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Issue Alert - Caserworkers must assist clients who request help

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Date:

Jul 09, 2008

Program Area:

All PAM 110, 130, 210

Issue Summary:

Caseworkers at the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) must assist individuals who need and request help to complete forms. In addition, caseworkers must also assist individuals who claim a disability impairs their ability to gather information and verification.

Persons Affected:

Applicants and recipients for all DHS programs

For More Information:

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

Michigan Poverty Law Program 611 Church Street, Suite 4A Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3000 (734) 998-6100 (734) 998-9125 Fax (734)998-6125


Background

Individuals who apply for benefits at their local DHS office have always been entitled to assistance in doing so, if they request it. In addition, federal law dictates that disabled individuals must be afforded reasonable accommodations when applying for assistance, including filling out paperwork and obtaining required verifications. Until now, this right had not been reflected in DHS policy, though it has always been obligated to provide assistance to individuals claiming a disability.

What's Happening?

Verification is required at application/redetermination and for a reported change affecting eligibility or benefit level.
If a client tells his/her caseworker that he/she has a disability that impairs his/her ability to gather verifications and information necessary to establish eligibility for benefits, the worker must offer to assist the individual in the gathering of such information. Some examples of this would be shelter verification and employment verification. This provision becomes very important when a client is requesting a deferral based on a mental impairment, as the client faces possible sanctions for non-compliance but is not able to provide the necessary verification of his/her impairment. Applicants/recipients have always been able to request an accommodation from DHS, but now that obligation is reflected in the regulations PAM 130.

Clients must obtain required verification, but caseworkers must assist if the client needs and requests help. If neither the client nor the caseworker can obtain verification despite a reasonable effort, the caseworker is required to use the best available information. If no evidence is available, the caseworker should use his/her best judgment.
Exception: Alien information, blindness, disability, incapacity, incapability to declare one's residence and, for FIP only, pregnancy must be verified.
Citizenship and identity must be verified for clients claiming U.S. citizenship for applicants and recipients of FIP, SDA and MA.

What Should Advocates Do?

Advise clients to request assistance when needed, or request it on their behalf if they are unable to do so. If a client receives a negative action based on failure to complete the application or provide verification after having requested assistance, request a hearing.

What Should Clients Do?

Ask for assistance if needed. Ask for accommodations in providing verification if a disability prevents you from being able to obtain those verifications on your own.

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 MichiganLegalAid.org.

You can also look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.