Department of Human Services
Food Stamp Online Policy Manual
Interviewing for Eligibility
FAILURE/REFUSAL TO COOPERATE IN ELIGIBILITY PROCESS
To determine eligibility, the application must be completed and signed, the applicant (or designee) must be interviewed, and the information on the application and family circumstances must be verified, as required. The household will be informed that this agency cannot guarantee completion of the application within 30 days unless she/he cooperates by supplying requested information promptly.
This does not mean that the applicant/recipient has the sole responsibility for obtaining verifications. Indeed, there are instances when it is easier and faster for the worker to verify needed information. E.g., Clearinghouse may be used to verify Unemployment Insurance Benefit information, rather than contacting Employment Security or requesting award letters from household members. It may also, e.g., be quicker for the worker to verify employment and/or earnings by telephoning the employer, than to wait for the applicant to get a statement or copies of pay records and mail them in. On the other hand, the applicant will have to provide enough information for the worker to assist in obtaining the necessary verification (information necessary to use the Clearinghouse file, or the name and other information needed to contact an employer).
The worker and applicant/recipient or his/her authorized representative will come to a clear understanding and agreement as to what necessary information the applicant/recipient will supply and what the worker will obtain. The applicant/recipient must be informed of the specific information needed, and must be given sufficient time (at least ten days) to provide the requested information. He/she must be advised to contact the worker if help or additional time is needed to obtain the required information.
The client/worker agreement regarding the requested information must be documented, in addition to any subsequent contacts or lack of follow-up between the worker and the applicant.
It is important that the applicant be given an opportunity to provide acceptable verification if the preferred document is not readily available. For example, a birth certificate is the preferred document to verify age and relationship, but it is not the only document that can be used. Other documents are acceptable sources of verification for these elements. Such documents include census reports, hospital birth records, family Bible records, and even telephone contacts with a hospital’s medical record section.
Under no circumstances is a case to be denied or closed for failure to provide verification from a particular source when another source could serve the same purpose.
When there is only one source of verification for a particular item and that source is no longer available (e.g., a factory has gone out of business and there is no longer anyone who can verify wages for the past month, and the applicant has no check stubs or wage records), a statement signed and dated by the applicant may be accepted as verification.
When a required verification cannot be obtained from a third party despite the household’s and the worker’s best efforts, the worker can accept the client’s written declaration of the facts. The record should be documented showing the efforts that have been made and the results.
The distinction between refusal and failure to provide information or cooperate in the eligibility determination is often difficult.
(1) Refusal to cooperate exists when the household is able to cooperate but clearly refuses to take the required action.
· someone may fail to show up for an interview or he/she may refuse to be interviewed;
· someone may fail to provide required documentary evidence or he may refuse to give the worker information necessary to obtain such evidence.
(2) Failure to do something is usually evident; refusal is not evident until the counselor has explored the situation with the applicant/recipient in an attempt to help him/her in establishing eligibility.
(a) refusal to provide verification or information needed to obtain required verification is sufficient ground for denial or termination.
(b) failure to provide information needed to establish eligibility may result in denial or termination because we are unable to establish a necessary factor of eligibility.
(c) If the worker is unsure whether the household has refused or merely failed to cooperate, the request for assistance will not be denied or terminated. Instead, the A/R will be given a reasonable opportunity to cooperate. (E.g., if the household takes the required action within the application processing period, cooperation has occurred.)
(d) Once denied or terminated for refusal to cooperate, the household may reapply but will not be determined eligible until it cooperates with the agency. This policy applies to applications and any subsequent redetermination of eligibility, including recertifications, reviews triggered by reported changes, and reviews by Quality Control staff.
(3) Refusal to Cooperate with Federal or State QC
As a condition of eligibility for food stamps, a household must cooperate with a federal or state QC reviewer in conducting a review.
(a) The QC reviewer will advise the worker of the household’s refusal to cooperate and the specific information that the household refused to provide.
(b) The worker will provide the household with a Notice of Adverse Action (or Notice of Denial for application/recertification), citing its refusal to cooperate as the reason for termination or denial of benefits and outlining the action the household must take if it wishes to reapply and cooperate.
(c) If the household reapplies and wants to cooperate with the QC reviewer, the worker first will refer the household to the QC supervisor.
(d) The QC supervisor will determine whether the review must be reopened. If the household reapplies within 95 days from the end of the annual review period for a state review, or seven months for a federal review, it must cooperate with QC and complete the review before it may be determined eligible to receive benefits. QC will notify the county office once the household has cooperated in the completion of the review.
(e) If the household reapplies after the 95-day timeframe for a state review, or the seven month timeframe for a federal review, it may be determined eligible without cooperating with QC. However, it must provide verification of all eligibility factors prior to approval. QC will notify the county office once it has been established that the appropriate timeframe (95 days or seven months) has passed.
(f) Upon notification from QC of the household’s compliance, the worker will process the application. If the application processing period extends beyond 30 days because of the time necessary for the QC review, the worker will follow procedures outlined in Section 1240-1-17 of the Food Stamp Manual for delays caused by the county.
(g) If QC notifies the worker that the household still has refused to cooperate, the application will be denied.