October 17, 2012
Vol: 19 No: 42

News

Police reform advocate sued for Medicaid billing error

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

The Rev. Harriet Walden

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The Rev. Harriett Walden is known for her years of fighting the city over violence and racial bias in the Seattle Police Department. Now she’s in court with the state over Medicaid payments Walden collected up until 2006 on the mobile eyeglass fitting and repair business she ran for seniors.

The state filed a lawsuit against Walden in September to collect $379,000 that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and the Washington State Health Care Authority said she owes because of insufficient Medicaid documentation. This total includes $58,000 in accumulated interest.

Walden and a group called Friends of Harriett Walden say the state is penalizing a small business owner who simply struggled to keep the right paperwork.

The lawsuit stems from a 2006 audit by the state Health Care Authority on Walden’s business and Medicaid billing. Auditors found Walden did not have documentation for the work she did as an optician and demanded Walden return the $320,000 she collected over the five-year period.

The lawsuit is the state’s second attempt to recover the funding.

Walden ran her business out of her car, traveling to senior homes around western Washington and fitting and repairing glasses. Most opticians meet clients at optometrist’s offices or storefronts.

“The fact is, Rev. Harriett Walden did the work, traveled the miles and ran a clean business,” Friends of Harriett Walden released in a statement, adding that other small businesses have closed because of taxes and paperwork. “That does not mean they did not do the work.”

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