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Issue Alert - 02-04-03

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Mar 26, 2002

Issue Summary:

Family Independence Agency (FIA) Issues Final Policy on Assessment and Deferral Procedures for FIP recipients who have a disability or who care for a family member with a disability.

Persons Affected:

Households applying for or receiving FIP cash assistance in which a member of the household has a disability.

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Saginaw, MI 48607 (989) 755-3120, (800)724-7441 Fax: (989) 755-3558E-mail:


Family Independence Program (FIP)

What's Happening?

Prior to April 1, 2002, Michigan state law automatically deferred (exempted) persons with disabilities, and persons caring for a child or family member with a disability , from work requirements. Effective April 1, 2002, some parents who are caring for a child with a disability will only continue to be deferred from work requirements if a caseworker determines, “based on medical evidence and an assessment of need”, that the parent should be deferred.Who Will Continue to Be Automatically Deferred?For the time being, parents who themselves have disabilities and parents caring for a disabled spouse will continue to be automatically deferred:- Adults who receive Social Security Disability (RSDI)- Adults who receive SSI (Adults who receive SSI cannot not receive FIP and therefore are not subject to work requirements)- Adults who have applied for SSI or Social Security Disability and have not yet received a final decision- Adults who are appealing a denial of their SSI application- Adults who were denied SSI solely due to lack of duration, but otherwise met the SSA definition of disability- Adults who were denied SSI or Social Security Disability a non-disability reason (e.g., assets), but otherwise met the SSA definition of disability. - Adults who are full time caregivers for a disabled spouse AND the spouse receives or is applying for SSI or Social Security Disability In addition, parents of children who participate in “Early On”, a program for children up to age 3 who exhibit developmental delays, will continue to be automatically deferred. Who Will Not Be Automatically Deferred?Prior to April 1, 2002, parents of a child who was applying for or receiving SSI were automatically deferred from Work First. Starting April 1, 2002, FIA caseworkers must assess the extent to which a parent caring for a child applying for or receiving SSI is able to participate in work activities, if at all. If a caseworker determines that a parent can participate in Work First, FIA policy instructs him/her to indicate any reduced work requirement or special needs or accommodations on the Work First referral. How Will the Assessment Be Conducted?Once FIA identifies a parent as the caretaker of a disabled child, the caseworker may take up to 3 months to complete the assessment process. A parent of a disabled child may not be required to participate in Work First until the assessment has been completed. FIA policy instructs caseworkers to consider the following questions: - Is the child bedridden?- Is the child in a wheel chair?- Is special transportation required for school, medical appointments or other activities?- Does the parent/caretaker spend time preparing special meals?- Does the parent/caretaker spend time doing extra laundry?- Is the parent/caretaker required to participate at school to care for the child?- Does the parent/caretaker need to participate in medically-related treatment activities?- If the child is in school during the day and requires special care in the evenings, does the parent need to sleep or do other chores during the day to maintain a safe and healthy environment for the child?What kind of information/verification will FIA use to complete the assessment?FIA policy lists several general sources for caseworkers to use when conducting the assessment, including:- The FIA-54A, Medical Needs form.- Other medical documentation sufficient to verify the need and extent of the need.- Written or verbal contact with school officials (teacher, counselor, etc.).- Written or verbal contact with a therapist, mental health counselor, social worker, psychologist, etc.- Any other reliable source to verify the parent/caretaker is needed in the home to care for the child.FIA policy fails to place the burden of collecting and verifying information on the caseworker, which may force many parents of disabled children to re-collect medical evidence from numerous sources to verify their child’s needs. In addition, caseworkers have received no training on this new policy or on working with persons with disabilities in general.Child Care for Children with Special NeedsParents who cannot find appropriate, adequate or affordable child care have good cause for not participating in Work First, regardless of whether a child has special needs. “Appropriate” care is care that meets the child’s age, disability or other special needs. If a parent of a child with a disability cannot find child care that meets her child’s special needs, that parent has good cause for not participating in Work First. Does the Americans with Disabilities Act Apply to Parents of Children with Disabilities?Yes. Even though a child who receives SSI does not himself or herself receive FIP, the ADA protects parents of children with disabilities because of their association with the disabled child. While this does not mean that all parents of disabled children can remain automatically exempt, it does mean that FIA and Work First must provide equal access to services, programs and activities for parents of disabled children as for parents of children without disabilities. For example, FIA may not sanction a parent for losing a job if the job loss resulted from the parent missing work in order to deal with a disabled child’s medical needs. What Should Individuals Affected by the New Policy Do?- Keep a record of everything FIA asks you do, as well as any information you provide to FIA regarding your child’s special needs.- If you require special accommodations in order to participate in Work First, be sure to communicate these to your caseworker. - If FIA or Work First requires you to work or attend Work First and your participation would put your child at risk, seek legal help immediately. (See the box below on “Finding Legal Help”.) - Ask your FIA caseworker to help you get verification of your child’s special needs if you are unable to gather the verification yourself (for example, if you are asked to pay for medical records or reports). FIA caseworkers must help if you ask them. Put the request for help in writing and keep a copy. If your caseworker will not help, seek, legal advice. (See the box below on “Finding Legal Help”.) - If your child is in school or a day care center, consider asking the school or center for help in verifying your child’s special needs. Some parents must make frequent, unscheduled visits to school or day care centers to handle medical or behavioral issues. These visits may interfere with work or Work First activities. Special education coordinators, teachers, or counselors may be able to verify these special needs.

What Should Advocates Do?

- Monitor implementation of the new work requirements for parents of disabled children in your area. - Document examples of how policies are being implemented and share them with other advocates and/or state legislators and the media.- Share this information with others in your community, particularly organizations that work with disabled children. - Contact the Center for Civil Justice if you have additional questions.

Finding Help

Most legal aid and legal services office handle these type of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate the "free" legal services or legal aid office that serves your county on the Michigan Legal Assistance Network website ( or look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738