Monday, August 20, 2012

Important new Notice regarding Fair Hearing rights of people seeking help

Attached is a new notice (DFD Instruction No. 12-08-02, dated August 7, 2012) from the State Department of Human Services regarding the right of people seeking help from the Board of Social Services to obtain a fair hearing if they are denied assistance.   (People already receiving help who are terminated or have their benefits reduced or otherwise changed have the same rights.)
THIS NOTICE IS VERY IMPORTANT.   Although it does not explicitly refer to denials of emergency shelter or other types of “emergency assistance,”  the rights involved are the same, except that the time limits are much shorter(For instance, the hearing should be held within 3 days.)  Also, even though the Notice makes clear that fair hearing requests can be made directly to the Board, people should still call the state Fair Hearing office (known as BARA)  at 1-800-792-9773 in order to make sure that the request is actually processed in a timely fashion.
 I have highlighted some of the key provisions below.  (These paragraphs are directly from the Notice.)
N.J.A.C. 10:90-9.3(a) and 10:87-8.1(b) state that it is the right of every applicant for, or recipient of, Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits adversely affected by an action of a county or municipal agency to be afforded a fair hearing. N.J.A.C. 10:90-9.3(b) defines county or municipal agency actions which adversely affect an applicant or recipient as any action, inaction, refusal of action, or unduly delayed action with respect to program eligibility, including denial, termination or suspension of benefits, adjustment in the level of benefits or work requirements, or designation of a protective payee.
 A WFNJ/SNAP applicant is entitled to a fair hearing even if no written eligibility decision has been issued on his/her case by the CWA/MWA. Applications which have not been processed within the 30 day standard constitute an adverse action due to inaction; therefore, BARA will accept requests for fair hearings for those cases in which no eligibility determination has been rendered for applications pending greater than 30 days.
 Fair Hearing Requests
Any clear expression (oral or written) by an applicant or recipient (or his/her representative) to the effect that the individual wants the opportunity to present his/her case to a higher authority constitutes a request for a fair hearing in accordance with N.J.A.C. 10:90-9.9(c) and 10:87-8.3.
 A request for a fair hearing may be addressed to either the CWA/MWA or DFD. No special form of statement or manner of expression is required so long as the request identifies the nature of the complaint and the relief sought.
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           Timeframe for Forwarding Fair Hearing Requests to BARA
BARA is to be informed either by telephone or by fax on the same day in which an oral or written request for a hearing is received. CWAs/MWAs must establish a system to ensure that every written request for a hearing received by the agency is stamped with the date of receipt and forwarded to BARA within one business day.

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