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Issue Alert - 04-02-05

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Date:

Feb 26, 2004

Issue Summary:

Food and Nutrition Service issues new guidelines for intentional program violations

Persons Affected:

Persons accused of intentional program violations

For More Information:

Michigan Poverty Law Program 611 Church Street, Suite 4A Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3000(734) 998-6100Fax: (734) 998-9125


Background

Food Stamps

What's Happening?

FNS has issued new guidance for state agencies that investigate potential welfare fraud and IPV cases. The guidance makes clear that agencies MUST have sufficient evidence of intent to hold an administrative hearing before offering the client the opportunity to sign a waiver. Because the agency must choose between the criminal and civil process, the guidance states that the investigative agency cannot offer a waiver if the agency intends to refer the case for prosecution. The agency can only offer the waiver if it intends to pursue an administrative hearing. Similarly the agency cannot suggest to the client that the case may be referred for prosecution if the client is offered a waiver. Advocates can review the guidance on the MPLP website by clicking HERE.

What Should Advocates Do?

Advocates who have clients who have received letters regarding overissuances from the OIG's office or FIA, should refer the client to their local legal aid office. Legal services advocates should review the guidance and regulations and use them to advocate for their clients. The guidance may provide grounds to argue that waivers that were not obtained correctly should be vacated. MPLP and CCJ have been involved in a variety of litigation and policy advocacy strategies on these issues, as well as a number local legal services programs. Legal services advocates are strongly encouraged to consult with MPLP about any new or pending IPV cases.

What Should Clients Do?

Clients who receive correspondence from the Office of Inspector General should contact their local legal services program for additional assistance. They should not sign any documents without consulting with a legal advocate.

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 LawHelp web site (www.MI.LawHelp.org) or look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.