|Appealing a Food Stamp (SNAP), TANF or Medicaid Decision||
Last updated: June 2011
You have the right to "appeal” any part of your food stamps (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Medicaid decision. Appealing means asking the Department of Human Services to change their decision. Some examples of decisions you might want to appeal are: You were denied benefits after filing an application;Your benefits were reduced or suspended;Your benefits were stopped or terminated;You were given the wrong amount of benefits;Department of Human Services (DHS) staff refused to accept your application; orYour caseworker fails to do something on your case.Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.What should I do if Illinois Department of Human Services denied or reduced my TANF, SNAP (food stamps), or Medicaid benefits? If the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) denied or reduced your benefits for:Food stamps (SNAP)Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Medicaid You can appeal. You should only appeal if you think there is a good reason why the denial or reduction was wrong.If you file an appeal, DHS will look at your case or application again. When DHS makes a decision in your case, they should explain to you why they made this decision. An appeal gives you a chance to explain to DHS why you disagree with their decision. You will need to give proof to back up your explanation.Do I need a lawyer to appeal? Not necessarily, but it is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can. The Department of Human Services (DHS) will often treat clients differently when they have a lawyer. Also, if you cannot find a lawyer to take your case, you can have anyone you feel comfortable with speak on your behalf. The person does not have to be a lawyer. A lawyer is always the best option, but having a friend help you is also an option.If you can’t afford a lawyer, you may be able to find free legal help at a legal aid organization in your area. Search the "Helpful Organizations" section of this guide to find free or low-cost legal help.What can I appeal? You have the right to appeal any part of your food stamps (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF), or Medicaid decision. Some examples of decisions you might want to appeal are:You were denied benefits after filing an applicationYour benefits were reduced or suspendedYour benefits were stopped or terminatedYou were given the wrong amount of benefitsDepartment of Human Services (DHS) staff refused to accept your applicationYou can appeal anytime your caseworker fails to do something on your case. For instance, you can appeal if your Food Stamp recertification has not been processed, or your request to add another family member to your case has not been processed. How do I know if DHS is acting correctly? There is a manual with all of the Department of Human Services' (DHS) rules for food stamps (SNAP), Temporary Assitance for Needy Families (TANF), and Medicaid. You can look at these manuals at the local DHS office during normal business hours.If you are sent a written notice about your case, the notice should tell you the number of the rule it is following. At the pre-appeal conference, you can ask the caseworker to show you a copy of the rule that applies to your case.May I look at my DHS file before I file my appeal? Yes. You may look at the file the Department of Human Services (DHS) has on your case any time during business hours.When do I file my appeal? It depends on what you're appealing.For a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Medicaid decision, you have 60 days from the date of the decision to file an appeal;For a food stamps (SNAP) decision, you have 90 days from the date of the decision to file an appeal;For appeals of something that is not a specific denial of an application (like the failure to process a request), you can file an appeal at anytime. If the due day falls on a weekend or holiday, you have until the next weekday that isn’t a holiday.Remember that it is your duty to keep the Department of Human Services (DHS) informed of your address if you move and appeal the decision. It is also your responsibility to check your mail every day. If DHS has proof that they mailed a notice to you and you just did not receive it because you did not check your mail, then you could lose your right to appeal.Although you do have 60 or 90 days to file an appeal, if you appeal very quickly you may be able to keep your benefits at the current level during the appeal.Will I keep getting benefits after I appeal? Yes, if you are appealing a decision that reduces or stops benefits you were already getting. You can request to keep the benefits at the same level as before by checking the line for “I want to continue receiving benefits during my appeal.” However, if you lose your appeal, you will have to pay back the benefits you continued to receive but were no longer supposed to get. Remember this if you check this box. What happens after I file an appeal? First, a pre-hearing conference will be scheduled. This is an opportunity to look at your case file, and discuss your case with your caseworker and the caseworker's supervisor. It’s also a good chance to come to a compromise with the Department of Human Services (DHS). After this conference, you will get a notice of a hearing with a hearing officer. You will present your case and explain why you think DHS's decision is wrong. Your caseworker will explain why DHS made its decision.You must attend this hearing, unless you have withdrawn your appeal. If you miss the hearing, you will receive a letter giving you 10 days to state in writing why you missed it. If you do not have a good reason (such as illness) for missing your hearing, your appeal will be dismissed.Can I withdraw my appeal? If you withdraw your appeal, your appeal is over and you will not have a formal hearing. You should only withdraw your appeal if:You are sure the Department of Human Services' (DHS) actions are correctThe caseworker or supervisor has promised to reverse or modify the actionWarning: At the pre-hearing conference you may be pressured to withdraw your appeal, even if you still believe that what they are doing is wrong. If that happens to you, do not withdraw your appeal. Only withdraw if DHS agrees to make a change to your case that solves the problem. To withdraw your appeal, you need to file a Request to Withdraw Appeal, an example of which is in the “Forms” Section of this guide.If you are withdrawing because DHS has agreed change their decision, make sure to write it on your request to withdraw. Be as specific as you can be.When will I get a decision? A written decision should be mailed to you at your mailing address. If you lose the hearing, the Department of Human Services (DHS) will go ahead with its planned action such as reducing your benefits if that has not already been done. You can always file a new application for assistance.If you want to appeal once more, you can go to court. You have only 35 days from the date of the hearing decision to file an appeal in the Circuit Court. This process is more complicated, and you should talk to an attorney.File a Notice of Appeal You can file an appeal in writing at your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office. Make sure you keep a copy of the Notice of Appeal form and have the DHS office date stamp your copy for proof that they received it in the office.See the forms section of this guide for a "Notice of Appeal" form you will need.If you cannot go to the office, you can also fax or mail the appeal to the local DHS office.You can also start an appeal by calling the DHS office. You will need the following information:Your nameYour addressYour telephone numberYour DHS case number (the same number as the one on your DHS medical card)The dateThat this appeal is about a problem with your TANF, SNAP, or Medicaid case andThe reason why you are appealingGo to your pre-hearing conference Within 10 days after the appeal is filed, a pre-hearing conference will be scheduled. This conference is not the final hearing. At this conference, you can look at your case file. You will also be able to discuss your case with your Department of Human Services (DHS) caseworker and the caseworker's supervisor. At the pre-hearing conference, the decision in your case may be changed. DHS may agree with you, you might reach a compromise or they will stick to their original position. Depending on what happens at the pre-hearing conference you might be asked if you want to withdraw your appeal. See the Common Questions section about this guide for further information on withdrawing your appeal. A "Request to Withdraw" can be found in the forms section of this guide.Prepare for your hearing After the pre-appeal conference, you should begin preparing for your hearing. It would be helpful to write down:The problem or issue you are appealingThe important events in the order that they happenedWhy you think DHS is wrongAny incorrect information DHS used to decide your caseIf there are witnesses who can help your case, bring them to the hearing. You should also bring any papers that would help you. Witnesses are most helpful when you do not agree with DHS about something that was said or happened and your witness was there. You will also want to get any papers that would help you.You may present other information or verifications to DHS at any time during the appeal process. DHS has to reconsider your eligibility based on the new information. A denied application or canceled case can be reopened.Go to your hearing The hearing will be held at the local Department of Human Services (DHS) office. Someone who is not connected with your case will conduct the hearing. The people at the hearing will be:The hearing officer (who might be on the telephone, if you aren’t in Chicago)The caseworker and a supervisorWitnessesYou and your representative, if you have oneThe hearing might go like this:The hearing officer will explain the purpose of the hearing and will try to describe the problem;The hearing officer will ask the caseworker or supervisor to explain what happened, and they will submit all written notices;After each DHS person speaks, you may ask questions to that person;When DHS is done with their case, you may present your case. This is your chance to explain your side of the story as clearly as possible. Ask your witnesses questions so he or she can tell in his or her own words what happened. If you have papers to submit, tell the hearing officer what they are, give them to the hearing officer, and ask for copies back for yourself;After everyone has testified, ask the hearing officer to let you make a "closing statement." Use this time to briefly explain again why you think DHS is wrong.
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