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Fair Hearing Decision Results in HUGE Retroactive Food Stamps Award

June 1, 2002

Douglas Ruff, Director of Litigation, Nassau/Suffolk Law Services

It pays for food stamp applicants to keep all the documents that they submit to the Department of Social Services and all the documents that they receive from them. That was the lesson learned by a recent client of Nassau Suffolk Law Services.
Ms. E. came to our office in August 2001 complaining of the difficulty she was having with the Nassau County Department of Social Services in the processing of her application for food stamp benefits for herself, her minor child, and grandchildren. She claimed that she had been attempting to apply for more than a year but they would not make a decision on her application. Oddly, the Department of Social Services had no record of any application for food stamps being filed by Ms. E. within the past two years.
Fortunately, Ms. E. kept copies of all of the papers that she submitted to the Department of Social Services, and the Agency had stamped them with their date stamp. Moreover, the Agency had given her not one, but two slips of paper, acknowledging the receipt of her application (one in November 1999 and the other in December 1999).
A fair hearing was requested to review the Department of Social Services’ failure to process her food stamp application that was filed in November 1999. At the hearing, the Agency representative claimed that there was no record of a food stamp application, and even if there was, Ms. E had waited too long to request a hearing to review the matter.
Typically, an appellant has 90 days to request a fair hearing to challenge a determination made with respect to their food stamp benefits. However, since the Agency had never advised Ms. E of the 90-day limitation because no notice was ever sent to her, the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) ruled that the 90-day time limit did not apply.
Ms. E. was able to prove, with the documents that she kept and submitted at the hearing, that she had attempted to file an application for food stamps, but that the Agency had never processed it and never made a determination with respect to her eligibility.
According to the fair hearing decision rendered by OTDA, the Agency was directed to process Ms. E’s application for food stamps, and if she was eligible, then to provide her and her family with food stamps retroactive to August 2000. Why August 2000? There is a rule that limits how far back the Department of Social Services can go to correct an underpayment of food stamps. The limit is one year from when the Agency was notified of the underpayment. In this case, it was determined by OTDA that the Agency was notified when the appellant requested the fair hearing in August 2001.
A week before Christmas, Ms. E was notified by the Department of Social Services that her application for food stamps was accepted retroactive to August 2000 and that she would be receiving $4,670 in retroactive food stamps and $447 per month in ongoing food stamp benefits.
This fair hearing is available on the Online Resource Center as fair hearing number 3578889N.


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