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Issue Alert - 13-01-01

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Date:

Jan 03, 2013

Program Area:

Food Assistance Program (FAP)

Issue Summary:

Clients’ FAP complaints must be documented using form DHS-1380, which must be reviewed by local offices, by auditors, Central Office, and FNS.

Persons Affected:

All FAP applicants or recipients

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


Background

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture regulates and monitors the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, in Michigan known as FAP.  In particular, they monitor customer service and access to SNAP or FAP benefits in all states.

 

What's Happening?

DHS Field Operations Administration Memorandum 2012-37, sent to County Directors and District Managers on September 17, 2012, states that FNS considers Customer Service and access to FAP a high priority.  Thus, “anyone” at DHS receiving a general FAP complaint from an applicant or client must use the Food Assistance Complaint Form DHS-1380 to document it.  Form DHS-1380 only applies to FAP.  Examples include but are not limited to:  Unresponsive specialists or managers, untimeliness in their actions, closures due to incomplete/untimely redetermination, overdue applications, general complaints, or rude or inappropriate specialist/manager behavior.

Local offices must maintain the complaint forms centrally and review them for corrective action.  Advocates are encouraged to contact their local DHS offices to find out how these complaints are being handled in the particular county or district, so that they know who to follow up with.  Food Assistance Management Evaluators will review the forms during their visits.  Local offices must submit forms to the FAP Accuracy Unit in Lansing quarterly – depending on when the complaint came in – on the tenth of April, July, October, and January.  The Lansing Unit is supposed to submit an annual analysis and summary of complaints to FNS. 

Note:  The Memo states that discrimination complaints should be sent by the client directly to the Department of Agriculture FNS, and Family Independence Program (FIP) and Medicaid (MA) clients can file their discrimination complaints with the United States Office of Civil Rights (OCR).  As cited in the Memo, Bridges Administrative Manual (BAM) 105 has more information on this.  BAM 105 lists contact information for all the state and federal offices clients contact directly to send all types of complaints (“general” or “discrimination”) for all public assistance programs. 

The DHS-1380 Form and Policy was previously in effect; it appears that DHS is now feeling pressure from FNS to make sure these complaints are documented for FAP.  Note that the Memo states that “anyone” receiving a FAP complaint should fill out the form; presumably this includes the main Customer Service phone number in Lansing, 1-855-ASK-MICH.  BAM 105 also lists the following address for sending general written complaints on all programs:

Michigan Department of Human Services

Specialized Action Center

235 S. Grand Avenue

PO Box 30037

Lansing, MI  48909

Moreover, BAM 105, page 4, indicates clients can fill out the DHS-1038 form themselves.

The archived form complaints may be fertile ground for obtaining information under the Freedom of Information Act on the prevalence of certain problems or legal issues.  However, if the DHS-1380 complaint process is not used by clients and advocates, or is not followed by DHS, DHS will report to FNS that there were few or no FAP complaints. 

What Should Advocates Do?

1.            Educate clients and community organizations about the right to submit a complaint about any DHS program, but for a FAP Complaint, have a specialist or other DHS employee record it on the form DHS-1380. 

2.      Help clients:

 

a. Put complaints in writing;

b. Ask DHS to fill out the DHS-1380 form for FAP or, if the DHS specialist refuses, have clients fill it out themselves; and

c. Get a copy of the form showing the complaint was recorded and how it was resolved.

3.      If you or your clients need help with filing a FAP complaint, please call or refer clients to Center for Civil Justice at our Flint office Food Assistance Helpline at 1-800-481-4989.

4.      For discrimination complaints, help clients put them in writing and send them to the Department of Agriculture FNS or OCR.  BAM 105 has the addresses for filing complaints.  DHS also has a disability discrimination complaint procedure, available online at: http://michigan.gov/dhs/0,4562,7-124-5459_7701_7845-192022--,00.html.

Clients with discrimination complaints should get legal help before filing a complaint, if possible.

5.     Remember that clients can always request hearings on FAP disputes, especially when they receive a Notice of Case Action.     Help clients find legal advice if they request a hearing (see below)

What Should Clients Do?

1.            If you have a general complaint about how your FAP application or case is being handled, ask a caseworker, supervisor, or anyone else at DHS to file a complaint using form DHS-1380, have the DHS employee give you a copy, and ask for regular updates on the status of your complaint.  For example, you can do this if your caseworker or the supervisor doesn’t return your calls, is rude, or seems to be moving slowly on your case, or any other general reason.  You may also try filing a complaint at the main Customer Service phone number in Lansing, 1-855-ASK-MICH (1-855-275-6424), or in writing to:

Michigan Department of Human Services

Specialized Action Center

235 S. Grand Avenue

PO Box 30037

Lansing, MI  48909

2.            If you need help with filing a complaint about the FAP program, including discrimination in the FAP program, please call the Center for Civil Justice Food Assistance Helpline at 1-800-481-4989.

3.      For discrimination complaints, also seek other legal help (see below).

5.     Remember that you can always ask for a hearing on a FAP problem, especially when you receive a Notice of Case Action.  The hearing request form is near the back of the Notice.  Seek legal advice if you ask for a hearing (see below).

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.