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Issue Alert - 09-10-02

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Date:

Oct 29, 2009

Program Area:

All Programs Administered by the Department of Human Services

Issue Summary:

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has issued a policy complaint process for persons with disabilities who have been denied equal access to DHS benefits and services, or have been denied a reasonable accommodation for their disability

Persons Affected:

Persons with disabilities who are applying for or receiving services or benefits administered by DHS

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

Federal laws (the Americans with Disabilities Act or “ADA” and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act) require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the programs it administers as persons who do not have disabilities.   When necessary to achieve that objective, DHS must make reasonable accommodations for a person’s disability-related needs or limitations.  DHS must have a process for responding to complaints or grievances from individuals with disabilities who believe their rights have been violated, and for providing corrective action as required by federal law.

 

What's Happening?

The Department of Human Services has issued a policy on nondiscrimination in service delivery that requires DHS to make reasonable accommodations to ensure persons with disabilities (and their family members) have an equal opportunity to benefit from services and programs administered by DHS.  It also sets out a complaint or grievance process that may be used when a reasonable accommodation is denied or DHS discriminates based on disability in some other manner.

The new DHS policy, which can be found in the DHS Administrative Handbook at AHJ 1313, available online at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/olmweb/ex/ahj/1313.pdf.   This alert outlines the DHS complaint or grievance process and tells you what page of the policy to look at for more detailed information.

A separate Alert that addresses the key provisions of the policy on non-discrimination in DHS programs and DHS policy for providing reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.  Please read that Alert for a better understanding of what constitutes discrimination.


WHEN TO FILE A COMPLAINT  (AHJ 1313 p. 10-11.)

Advocates and clients should consider filing a complaint whenever DHS fails to follow the policy on nondiscrimination and reasonable accommodations.  A complaint may be filed whenever any DHS employee:

  • Fails to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.
  • Violates their policies on nondiscrimination, or any provision of the ADA or section 504.
  • Discriminates against a person with disabilities based on that disability

 

THE COMPLAINT (AHJ 1313 p. 10-11.)

Clients may complain orally or in writing.  If the complaint is oral, DHS must offer to help the client put it in writing.   DHS has a complaint form (DHS 866, available online) but clients are NOT required to use that form.

A complete complaint should include:

1. Name of the person complaining (“the complainant”) and any alternate contact person designated by the complainant to receive communications or pro­vide information for the complainant.

2. Address and telephone number for the complainant or alter­nate contact person; and

3. Description of the failure to accommodate disabil­ity, discrimination, or violation of policy or law.  Include dates, times, locations, and names or descriptions of persons involved.

DHS must accept complaints that are not complete.  AHJ 1313 p. 11.

Clients can send their complaint directly to the ADA coordinator in the DHS central office in Lansing or can file the complaint at the local office.  Complaints filed wit he local office must be forwarded to the ADA Coordinator.  AHJ 1313 p.10.

Complaints usually are handled by the ADA Coordinator, but if she was involved in the decision or action that is the subject of the Complaint, the client may choose to have the Complaint handled by a back-up ADA coordinator. AHJ 1313 p.11.

 

TIME FOR RESOLUTION OF COMPLAINT (AHJ p. 11-12.)

The time for investigation and resolution is not clear in the policy, which says both that the Complaint must be investigated and resolved within 14 business days (AHJ 1313 p. 11) and that the DHS ADA Coordinator must provide a final determination in written or alternate format within 20 business days.  (AHJ 1313 p.12).     

 

INVESTIGATION (AHJ 1313 p.11.)

The ADA Coordinator (or backup) must investigate all Complaints, including a meeting with the client, which usually must be held in person rather than by phone. 

 

AGREED RESOLUTION (AHJ 1313 p.11-12.) 

If the client and the ADA coordinator agree to a resolution of the complaint, the ADA coordinator must put agreement in writing and send two copies of the agreement to the client. The client must sign and return one copy of the Agreement for it to go into effect.  DHS must explain the terms of the resolution clearly before asking the client to sign an agreement.  A copy of the agreement must be recorded in the client’s case file and with the ADA coordinator.

 

UNRESOLVED COMPLAINTS (AHJ 1313 p.12. )

The ADA coordinator must send the client a notice of non-resolution if the complaint is not resolve do to the client’s satisfaction. The notice must include:

  •   Description of the complaint.
  •    Summary of the resolution proposed by DHS.
  •   Statement of issues that could not be resolved.
  •    Factual and legal reason reasons why DHS did not resolve the complaint fully in favor of the client.
  •    Client’s right to file a complaint with Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the appropriate federal agency with jurisdic­tion over the program at issue.
  •     Contact information (name, phone number, address, fax, and email) for both Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the appro­priate federal agency.

 

What Should Advocates Do?

1.     Inform clients about the new ADA policy.  Be alert to disabilities that may be preventing clients from getting services or benefits from DHS.

2.     Help clients with disabilities request reasonable accommodations and file complaints if they are denied.

3.     Read the issue alert about DHS’s non-discrimination policy.

4.     Share successes and problems with the Center for Civil Justice (contact information is at the top of this alert).

What Should Clients Do?

WHAT SHOULD CLIENTS DO?

1.       If you or someone else in your family is having trouble meeting DHS requirements because of a medical problem or a physical or mental condition, tell DHS about the problem and ask for help.

2.       If you cannot put your request in writing, ask for help and keep a copy of the written request.

3.       File a complaint if DHS will not give you the help you need.

4.       Seek legal help. See below for information about finding legal help.

 

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.