Department of Human Services

Food Stamp Online  Policy Manual




Food Stamp Table of Contents


(1)   Circumstances Which May Precipitate Complaints


Complaints may arise from conflicts or dissatisfaction related to an agency action, such as:


(a)   A decision regarding eligibility for food stamp benefits, including the amount of benefits, restriction on the payment of benefits, or the timeliness of the authorization of benefits;


(b)   Denial of the right to apply for assistance;


(c)    Reduction or termination of assistance;


(d)   Failure to act upon a request for assistance within the specified time allowance;


(e)   State or Federal laws, policies, or regulations considered unfair or unreasonable;


(f)     Discriminatory treatment or practices on the basis of race, color, age, sex, handicap, religious creed, national origin or political belief.


(2)   Persons Who May Complain


(a)   An applicant or recipient of food stamp benefits may complain to the county, area, district, State Office, or Service Center regarding assistance for which he has applied, or is receiving, or which has been terminated.  An authorized representative also may complain in behalf of an applicant or recipient about a decision that has been made on the applicant/recipient.    Complaints by an interested individual in behalf of the client will be handled in the same manner as when complaints are made by client himself, insofar as possible within the limits of confidentiality.


(b)   If there is a written request by a responsible member of the food stamp household, its currently authorized representative, or its legally designated representative to review materials contained in its case, the material and information contained in the case shall be made available for inspection during normal business hours.  However, the county office may withhold confidential information, such as the names of individuals who have disclosed information about the household without the household’s knowledge, or the nature or status of pending criminal prosecution.


(3)   Conference/Conciliation Procedures for Handling Complaints and Appeals


Before an Appeal has been Filed


When an applicant or recipient or someone acting in his behalf is dissatisfied with action in relation to his claim for benefits, efforts must be directed to resolving his complaint promptly and to his satisfaction, if possible.


The usual procedure is for the caseworker responsible for the action to talk with the aggrieved person and/or his representative and make any adjustment that may be indicated, or else explain the reason for the action and why it cannot be changed.


The conference procedure should include:


(a)   reviewing with the client and/or his representative the facts at hand and allowing the individual to present new information regarding his circumstances or any changes since the action, and


(b)   reviewing the policies in question and the correctness of their application to the individual’s situation and considering any relevant changes in agency policy or procedure that may have become effective since the date of the contested action.


If the caseworker is unable to resolve the complaint, the complainant must be given an opportunity to present his case fully to appropriate supervisory personnel who, after careful review, may concur with the caseworker’s decision or recommend corrective action.


After An Appeal has been Filed


Staff from the Conciliation Unit of the Division of Appeals and Hearings will contact the household whenever possible to discuss the issue(s) of the appeal and review the facts at hand.  The household will have the opportunity to present new information regarding their circumstances or any changes since the contested action.  The Conciliation Unit will review the policies in question and the correctness of their application in this instance, and will review any subsequent policy changes that may be pertinent to the issue.  If agreement can be reached on the issue(s), the Conciliation Unit staff will take appropriate action on the case, and the appellant will be given the option to withdraw the Appeal for Fair Hearing.


If, after an appeal has been filed, county or Service Center staff is able to reach agreement on the issue(s) with the appellant, the appellant will be given the option to withdraw the appeal.


If either instance, if the issue(s) cannot be resolved, the appeal will go forward.


(4)   Recording


Dates and facts regarding any complaint must be recorded in the case.  The recording must include:


(a)   Name of complainant;


(b)   Relationship to applicant/recipient, if not the applicant/recipient himself;


(c)    Details regarding the issue(s), the facts, and the applicable policies; and


(d)   Efforts to resolve the complaints.


Glossary of Terms


Food Stamp Table of Contents