How to File an Appeal of a DHS Decision
If the county assistance office makes a decision that you believe is unfair or incorrect, you have the right to file an appeal and have a Fair Hearing before a Hearing Officer.
What decisions can be appealed?
You can appeal any decision which denies, reduces, or terminates any type of public benefit, such as cash assistance, SNAP, special allowances, and medical assistance. You can also appeal any decision made by a social service provider under contract to Public Service Department (DPW). In addition, you can appeal any failure by DPW or one of its social service providers to assist you.
How do you appeal?
If you receive a written notice from DPW, it will have an appeal form on the back, which you can fill in and sign. You will need to state that you disagree with the decision, but you do not have to state your reasons at this stage. You will also need to select a telephone hearing or a face-to-face hearing. Hearings for persons living in southwestern Pennsylvania are held in Pittsburgh. A face-to-face hearing is usually better because the hearing officer can see your papers and can see what an honest person you are.
It is usually best to deliver your appeal to DPW in person, so it doesn’t get lost in the mail. Always make a copy of what you file with DPW and get a receipt from DPW. If you must mail your appeal, send it by certified mail, return-receipt requested, and be sure to keep a copy of the receipt.
Is there a time limit?
Yes, you have 30 days to appeal a decision about cash payments, medical assistance or social services. You have 90 days to appeal a decision about SNAP. If you miss these deadlines, you will lose the right to appeal the decision, unless you have a very good excuse for not filing your appeal on time.
Will you continue to receive benefits until a decision is made on your appeal?
Generally yes, but only if you file your appeal within 13 days of the date the notice was sent to you. The 13 day deadline should be underlined on the front of your notice in the lower right hand corner. If your receive benefits during the appeal and then later lose your case, you will owe DPW for those benefits. Pending the appeal, you cannot continue to receive special allowances for supportive services related to employment and training.
What rights do you have after you file the appeal?
You have the right to request a pre-hearing conference. This is a meeting with DPW staff to try to resolve the appeal informally. A DPW supervisor will monitor this conference. Having this conference will not delay or replace your hearing if the matter is not resolved. You have the right to read your case record at DPW. You have the right to receive, free of charge, copies of DPW papers which are related to the appeal. You have the right to obtain a copy of all the papers that DPW plans to use as evidence at the Fair Hearing. You have the right to request any special accommodations needed due to a disability. You have the right to request an interpreter if you need one, and you can bring a lawyer, friend or advocate to speak for you at the pre-hearing conference and at the Fair Hearing.
What happens at the Fair Hearing?
The Hearing Officer listens to both sides. You have the right to testify, to have witnesses testify, and the right to submit documents and any other evidence. You also have the right to ask DPW’s witnesses questions about their testimony. Anyone who testifies must take an oath to tell the truth. The Hearing Officer will make a written decision and will mail a copy to you.
How long does it take?
The hearing must be held and a decision made within 90 days from the time you filed your appeal. In SNAP cases, the decision must be made within 60 days.
Can NLS help you?
If you need any legal help and cannot afford to hire a private attorney, you can call Neighborhood Legal Services at 1 - (866) 761-6572. An NLS employee will interview you over the phone to determine if you qualify for free representation and to determine if NLS can accept your case.
Name and address of the welfare office, HMO, or other agency that made the decision:
I want a face-to-face hearing to appeal the decision made on (date) _______________ to (describe what the agency decided to do): _____________________________________________________.
I am appealing this decision because I disagree with it.
______I need a translator in ________language.
______I need an interpreter for the deaf.
Signature of Client:________________________________
Record or Social Security No. ______________________
Name of Client:__________________________________
Client’s Telephone No. ____________________________
(After completing this form, deliver it to the welfare office, HMO, or other agency that made the decision that you are appealing. Ask the person at the front desk for a receipt. Be sure to keep a copy for your records.)