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Issue Alert - Update on the Department of Human Services' (DHS) new pilot hearing process

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Date:

May 22, 2013

Program Area:

Food Assistance Program (FAP), Family Independence Program (FIP), State Disability Assistance (SDA), Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), Medicaid (MA), Child Development and Care (CDC), and State Emergency Relief (SER)

Issue Summary:

Effective May 1, 2013, the Department of Human Services (DHS) began a two-tiered hearings process as a pilot program in Genesee County. It will be followed by Washtenaw (July) and Jackson (September)Counties.

Persons Affected:

People requesting DHS administrative hearings on some issues related to the programs listed above

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 Fax: (734) 998-9125


Background

On May 1, 2013, DHS's new pilot program was implemented in Genessee County,  This program changes the process by which adiministrative hearings are held.  The pilot will be expanded to Washtenaw County in July and Jackson County in September.  Since being implemented, DHS has issued a new policy to replace the initial published policy.  The new policy can be viewed at http://www.mfia.state.mi.us/OLMWeb/exf/BP-2013-010.pdf

DHS must provide an opportunity for an administrative hearing by an independent hearing officer to people who are affected by DHS decisions to deny, reduce, or terminate assistance or benefits, or who suffer an unlawful delay in getting benefits.  The basic right to a hearing comes from the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution.  There are a number of other state and federal laws, and implementing rules and regulations, which define the individual’s right to a hearing in benefits programs administered by DHS.

The new policy does not apply to the following hearing requests:

 •Intentional Program Violations (IPV)

•Debt collections.

•Michigan Department of Community Health (DCH) hearings.

•Community spouse resource allowances.

•Requests that dispute a Medical Review Team (MRT) disability determination-including State Disability Assistance (SDA) and Medicaid (MA)-based on disability.

What's Happening?

A new policy has replaced the first policy covering the pilot hearing process.  For more information on the initial policy, please see Issue Alert 13-04-01, which can be found at  http://http://www.mplp.org/Issues/mplpissue.2013-04-10.4042038724

The new policy is almost identical to the first, with the following exceptions:

1. Policy had already stated that a pre-hearing conference MUST be scheduled for the 11th day from the date the local office receives the request.  The new policy adds: "Provide the client a copy of the DHS-3050, Hearing Summary and all evidence the department used in making the determination that is in dispute.

2. For Food Assistance Only - the initial policy listed two reasons where restored benefits pending the hearing decision could be reduced:

  •  the benefit period expires while the local hearing decision is pending, or,
  • The hearing official makes a preliminary written determination at the hearing that:
    ••The sole issue involves federal law, regulation or policy; and
    ••The claim that the local office misinterpreted or misapplied the regulation or policy, or improperly computed the benefits, is invalid.

The second of these has been removed in the current, revised policy.  Restored benefits may only be reduced pending the local hearing decision if the Food Assistance benefit period expires.  If this happens, the client can file a new application and benefits will be based on that application, pending the hearing decision.

3.  The hearing coordinator must give a 10 day advance written notice of the time, date, and place of the hearing for all programs.  In the initial policy, this only applied to Food Assistance Only cases.

What Should Advocates Do?

1.    Educate clients and community organizations in affected counties about the pilot policy.

2.    Make sure the clients know the importance of attending prehearings and hearings, and of requesting alternate dates in advance. 

3.    Encourage affected individuals in Genesee County to contact the CCJ’s Family Economic Security project at (810) 244-8044.

Help clients request and present information at administrative hearings when appropriate and seek legal help when necessary.

What Should Clients Do?

1.   Contact CCJ’s Family Economic Security project at (810) 244-8044 if you want to appeal a DHS decision and you live in Genesee County.

2.   Seek legal help if you receive notice that you have been denied benefits, or your benefits are terminated or reduced by DHS, and you disagree with the decision.

3.   Contact CCJ’s Food Assistance Program Helpline if you are denied Food Assistance, your Food Assistance is reduced or stopped, or you think you are not getting the correct amount of Food Assistance.

4.   Read your notices carefully.  If some or all of your benefits are ending, you have the right to request a hearing.  If DHS receives your hearing request within the deadline given in your notice, you will continue to receive benefits at the current level (but if you lose, will owe DHS any assistance you were not entitled to).  Seek legal help if you request a hearing.

5.   Be sure to attend all conferences and hearings.  If you need an alternative date,  arrange for it as soon as possible, and before the day of the conference or hearing.

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.