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Issue Alert - 08-10-13

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Date:

Oct 15, 2008

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP)

Issue Summary:

DHS has revised its policy on exemptions from Jobs Education Training (JET) requirements for persons with disabilities. Revised policy exempts three new groups of persons with disabilities and requires caseworkers to review the medical packet and MRT decision to identify reasonable accommodations .

Persons Affected:

FIP applicants or recipients who disability, especially those who have cognitive or learning disabilities; chronic and uncontrolled mental illness, or a combination of physical limitations and cognitive or learning disabilities.

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


Background

Under section 57f of the Social Welfare Act, MCLA 400.57f(3)(i)(ii), applicants for, and recipients of, Family Independence Program  (FIP) cash assistance are exempt from participation in the Jobs Education Training (JET) program if they are “suffering from a physical or mental impairment that meets federal supplemental security income disability standards, except that no minimum duration is required”.  Under new subsections added when the penalties for noncompliance with JET were increased effective April 2007, MCLA 400.57f(3)(i)(V) – (vii), the following individuals also are exempt:

o          An individual with low intellectual capacity or learning disabilities that impede comprehension and prevent success in acquiring basic reading, writing, and math skills, including, but not limited to, an individual with an intelligence quotient less than 80.

o          An individual with documented chronic mental health problems that cannot be controlled through treatment or medication.

o          An individual with physical limitations on his or her ability to perform routine manual labor tasks, including, but not limited to, bending or lifting, combined with intellectual capacity or learning disabilities.

Individuals in these three new groups do not have to prove that their disabilities meet Supplemental Security (SSI) disability standards. 

What's Happening?

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has revised and reorganized its policy on exemptions (or temporary deferrals) from JET, effective October 1, 2008.  The revised policy specifically includes individuals in the three groups listed in “Background”, above, as clients whose referral to employment and training services are “temporarily delayed”.   DHS Program Eligibility Manual (PEM) 230A, p. 7. 

 

The DHS PEM is available online at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/olmweb/ex/pem/pem.pdf.

Per PEM 230 A, individuals who may fall into these three groups are evaluated using the same procedure as individuals who may be deferred because they have a disability that meets the SSI disability standard.   The deferral for long term incapacity is coded as “IN” and this process for evaluation is referred to as the “IN” process.  It is described in PEM 230A.

The IN process may be summarized as follows:

1.     DHS requests medical verification of disability (usually the DHS 54A or 49 forms).

2.     DHS send the client to Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) or Commission for the Blind (if visually impaired or blind) for “consultation”.

3.     Results of consultation:

    1. Clients who fail to show up for consultation are considered noncompliant and DHS begins sanction/triage process
    2. Clients who wish to apply for and participate in MRS or CFB services are deferred as “IN” and assigned to MRS or CFB as part of their Family Self Sufficiency Plan (FSSP)
    3. Clients who decide they are employable (or, according to DHS policy, who are identified by MRS/CFB as employable in spite of MRS’ contention that they will NOT evaluate  employability/unemployability) will be assigned to JET
    4. Clients who do not fit into any of the above will be asked to sign releases and DHS will gather medical evidence and send the case to the DHS Medical Review Team (MRT) for evaluation.

 

4.     MRT evaluation of cases described in 3(d) will consist of a determination of whether the client is

o          Not Disabled (work ready)

o          Not Disabled (work ready with limitations), or

o          Disabled – potentially eligible for SSI/RSDI

 The MRT decision will be recorded on the “Assessment for JET Participation Project”  (form DHS 49A-E), which provides MRT’s opinion about SOME of the physical and mental limitations that the client may have.  (For example, under the MENTAL category, the form has only 2 checkboxes:  one for “No Limitations” and one for “Limited to unskilled work; has the ability to understand, remember and carry out simple instructions, respond appropriately to supervision, co-works, and work pressures in a routine work setting, and make simple work related judgments and decisions.”)  The form does not require recording of the client’s diagnoses, treatment, etc.

 5.     Results of MRT evaluation:

a.     ALL DECISIONS:  the caseworker must “REVIEW the medical records and information provided by MRT to determine what accommodations, other than deferral from JET, the client needs to be able to benefit from the FIP program and to pursue employment and or self-sufficiency related activities.”  Caseworkers are instructed to follow the policy on “Reasonable Accommodations” under PEM 230A, which focuses on accommodations needed for participation in JET or other self-sufficiency-related activities and does not discuss other types of accommodations that clients may need to have an equal opportunity to benefit from DHS programs generally.

b.     If the MRT finds that the client meets the SSI standard of disability, the individual will be deferred from JET and assigned to other activities on their FSSP.

c.      If the MRT does not find that the individual meets the SSI standard of disability, the individual will be referred to JET and DHS is required to provide JET with information about any limitations noted by the MRT.

PROBLEM AREAS

1)    There is no procedure for determining whether individuals meet the criteria for an exemption under any of the three new groups.  DHS has informed CCJ that the MRT’s decisions about whether an individual is “disabled” for purposes of an exemption from JET are based entirely on the SSI disability regulations, and that no instructions have been issued to MRT regarding implementation of these three exemptions.  Therefore, MRT will not be deciding whether individuals should be exempt under these categories.  At the same time, PEM 230A does not instruct caseworkers to review the medical and other information to determine whether individuals are exempt under these categories.

2)    DHS still does not have a comprehensive policy on providing reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities.

DHS does not instruct caseworkers to consider whether the individual’s failure to attend a consultation at MRS was due to disability before beginning the sanction and triage process.

What Should Advocates Do?

Ensure the new policy is applied correctly.

Contact CCJ if you have clients who are not properly evaluated to determine whether they fall into one of the three exempt groups outlined in the “Background” section, above.

Educate clients about the IN process and the importance of attending the consultation meeting with MRS.

Encourage clients to seek services from MRS if they have disability-related limitations that currently prevent them from working but would benefit from services to enable them to become employable in the long run.   

Assist clients in obtaining and providing medical evidence that they meet deferral criteria.

Help clients with disabilities in requesting reasonable accommodations (extra help, modification of policies or requirements) to ensure that they benefit from FIP and employment and training services.

What Should Clients Do?

Seek legal advice if you are assigned to JET and are unable to successfully participate because of disabilities.

Seek legal advice immediately if you are denied or terminated from FIP.   

Request a hearing if you believe the decision was incorrect.  Assistance will continue at current levels if DHS receives your original, signed hearing BEFORE the date the FIP is supposed to terminate (usually 12 days after the date DHS issues the termination notice).

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.