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Issue Alert - 13-03-01

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Date:

Mar 13, 2013

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP), Mediaid (MA), and Food Assistance Program (FAP)

Issue Summary:

IRS data match information is confidential and, effective 02/01/2013, DHS policy clarifies that it should never be distributed in any way

Persons Affected:

All FIP, FAP, and MA applicants and recipients

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice Email: info@ccj-mi.org Saginaw, MI 48607 Phone: 989-755-3120 Phone: 1-800-724-7441 Fax: 989-755-3558 320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Michigan Poverty Law Program 611 Church St., Ste. 4A Fax: 734-998-9125 Phone: 734-998-6100 Ann Arbor, MI 48104


Background

This Issue Alert is based on Department of Human Services Bridges Policy Bulletin (BPB) 2013-003 #3 (located at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/OLMWeb/exf/BP-2013-003.pdf), and modifications to Bridges Administrative Manual (BAM) 803 (located at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/OLMWeb/exf/bam/803.pdf). 

 Under BAM 803, DHS does a computerized data match of income information reported by third parties to the IRS for all FIP, FAP, and MA, applicants and recipients.  The information is compared to the applicant’s/recipient’s earned and unearned income.  If a match occurs, applicants/recipients are sent a notice informing them that the data was obtained, the source of the information, and directions the applicant/recipient should contact her/his caseworker and provide verification regarding the information reported to the IRS. 

 Information from the match is considered to be unverified.  Therefore, DHS should not take negative action based solely on the data match information.  The applicant or recipient must verify the information contained in the data match.  If the recipient does not have verification on hand, it may be necessary to request information from a third party (such as a bank).  Once verification is received, DHS applies policy in BAM and BEM to determine whether the applicant or recipient is eligible to receive benefits.   

If the applicant or recipient does not provide necessary verification (or help DHS get the information from third parties) , a denial or termination might occur based on failure to provide verification.

What's Happening?

BAM 803 clarifies that IRS data match information is always confidential and should never be distributed in any way, including email and/or fax, even after DHS employees are no longer employed at DHS.

 Third-party verification is typically accomplished by sending the third party a DHS form (the DHS-20, Verification of Assets, for example).  The third party has to fill out the form and return it to either the client or DHS directly.

·         Applicant/recipient:  If the applicant/recipient fills out and name and/or address of the institution on any form/document pertaining to the IRS data match, the verification information that is received from the third party is not considered IRS confidential information.  The verification information should be kept in the applicant’s/recipient’s DHS file.

·         Caseworker:  If, however, the caseworker filled out the name or address of the institution on any form/document pertaining to the IRS data match, the verification received by a third party is considered IRS confidential information.  Due to its confidentiality, the verification must be sent to the designated staff person (DSP) at DHS to be logged and subsequently destroyed.

What Should Advocates Do?

1.      Educate clients and community organizations about these changes/clarifications.

2.      Be aware that applicants/recipients should not be automatically denied, or have some other negative action taken against them, unless and until the information contained in the IRS data match has been verified by either the applicant/recipient or by a third party. 

3.      Be aware of who filled out the institution’s name and/or address on a DHS form.  If it was completed by a caseworker, any resulting verification(s) must be destroyed.

4.      Provide information to CCJ about families who are being harmed by these policies.  Please call CCJ at the number at the top of this document to find out how to communicate information to CCJ.

5.      When appropriate, help clients request and present information at administrative hearings.

6.      Share information with CCJ and other advocates about the effects of these new policies.

What Should Clients Do?

1.      Keep all envelopes that you receive from DHS so that you know the date the envelope was actually mailed.  Write the date that you received the correspondence on the outside of each envelope.

2.      Get legal advice if you are told that your application has not been approved or that your case will close or has already closed. 

3.      Read your notices carefully.  If your application has not been approved, or if your case is closing or has already closed, you have the right to request a hearing.  If DHS receives your request by the deadline given in the notice, you will continue to receive your benefits at the same level until the judge issues a Hearing Decision.  (But, remember that if you lose at the hearing, you may have to pay DHS back any/all money that you got but were not supposed to.)

4.      Be aware that you should not be automatically denied, or have some other negative action taken against you, unless and until the information contained in the IRS data match has been verified by either you or by a third party. 

5.      Be aware of who filled out the institution’s name and/or address on a DHS form.  If it was completed by a caseworker, any resulting verification(s) must be destroyed.



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.