Triage and Means Testing

A question has come up on where means testing comes in the triage process.  I think the model is the LSC websites, which do not do means testing.

To be more precise, people should be able to go through the whole system without being means tested, until it gets to the point that whether you meet program’s requirements actually matters.

I suppose the only exception might be when the vast majority of users are either income eligible or not income eligible, in which case it might be good to identify any clear exceptions to the general flow of choices.

As a general matter, sinding the message that this is an overall 100% system is critical.

By the way, some people have pointed out that one downside of the phrase 100% for the public is that it might be interpreted as meaning that everyone gets every service — the antithesis of triage, of course, and perhaps perceived as frighteningly expensive.

So we need to think about wording, but I love how the number 100 emphasizes both universality and accountability.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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2 Responses to Triage and Means Testing

  1. Claudia says:

    Since 2008 with the advent of online intake, the legal aid community has been working on understanding triage and intake (traditional intake) and online intake. Intake includes means testing and verification of other non income/asset factors that play in the final decision to accept or not accept a person for services. Triage is generally thought to be an activity done before intake. Triage is more akin a semaphore –giving the person who goes through the sorter a path to pursue depending on where they might be going. Intake, which includes means testing (income and asset) aims to answer a specific question: “Does this applicant qualify for the services this group can provide in this area of law or type of problem.” Those who have done means testing for know that the definitions of income, allowable income, income exclusions, definitions of household size and family unit, assets, amounts allowable and excludable assets are all terms of art and that often they vary by funder and service. Means testing can not be done well or with accuracy with a one or two question approach. It takes skill and experience in figuring out the economic reality of a family or person correctly and requires cultural awareness based on language and culture of the applicant. Means testing done poorly ends up excluding large number of vulnerable groups, for example DV victims, or those with multigenerational families or different family structures. So, it is better to leave the income/means questions once the person is actually applying for specific services to the groups that have learned to do this well.,in a culturally competent manner, or if done online, by a questionnaire designed by groups that have experience with means testing from multiple funders so that it does include all the nuances per funder type that a triage online interview for non-means tested services will not include. Some groups might do a triage interview after they have answer the intake question as a “yes, you are accepted ” or “no, you are not accepted”, but I don’t know of any states that are doing general triage after intake. In most states, triage is being done before intake because it helps better identify potential clients and increase the number of successful intakes. LSNTAP has posted multiple videos on this starting at around 2008 to 2014. Here is one of the early ones: and here is also a more recent one that builds on the same foundation from 2014: In terms of intake. I encourage those interested in thinking more about means testing to read and familiarize themselves with Standard 2.0 of the ABA Standards for Providers of Civil Legal Services for the Poor.

  2. jaraby says:

    While Florida is in the very very beginning stages of figuring out what a triage system would look like here, we are already grappling with the what do we ask and when. In my opinion, we should use two guidelines; 1) that we ask for the absolute minimum amount of information needed (and ask it anonymously as possible) to move the user to the next step, and 2) the end user should be presented with choices and options throughout the process rather than just being told “go here” (they should get some say in how -and even if- they want to proceed). That pushes means testing way down into the process.

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