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Issue Alert - 13-06-04

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Date:

Jun 17, 2013

Program Area:

All Department of Human Services (DHS)-administered assistance programs

Issue Summary:

Requests for hearings in all programs must be scheduled unless the authorized hearing representative or if none, the client, signs a written withdrawal

Persons Affected:

All DHS program applicants and recipients who request a hearing

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 (“MPLP”) 611 Church St, Suite 4A Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3000 (734) 998-6100 (734) 998-9125 Fax


Background

Department of Human Services (DHS) clients have a due process right to an administrative hearing whenever their cases are denied, terminated, suspended, restricted, the benefit level is reduced, or benefits are delayed.  DHS policy, Bridges Administrative Manual (BAM) 600, prescribes guidelines for DHS on handling hearings.

BAM 600 instructs caseworkers to obtain a signed, written withdrawal if the client decides not to pursue a hearing that has been requested.  It also instructs caseworkers not to ask a client to withdraw a hearing request if any issue is in dispute, not to send a withdrawal form to the client if an issue is still in dispute unless the client requests it, and not to have a client withdraw a hearing request based on action that will be taken in the future.  

What's Happening?

Some applicants and recipients have had their hearing requests dismissed or denied by the Michigan Administrative Hearing System (MAHS), because DHS has reported to MAHS that the administrative hearing problem that prompted the hearing request has been resolved, even though the client has not signed a hearing request withdrawal form.  The United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, has asked DHS to make clear in policy language for the Food Assistance Program (FAP) that a written withdrawal must be signed by the client’s authorized hearing representative, or if none, the client, in order for an administrative hearing request to be withdrawn, denied, or cancelled.

DHS has clarified in Bridges Policy Bulletin 2013-011, page 9, effective July 1, 2013, that if a request for a hearing is made, it will be scheduled unless the authorized hearing representative or, if none, the client, signs a written withdrawal.  The Bulletin is available at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/OLMWeb/exf/BP-2013-011.pdf.  The Bulletin also states that DHS has made minor related wording changes.  BAM 600 is modified by this change and the amended version can be found at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/OLMWeb/exf/bam/600.pdf.  Although the Bulletin states that this change only applies to FAP, the applicable language in the new version of BAM 600, page 14, states that it applies to all programs.

What Should Advocates Do?

 1.          Advise clients not to withdraw a hearing request unless the problem has been solved.  Hearing requests should not be withdrawn based on promises of future action, because it violates DHS policy and because local DHS offices frequently cannot make timely corrections using the Bridges computer system.  Help clients clearly explain their reasons for withdrawing if they sign a written withdrawal.

2.          Let CCJ know if you see a pattern of FAP, Family Independence Program (cash assistance; “FIP”), or Medicaid (MA) clients who have their administrative hearing requests withdrawn, denied, or cancelled by DHS, and there are no written withdrawals from the clients requesting it.  If further assistance for the individual client is needed on this issue, please call or refer FAP clients to CCJ at our Flint office Helpline.  The Helpline number is: 1-800-481-4989.  In Genesee County, clients with problems involving FIP or MA issues can call CCJ’s Family Economic Security Project Helpline at 1-810-244-8044, or Health Eligibility Law Project Helpline at 1-810-238-8053.  

3.          Help clients get legal help if their hearing requests are denied or dismissed (see below). 

Help clients find legal advice if they request a hearing (see below).

What Should Clients Do?

1.            Seek an advocate or legal advice if you request a hearing.

2.            Also seek legal advice if DHS notifies you that your administrative hearing request was dismissed, denied, or cancelled. 

3.            Call CCJ’s toll-free Helpline at 1-800-481-4989 if you have this or other problems involving the Food Assistance Program.  If you live in Genesee County and have problems involving the Family Independence Program (FIP), call CCJ at 1-810-244-8044, or for Medicaid (MA) or State Medical benefits call our Health Eligibility Project at 1-800-238-8053.

 

4.            If you truly want to withdraw your hearing request, do it in writing.  Get a copy of your written withdrawal.

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.