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Issue Alert - 12-11-02

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Date:

Nov 07, 2012

Program Area:

Food Assistance Program (FAP)

Issue Summary:

Form Notices of FAP case closure for failure to verify information at redetermination/recertification lack required information about the recipient’s right to “cure” and have the case re-opened without having to reapply.

Persons Affected:

All FAP recipients who receive a Notice of Case Action for failure to provide requested verification(s) at redetermination/ recertification.

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice
320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Saginaw, MI 48607
(989) 755-3120, (800) 724-7441
(989) 755-3558 Fax
E-mail: info@ccj-mi.org

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


Background

Food Assistance Program (FAP) benefits are approved for a specific number of months, known as the “certification period.” The length of the household’s certification period will vary, depending on household circumstances and review dates for other benefits the household receives. Before the end of the certification period, DHS sends the household paperwork and instructions to apply for redetermination/recertification. Like an initial application, recertification involves an interview (usually by phone) and verification of certain information about the household’s circumstances or financial need. DHS calls this process “redetermination.” Bridges Administrative Manual (BAM) 210, pp 1, 3-4, 11-12.

If a recipient completes the application for redetermination and the interview, but fails to submit verification(s), DHS can close the FAP case but must give the recipient a chance to provide the missing verification(s) and re-open the case. However, if the household submits the required verification(s) AFTER the case is closed for failure to verify but BEFORE the end of the certification period, DHS must re-open the case and award the full month of benefits for the first month of the new certification period. If a recipient submits the verification(s) after the certification period, but within 30 days of the date the certification period ended, DHS must re-open the case with benefits beginning on the date the recipient completed verification. Households do NOT have to reapply if they submit the verification(s) up to 30 days after the end of their certification period. BAM 210, pp 13-14 and 7 CFR 273.14(e)(2).

What's Happening?

On recertification/redetermination applications, DHS is sending FAP recipients Notices of Case Action (Notices) for failure to verify information that do not state that the recipient has the right to provide the verification(s) late and have the case re-opened without having to reapply. The standard, automated Bridges computer-generated form Notice does not have this right to “cure” on it. Due to this omission, clients do not know that they can avoid the lengthy, cumbersome process of reapplying if they can provide the missing verification(s) within a certain timeframe. As a result, households may simply reapply for benefits, delaying their eligibility for benefits and possibly reducing the amount of benefits they receive. Having this right to cure stated in the Notice is required by 7 CFR 273.10(g)(1)(ii), (2) (explaining the required content of a “Notice of Denial” and specifying distinctions on redetermination).

If verification is required at redetermination, DHS sends the household a Verification Checklist telling the household what verification(s) are needed and that the verification(s) must be submitted to DHS within 10 days of the date the checklist is sent. BAM 130, p 5. When a FAP recipient fails to provide requested verification information within the 10 days, DHS sends Notice the case is being closed (the application for redetermination is denied), which does not notify recipients that they actually have 30 days after the end of the certification period to submit the verification(s) and have their case re-opened WITHOUT RE-APPLYING.

What Should Advocates Do?

  1. Educate clients and community organizations about the right to submit verification(s) late and have the case re-opened at redetermination, WITHOUT FILING A NEW APPLICATION.
  2. Help clients “cure” the verification problem on redetermination, i.e., verify their information within the additional timeframes, so they can get their Food Assistance more quickly. Raise BAM 210, pp 13-14 and 7 CFR 273.14(e)(2) with specialists/caseworkers.
  3. Let CCJ know about families who do not receive a proper Notice with the right to “cure” in it. Please call or refer clients to CCJ at our Flint office Food Assistance Helpline, if they receive inadequate FAP Notices. The Helpline number is (800) 481-4989. CCJ will want to see the Notice the family received, so if you can assist families with faxing the Notice to CCJ, that would be helpful too.
  4. Help clients request hearings if their FAP cases are wrongfully closed for an alleged failure to verify, especially if DHS has not provided adequate Notice with the right to cure in it.
  5. Help clients request a hearing if DHS does not re-open the redetermination application and provide benefits as required by BAM 210, pp 13-14 and 7 CFR 273.14(e)(2).
  6. Help clients find legal advice if they request a hearing (see below).

What Should Clients Do?

  1. Turn in verification(s) for your FAP redetermination application when you are asked to do so by DHS. Do not ignore these requests and make sure you understand when verification(s) are due. Keep a record of what, how, and when you submit verification(s) to DHS. Always keep copies and write in the log book at DHS exactly what you are dropping off. Ask your caseworker for help if you cannot get the requested verification(s), do not understand what is needed, or if there is not enough time to get the verification(s) between when they are requested and when they are due. If you cannot reach your caseworker, contact the supervisor.
  2. Keep the envelope that your Verification Checklist letter comes in, as well as the envelopes for all DHS correspondence, so you know the date it was actually mailed. (Remember to keep the correspondence itself also.) Write on the envelope the date that you actually receive correspondence, so you will remember the date.
  3. Seek an advocate or legal advice if you are sent a Notice that your Food Assistance case or benefits are going to be closed or terminated due to a failure to verify. Pay special attention if the Notice does not say you can still submit verification(s) within 30 days and not have your case closed.
  4. If you receive a Notice with these problems, get legal help (see below).
  5. Call CCJ if you get an improper Notice. You can call our toll-free Food Assistance Helpline, at (800) 481-4989.
  6. Read your Notices carefully. If your FAP is ending, you have the right to request a hearing, and you should try to get legal help (see below). Be sure to submit your hearing request within the deadline given in your Notice and ask for an in-person hearing.
  7. If you want to get your FAP back after your case is closed or terminated, you can also reapply to preserve your rights.

Finding Help

Most legal aid and legal services offices handle these types of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate various sources of legal and related services, including the free legal aid office that serves your county, at MichiganLegalHelp.org. You can also look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.