CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46) - An east Charlotte mother doesn’t know how she’s going to care for her permanently disabled son, after the benefits that were helping to keep him alive were discontinued at the start of the month.
Lakescia Gamble reached out to FOX 46 Charlotte to tell the heartbreaking story of her 17-year-old son Jai’Quan, who was involved in a horrible accident when he was younger, and would later fall victim to his own attorney.
“I’d do anything to protect him,” Gamble said. “I know he’s been through so much, so he needs me more than anything.”
Jai’Quan’s story begins in 2005, when he was 5-years-old. He was hit by a speeding truck while playing in the front yard of his grandma’s house.
“I got the call, and it was the kind of call you don’t wanna get,” Gamble said. “They didn’t expect him to live more than a month, but he’s made it 12 years!”
Jai’Quan would emerge from a coma after three months, but the damage was severe and everlasting.
“He had a traumatic brain injury, he had swelling of the brain,” Gamble said.
The totality of Jai’Quan’s injuries would leave him permanently disabled, and his growth and development were stunted, leaving him unable to speak, or care for himself.
For the past 12 years, Gamble has taken care of her son, while balancing a full-time job and two other sons at the same time.
A room in her home is set up with a medical bed for Jai’Quan, numerous machines, as well as over a dozen medications.
“His life was basically taken because he never got to enjoy his childhood,” Gamble said.
As if that wasn’t already enough, Gamble would later find out that the attorney she hired to facilitate a settlement with the driver’s insurance company, John L. Schurlknight of Florence, S.C., had stolen Jai’Quan’s settlement money.
A federal indictment would reveal that Schurlknight’s law partner, William Rivers III was also involved in the insidious scheme.
According to the FBI, Rivers and Schurlknight failed to tell their clients when their cases had been settled, and failed to pay the client’s medical providers, instead forging client’s signatures on releases and keeping all the money received in the client’s settlements.
Schurlknight would later commit suicide at his law office the day investigators were set to meet with him.
The FBI investigation revealed that from 2006-2012, the attorneys defrauded more than 100 clients out of $3.3 million in settlements.
Gamble found out about all of this, through the media.
“I was angry,” she said. “I knew we had to be involved because it was taking years to hear anything back, they just kept putting it off.”
Rivers would end up pleading guilty to felony mail fraud charges and was sentenced to five years in prison as well as $2.7 million in restitution.
Gamble said a judge ordered $15,000 to go to Jai’Quan in the form of a trust that he can’t touch until he turns 18.
She told FOX 46 Charlotte that Jai’Quan’s medical costs exceed $30,000 a year, which is why he has been receiving monthly Supplemental Security Income, or SSI benefits, to help with the costs, but now there’s a problem.
“Social Security is now saying he’s unable to get any benefits, not even Medicaid,” Gamble said.
Last month, Gamble received a letter from the Social Security Administration informing her that Jai’Quan’s SSI benefits would be slashed from $735 per month to zero beginning in May 2017, because Jai’Quan “has countable resources worth more than $2,000.”
“They’re now saying that since he has this trust, they want him to exhaust all of his funds before he’s able to get Social Security,” Gamble said. “But he can’t even get payments from the trust yet because he’s not 18.”
On top of that, the Social Security Administration sent Gamble another letter informing her that she needs to pay back $6,900 within weeks due to overpayments. Days after our interview, Gamble told FOX 46 the SSA increased the amount she owes to $12,000, which she says, she can’t afford to pay.
“I know for a fact I won’t be able to,” she said. “As of May 1st, if they cut him off, I won’t be able to work, because he needs 24 hour care.”
Gamble said she doesn’t qualify for Medicaid because her income is too high, and she doesn’t receive food stamps.
“I know there’s a lot of people who abuse the system, but not everyone is like that, I don’t get government assistance, I work very hard for what I have,” she said.
Gamble said there’s no way she can afford the costs of Jai’Quan’s medical care without the SSI benefits, and she doesn’t understand why they were discontinued.
“They knew about the trust, and he hasn’t been able to touch the funds yet,” Gamble said. “I was just told there was a policy change.”
Gamble has filed an official repeal asking for a reconsideration of the decision, but has yet to receive a decision from SSA.
And caught in the middle of all of this is Jai’Quan, who has had to endure a difficult journey.
“He will never get to drive a car, he will never play football or baseball, he will never have a normal life,” Gamble said.
Although he can’t speak, it’s clear he understands. His face lights up when his mother speaks about him, or when somebody brings up the Carolina Panthers, his favorite team.
Gamble said she doesn’t know what she’s going to do next, but Jai’Quan has taught her a lesson about how to persevere.
“I think he’s made me stronger through it all, because he’s been through so many surgeries, and he still comes out smiling!” she said, holding back tears.
FOX 46 Charlotte reporter Bill Melugin reached out to the SSA on behalf of Gamble, and explained Jai’Quan’s predicament. A representative from the Atlanta office said they would be calling Gamble to discuss the situation with her.
Gamble confirmed that the SSA contacted her on Tuesday, telling her to file an appeal with them, which she has already done.
“I feel like they only called me because I’m putting my story on the news,” Gamble said.
After Gamble told the SSA she had already filed an appeal, she claims she was told that the SSA would be sending her another appeal form, and that she has the option to go before a judge.
FOX 46 Charlotte will continue monitoring the situation. In the meantime, a GoFundMe account has been set up for Jai'Qua: https://www.gofundme.com/pnrcf-saving-jaiquan