1. Find your deadline to appeal
If you are appealing a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits decision, the first thing you need to do is be sure you appeal on time. If you don't, your appeal will be dismissed. Generally, you must appeal a SNAP benefits decision within 90 days. If you want to appeal Department of Human Services' (DHS) delay or failure to make a SNAP decision, there is no time limit.
If the deadline falls on a weekend or a holiday, you have until the next weekday that isn't a weekend or a holiday to submit your appeal.
Remember that it is your duty to keep 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 did not receive it because you did not check your mail, then you could lose your right to appeal.
2. File a Notice of Appeal
You can file an Appeal Request Form in writing at your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office or by calling the Bureau of Assistance Hearing Appeals Line at (800) 435-0774. If you lose your appeal, you may have to pay back the benefits you received during the appeal. Remember this when deciding whether you would like to continue receiving benefits.
You may also file an appeal just by telling DHS staff, by phone or in person, that you want to appeal. However, you may have trouble proving you made an appeal. To avoid this problem, make sure you keep a copy of the Notice of Appeal form and have the DHS office stamp the date on your copy for proof that they received it in the office. 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 writing this information on a blank piece of paper and signing and dating the paper:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your telephone number
- Your DHS case number (the same number as the one on your DHS medical card)
- The date
- That this appeal is about a problem with your SNAP case, and
- The reason why you are appealing
Keep a copy of your Notice of Appeal for yourself and mark it with the date you filed it.
You may be able to keep your benefits at the current level during the appeal. If you request an appeal before the Date of Change on the written notice, or within 10 days of the date of the notice, your benefits continue at the same level unless you request that assistance not continue. The Notice of Appeal form has a check-off to ask that your benefits continue. If you appeal by calling the Bureau of Assistance Hearings phone number, you may ask if you can continue to receive your benefits. Be sure to tell them if you want your benefits to continue during the appeal process.
3. Review your case file
Look over your case file to find out what issue relates to the appeal. If possible, meet with or speak to your DHS caseworker on the phone.
Verify that a pre-hearing conference has been scheduled. If not, talk to your DHS caseworker. Sometimes pre-hearing conferences are ignored or scheduled by phone.
4. Go to your pre-hearing conference
The pre-hearing conference is not the final hearing. At this conference, you can look at your case file. You will be able to discuss your case with your DHS caseworker and the caseworker's supervisor.
The decision in your case may be changed at this pre-hearing conference. 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. 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.
5. Prepare for your hearing
- The problem or issue you are appealing
- The important events in the order that they happened
- Why you think DHS is wrong
- Any incorrect information DHS used to decide your case
If there are witnesses who can help your case, bring them to the hearing. You should also bring any paperwork 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.
If you are appealing a decision DHS made because you did not give DHS information it requested, you can give DHS the information during the appeal. DHS must reconsider your eligibility based on the new information. A denied application or canceled case can be reopened. If you are told you have to file a new application, tell the supervisor that rule PM 01-07-08 allows you to turn in new documents any time during the appeal.
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. If you are told you have to file a new application, tell the supervisor that rule PM 01-07-08 allows you to turn in new documents any time.
Asking for a continuance
If necessary, you can ask for your hearing to be pushed back to a later date. This is called a continuance. You do not have to show "good cause" or a valid reason for the first continuance. If you request another continuance, then you must show good cause. An example of a good cause is a family emergency.
6. Go to your hearing
The hearing will be held at the local DHS office. There is no cost for a hearing. Someone who is not connected with your case will conduct the hearing. The people at the hearing will be:
- The hearing officer (by telephone)
- The caseworker and a supervisor
- You and your representative, if you have one
The hearing might go like this:
- The hearing officer will explain the purpose of the hearing and will try to describe the problem.
- Everyone must swear to tell the truth.
- 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.
- The hearing officer will then make a decision about the appeal.
If you disagree with the decision of the hearing officer, then you can file a lawsuit asking the circuit court to review DHS's decision. You must file this lawsuit within 6 months. You will not be able to present new evidence. You must show why DHS's decision was wrong based on the evidence presented at the hearing, or you may show that DHS incorrectly applied the law.