Applying for Public Assistance
What do I have to do to get public assistance?
Contact your local social services office for information on how to apply in your county. When you apply for cash assistance, you should also apply for Food Stamps and Medicaid. You will be given a landlord statement form and information about your rights and duties as someone who receives public assistance.
NOTE: DSS shares information about who is applying for assistance with the local law enforcement. If you have an outstanding warrant, you could be arrested at your welfare application appointment.
What happens next?
On your appointment date you will be interviewed by a worker. During this interview the worker should:
•Review your application.
•Help you with answering any questions on the application that you left blank.
•Decide if you are eligible for emergency food help.
•Answer any questions you may have about public assistance benefits.
•Tell you about any other services the agency has to offer that would be helpful to you and how you can apply for them.
•Decide whether or not you are able to work.
•Investigate whether or not you qualify for other benefit programs and give you the information necessary to apply.
•Give you a form telling you what documents you need to bring when you come back.
•You will be told to call the worker for an appointment to return those documents.
What if the worker and I disagree about whether I am able to work?
If you believe you cannot work, you should explain why to the interviewer. The interviewer will schedule an employment review for you. You should be sure to keep this interview appointment and all employment appointments until a final decision has been made. If you claim you are unable to work because of physical or mental problems, you will need to provide proof from your treating doctor or psychiatrist that says you are unable to work. If your doctor says you are "limited" (can work under certain conditions), DSS will require you to participate in employment-related activities.
What if the interviewer believes I will not qualify for assistance?
He or she may request that you sign a withdrawal of your application. He or she must accept your application anyway; you cannot be forced to withdraw your application. You can request that the application process continue.
What should I know about the papers I have to provide?
The form the worker gave you shows the papers you will need to provide to get benefits. Try to get as many as possible. If you cannot get any of the documents the welfare office requests, let you worker know as soon as possible.
What if I am unable to keep an appointment made for me while applying for public assistance?
Call to reschedule it. If you do not show for an appointment, your application could be denied.
What happens at my completion appointment?
At this interview you will give DSS the documents asked for or, if not those, then acceptable substitutes.
What if I could not get any of the documents asked for?
Tell your worker right away. It's the welfare office's' duty to help you get them, but you must tell your worker you need help.
How will I know whether my application is approved or denied?
You should receive a written decision no later than 30 days after submitting your application. Remember that you cannot be forced to withdraw your application. If you haven't heard within 30 days, call your worker. In some cases, welfare can take 45 days to decide if you are eligible for cash assistance.
What happens if I am accepted?
You will receive a written notice telling you that you are accepted. The notice must tell you how much cash and food stamps you will get every month and list the names of the people in your household covered by Medicaid. You should receive your benefits within 30 days of the date of your application, although in some cases you will not get cash assistance for 45 days.
What happens if I am denied?
You should receive a written notice of denial. If you have any questions about why you were denied, contact your caseworker, whose name and telephone number are written on the notice. If you still believe the denial was wrong after talking to your caseworker, you can ask for a fair hearing or call our office. Notify the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance that you want a fair hearing by telephone, fax or mail.
You can write on the back of your notice the reason for requesting the hearing. If you phone, get the name of the person you speak to. If you write, send your letter by certified mail and keep a copy. The correct address is:
NYS OTDA Office of Administrative Hearings
P.O. Box 1930
Albany, NY 12201-1930
What should I know about a Fair Hearing?
You have 60 days from the notice to ask for a fair hearing about public assistance and Medicaid and 90 days from the date of the notice to ask for a fair hearing about food stamps. Information about asking for a fair hearing is on the back of the notice.
If you are already getting benefits and you have gotten a notice that your benefits will stop, you can usually keep getting your benefits if you ask for a fair hearing before the day your benefits stop.
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(c) Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. ®
This article provides general information about this subject. Laws affecting this subject may have changed since this article was written. For specific legal advice about a problem you are having, get the advice of a lawyer. Receiving this information does not make you a client of our office.
rev. 4/9/08 jh, pd