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Issue Alert - 13-06-13

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Date:

Jun 17, 2013

Program Area:

Food Assistance Program (FAP)

Issue Summary:

Households going through FAP redeterminations may verify case information late and receive FAP without having to reapply

Persons Affected:

All FAP recipients who receive a Notice of Case Action for failure to provide requested verification(s) at redetermination/ recertification

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

For a full explanation of the background and history on this issue, please see Issue Alerts 12-11-02 and 12-11-01 REVISED, at www.mplp.org. 

 DHS periodically “redetermines” or reviews each household’s eligibility for FAP.  FAP is approved for a specific period of time, sometimes called a benefit period or certification period.  Under federal law, households going through a FAP redetermination have the right to submit requested verification “late” (but within 30 days after the household’s current certification period ends) and still receive FAP without having to reapply. 

If a recipient completes the application for redetermination and the interview, but fails to submit verification(s), DHS can close the FAP case but must give the recipient a chance to provide the missing verification(s) and re-open the case.  If the household submits the required verification(s) AFTER DHS sends notice that the case is closing for failure to verify but BEFORE the end of the current certification period, DHS must re-open the case and award the full benefits for the first month of the new certification period.  If a recipient submits the verification(s) after the certification period ends, but within 30 days of the date the certification period ended, DHS must re-open the case and (if the household is eligible) provide benefits beginning on the date the recipient completed verification.  Households do NOT have to reapply if they submit the verification(s) up to 30 days after the end of their certification period. 

Notices of Case Action terminating FAP for failure to verify information at redetermination must tell the household about this right to verify late and receive benefits without having to reapply. CCJ has been in communication with DHS and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) about this issue.  DHS has pledged to correct Notices with improper language and process redetermination applications correctly.

What's Happening?

In the recent past, despite the law as stated above, DHS has told some FAP households going through redetermination that they must reapply for assistance because they did not submit requested verification by the original due date.  DHS has been sending Notices of Case Action terminating FAP for failure to verify information without telling recipients about the right to verify information late and receive FAP without having to reapply.  FNS has requested that DHS correct these deficiencies.

 In compliance with federal law, Bridges Policy Bulletin 2013-011, pages 9-10, effective July 1, 2013, clarifies that:  If a client files a FAP redetermination application (DHS-1010) form before the end of the currently certified benefit period, but fails to verify requested information timely (that is, make sure DHS receives requested verifications before the due date), the case is closed at the end of the benefit period.  But if the client takes the required action within 30 days AFTER the end of the benefit period, the application must be registered (or “re-opened”) using the date the client submitted the verifications or took other required action.  BAM 210, “Redeterminations/Ex Parte Review” (7-1-13 version) contains this change.  The Bulletin is available at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/OLMWeb/exf/BP-2013-011.pdf, and the policy is available prior to July 1, 2013 at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/OLMWeb/ex/bam/210.pdf (pp 14-15).  If the client is otherwise eligible for FAP, benefits may be prorated from the registration date.  In other words, the client does not have to reapply in this situation.  

What Should Advocates Do?

1.           Educate clients and advocates about the right to submit verification(s) late and have the case re-opened at redetermination, WITHOUT FILING A NEW APPLICATION. 

2.           Help clients “cure” a verification problem on redetermination, i.e., verify their information within the additional timeframes, so they can get their Food Assistance more quickly.  Raise this Policy change in Bulletin 2013-011 and BAM 210 with specialists/caseworkers.

3.           Let CCJ know about families who do not receive a proper notice of termination because of failure to verify with the right to verify late explained in it.  Please call or refer clients to CCJ’s Food Assistance Helpline if they receive inadequate FAP Notices.  The toll-free Helpline number is: 1-800-481-4989.  CCJ will want to see the Notice the family received, so if you can assist families with faxing the Notice to CCJ at 1-810-244-5550, that would be helpful too.

4.           Also refer clients to CCJ if they submitted verification “late” at redetermination and did not get benefits retroactive to the date the verification was submitted.

4.           Help clients request hearings if their FAP cases are wrongfully closed for an alleged failure to verify, especially if DHS has not provided adequate Notice with the right to cure in it.

 5.           Help clients request a hearing if DHS does not re-open the redetermination application and provide benefits as required by Bulletin 2013-011 and BAM 210. 

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

What Should Clients Do?

1.           Turn in verification(s) for your FAP redetermination application when you are asked to do so by DHS.  Do not ignore these requests and make sure you understand when verification(s) are due.  Keep a record of what, how, and when you submit verification(s) to DHS.  Always keep copies and write in the log book at DHS exactly what you are dropping off. 

2.           Ask your caseworker for help if you cannot get the requested verification(s), do not understand what is needed, or if there is not enough time to get the verification(s) between when they are requested and when they are due.  If you cannot reach your caseworker, contact the supervisor.  Put the request in writing and keep a copy, if you can.

3.           Keep the envelope that your Verification Checklist letter comes in, as well as the envelopes for all DHS correspondence, so you know the date it was actually mailed.  (Remember to keep the correspondence itself also.)  Write on the envelope the date that you actually receive correspondence, so you will remember the date.

4.           Seek an advocate or legal advice if you are sent a Notice that your Food Assistance case or benefits are going to be closed or terminated due to a failure to verify.  Pay special attention if the Notice does NOT say you can still submit verification(s) within 30 days and not have your case closed. 

5.           If you receive a FAP Notice that does not have required information or is confusing, call the Food Assistance Helpline at: 1-800-481-4989.

6.           Call CCJ if you get an improper Notice.  You can call our toll-free Food Assistance Helpline at: 1-800-481-4989.

7.           Read your Notices carefully.  If some or all of your FAP is ending, you have the right to request a hearing, and you should try to get legal help (see below).  Be sure to submit your hearing request within the deadline given in your Notice and ask for an in-person hearing. 

8.            If you want to get your FAP back after your case is closed or terminated, you can also reapply to preserve your rights. 

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.
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