thus he is currently living in an assisted living facility in Portland, Oregon, at the age of 46. To this end, Tindall assists by overseeing his financial affairs and ensuring that he receives the necessities.
As a precautionary measure, Tindall decided to deposit the assistance funds in a guardianship account for Stephen at her local Chase Bank branch in Albany.
Back in her hometown bank, Tindall deposited her funds in November into an ABLE account, which allows disabled people to save money without affecting their government assistance eligibility.
Tindall was notified by Chase that Stephen’s account had “insufficient funds,” but the bank declined to transfer the monies.
That’s why Tindall spent three months pursuing Chase for the money. When she asked why the bank wouldn’t provide it to her, she was told that there were worries about fraud and doubts about who had the authorization to access the account.
Tindall’s access to Stephen’s account was restored by Chase last week. One day after The Oregonian/OregonLive inquired about the case, the bank reversed its decision.
To restore Tindall access to the funds, Chase stated that it would require additional evidence regarding her guardianship. She claims she submitted all of this information when she started the account, but Tindall insists otherwise.
In the eyes of Tindall, the three-month effort to gain access to the funds shows how difficult it is for people with disabilities and their advocates to resolve issues with huge organizations.
Tindall said, “They’ve put me in a mama-bear mood.” In order to open a bank account, all I did was an attempt. ” I am not a dishonest criminal. Just a guardian, I’m here to serve her. ”
After meeting in 1988 when he was just 13 years old, Tindall and Stephen have been inseparable ever since. He lived in a group foster home for a few months, but Tindall, 66, said she was his foster mom for 27 years and was still his legal guardian after that.
In order to safeguard Stephen’s privacy, Tindall requested that Stephen’s last name and city of residence not be made public
According to Tindall, Stephen behaves and thinks like a small child. Stephen can’t take after himself, but he’s able to help her find a lost phone, she says, even if he can’t look after himself.
“He’s a really happy person, and I always found him easy to take care of,” Tindall remarked, according to the New York Times.
In Stephen’s name, she wanted to deposit $2,500 of the COVID-19 relief monies that were distributed to every American during the pandemic. Tindall hoped that the money he had set aside in an ABLE account would be accessible in the event that he needed to use it to pay for future vacations, medical equipment, or treatments.
Chase allegedly blocked her from moving Stephen’s money into an ABLE account in November. Tindall’s documentation was deemed insufficient by the bank, which stated the account lacked funds. When she first opened the account, she thought the bank had all the information it needed, but she claims she resubmitted it nevertheless — to no avail.
Tindall recalled being on hold for Chase for more than two hours at a time. A negative amount of $1 billion once appeared on Stephen’s internet account when she checked it. Tindall recorded the farce in a screenshot for posterity’s sake.
According to Tindall, the employees at her Albany location were sympathetic to her plight, but they insisted the matter would have to be rectified at the corporate level.
The difficulties Tindall had with Stephen’s ABLE account, according to Emily Cooper, legal director at Disability Rights Oregon, are not unusual. According to her, “attitudinal barriers” are occasionally erected by financial institutions due to inaccurate perceptions about disabled individuals.
“These institutions may put measures in place to ‘protect the person with the disability,’ but what that does is often make negative assumptions about their skills or who they choose to have in their lives,” Cooper said.
With that in mind, Cooper says, it’s crucial to discern between measures that help and those that only serve to obstruct. Creating a bank account is a requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that public institutions must give disabled people “equal access.”
There should not be a need for a guardian who can spend three hours on the phone to set one up for you,” Cooper said.
Cooper advised consumers who had issues with banks or other major businesses to first document the matter.
She suggests writing a letter if you believe your rights are being abused. Ask the institution to justify its conduct by citing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
There is only cause for skepticism if they don’t disclose that reason, Cooper added.
As the weeks and months passed, Tindall became increasingly concerned that leaving Stephen’s money unaccounted for would jeopardize his status for Supplemental Security Income, a federal benefit for the disabled. ABLE accounts don’t count toward the asset limits that determine aid eligibility, therefore the money saved in them doesn’t count.
Because of this, Tindall sought assistance from numerous disability advocacy groups including the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Tindall says Chase informed her on Feb. 16 that its “back office” had the necessary paperwork. Despite this, the money would not be released.
The Oregonian/OregonLive wrote to Chase on Feb. 25 requesting an explanation for the problems, and that’s when things changed. Her account had been unlocked by Chase’s senior offices, according to Tindall.
The account hold was lifted as soon as we received the missing documentation from the customer. Chase spokesperson Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot stated in a statement this week that the problem has been resolved.
Asked why Tindall was allowed to open a guardianship account for Stephen despite Chase’s belief that her documentation was insufficient, Chase refused to comment.
Tindall isn’t convinced by the bank’s reasoning. Stephen’s court order establishing her guardianship had been presented when she opened the account.
In Tindall’s words, “They proceeded as though I had no power or position, or worse, that I was falsely posing as if I had,” he added. Many people, including myself, rely on that one piece of paper to safeguard the people we care about, and we’re talking about some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
And if proving her guardianship was a problem, Tindall argues that Chase should not have permitted her to open the account in the first place because of this.
According to Tindall, “everything they requested was literally printed right there on the original paperwork I handed them.”
Even while Tindall expressed relief that the bank is no longer denying access to the money, she stated that the incident alludes to wider issues when it comes to handling money for disabled individuals and engaging with huge organizations on their behalf. She wrote in an email that she was insulted when Chase blamed her for Stephen’s account problems.
Companies like Chase can harass and abuse guardians (and thus, the wards) and then claim that the guardian was at fault for not providing them with “the papers they wanted,” Tindall added.