Anne Quincy

Anne Quincy: The Long View on Government Benefits

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Anne Quincy, Supervising Attorney of Legal Aid’s Government Benefits unit, was raised by public school teachers who told their children to pick a career path that would be useful and helpful to others. Quincy decided as an undergraduate to go into public service law and chose Loyola University School of Law because it had a low-income legal clinic.

Anne Quincy started her career with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid in 1994 and joined the Government Benefits unit in 1996. She has represented Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance (SSDI) claimants and welfare and Medical Assistance beneficiaries in administrative appeals and individual and class actions in state and federal courts. In 2013, she was recognized for excellence in service with the Hennepin County Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico award.

AALM: Why did you choose a career in benefits law?

Quincy: I first got interested in benefits because my brother was receiving SSI and I wanted to understand how that worked. Benefits law is not so much about winning or losing. It’s about helping people get the support they need.

AALM: Davis v. Doth was your first class action. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Quincy: Federal statues governing welfare changed drastically in 1996 when Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Minnesota established durational residency requirements that bore some resemblance to today’s anti-immigration fervor, only this was directed at residents from different states. One of my roles on our litigation team was to work directly with those clients. I explained the paperwork to them, walked them through the depositions, and made sure their interests and concerns were at the forefront of our efforts.

AALM: You’ve been busy over the past 18 months with the federal government’s changes to immigration rules and public charge. How has that affected Legal Aid’s clients?

Quincy: News about change to the public charge rules have been really tough on the immigrant population. The actual proposed change to the law (currently under legal challenge by 18 states and others) applies to a very small group of people, but the corrosive fear generated by the rumors are threatening people’s dreams for themselves and their children. Even U.S. citizens are afraid they’ll get deported if their kids get healthcare or reduced rate school lunches. I’m fighting against that fear. It’s my mission to go out and tell people – our clients, their advocates, and other community partners – what the law actually says, and to help them understand their rights and protections under the law.

AALM: What’s your long view on these changes to public benefits?

Quincy: I’ve seen so many changes over the trajectory of my career, and I remind our partners and other community advocates that we’ll get through it. We weathered PRWORA, and we fought back. We have laws, we have courts, and we have the Constitution. When a law is unjust, we challenge it, and eventually we win. Meanwhile, we do our best to mitigate the damage.

AALM: What’s your favorite part of your job?

Quincy: The difficult truth is, terrible things happen in people’s lives. They get sick, their loved ones die, they suffer all manner of tragedy. I can’t fix that. I can’t make everything right. But I can look at their situation, and I can look at the benefits available to them by law, and I can walk them through the process. I can tell them this one piece is going to be okay. Sometimes, a client says to me, “Thank you. Now I can sleep.” That’s what I’m working for.

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