How to fight a denial or termination of eligibility for the Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) referral program for medical reasons

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Learn more about this program, which provides non-cash help for people who are unable to work. #7813EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

This Washington state program provides non-cash help to some people living in Washington who are unable to work. You must meet its income and incapacity requirements.

HEN can pay for housing costs and give you "essential needs" items. Read Help for People Unable to Work: ABD and HEN to learn more.

You should read this if you get or want HEN but not ABD. If you get or want both and DSHS has denied or ended your ABD, read ABD Denial/Termination: Medical Reasons to learn more.

DSHS must first determine you are eligible to get HEN assistance. Then they refer you to a local HEN provider who decides if you qualify for their services. The WA State Department of Commerce has information about local HEN providers at If you get Aged Blind Disabled (ABD) or Pregnant Women Assistance (PWA), or you are otherwise financially eligible, you are eligible to get HEN.

*If DSHS turns you down for (denies you) HEN because they say you have too much income or resources, or gives a reason other than your medical condition, read How to Fight a Denial of DSHS Public Assistance to learn more.  

If you need help getting or keeping DSHS benefits, DSHS may have to offer you extra services and protections before denying or ending (terminating) your eligibility for the HEN program. Ask for help if you have a physical or mental disability, problems reading or writing, problems speaking or understanding English, problems from drug or alcohol use, or other problems.

Read DSHS Help for People with Disabilities:  Necessary Supplemental Accommodations to learn more.

You can do any or all of these:

  • Ask for an Administrative Hearing.

  • Ask a DSHS supervisor to review and explain the decision.

  • Reapply.

The DSHS letter you got telling you that DSHS denied or ended (terminated) your HEN should refer to at least one Washington Administrative Code (WAC) rule supporting DSHS's decision. The HEN referral incapacity rules are in WAC 388-447

Generally, you have 90 days from the date of the denial or termination notice to ask for a hearing. Starting July 1, 2023, if circumstances beyond your control, such as medical issues, housing instability, language barriers, or domestic violence, keep you from meeting that deadline, you should still ask for a hearing as soon as you can. The agency should find you had good cause for not meeting your deadline as long as it hasn't been longer than a year.

If they are terminating your HEN benefits and services, you can keep getting them until the hearing process is complete if you ask for your hearing within 10 days or before the date your benefits will end. 

Generally, DSHS has 45 days to decide if you are incapacitated and eligible for HEN.  If they do not send you a letter within 45 days of your application, you can ask for an administrative hearing for a decision about your eligibility for HEN.

You can ask for an Administrative Hearing by doing any of these:

  • Writing or calling the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) at P.O. Box 42489, Olympia, WA 98504, phone: 1-800-583-8261.

  • Calling or writing your DSHS office.

If it is an emergency, call the OAH and ask them to hold the hearing as soon as possible. This is an expedited hearing. Otherwise, your hearing will probably be 20 days or more after the date you asked for it.

An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who does not work for DSHS holds the hearing and writes a decision. If you win, the ALJ usually will order the benefits paid effective the date DSHS denied them. Read Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing to learn more.  

Before or after asking for a hearing, ask your DSHS worker to explain more about the decision. You may learn DSHS had the wrong information or was missing information. Try to provide the information. Ask the worker if you need help getting it. If it costs money to get the information, ask DSHS to pay or if they will accept other proof.

You can also ask the worker's supervisor for a meeting to review the HEN Referral Program denial. If you write to the supervisor, the supervisor must write back within ten days. If that does not change the decision, you can write to the head administrator of the local DSHS office. The administrator also must write back in 10 days.

If you disagree with what the worker, supervisor, and administrator decide, your last option is to ask for an Administrative Hearing.

It might. You can reapply for benefits at any time, even if you have asked for a Hearing. You should reapply if:

  • You think DSHS was correct to deny you. Your situation has changed since then.

  • You have information that might change the decision. Your DSHS worker or supervisor will only consider it if you reapply. You can reapply while also trying to use the added information in your administrative hearing. The approval of a new application probably will not go back to the date you first applied, or to the date DSHS first denied you HEN.

Contact the Administrative Hearing Coordinator (AHC) at the local DSHS office. The AHC represents DSHS in the hearing. You case could settle beforehand if you point out that DSHS made a mistake, or you give DSHS more medical information.

When you first call the AHC, ask them why the medical information does not prove you cannot work and what it needs to say to prove it. You should also ask for an appointment to look at your file and discuss your case. Get copies of all medical reports and other documents in your file DSHS used or created in making and explaining its decision. If your case is a termination of eligibility for HEN, ask to review all medical reports and documents in your DSHS file that helped win eligibility in the first place.

*DSHS may not put in the administrative hearing packet medical information favorable to you. (See next section.)

Ask the AHC for any other rules DSHS used in its decision besides the rules its notice stated. The HEN referral incapacity rules are in WAC 388-447

Ask the AHC to explain anything about DSHS's decision you do not understand. Ask what evidence would change DSHS' decision. If you get that evidence, DSHS may change its decision without a hearing.

If you cannot reach or believe the AHC is unreasonable, ask to speak to the supervisor or office administrator. If that does not change things, present your case to the ALJ at the Administrative Hearing.

Before the hearing, the AHC must give you an Administrative Hearing packet with details about their case and all documents DSHS will use as evidence. Start getting ready for your hearing before getting this packet.

To determine your eligibility or continued eligibility for HEN, DSHS reviews your medical and vocational information. This information is usually on DSHS physical or psychiatric/psychological evaluation forms from doctors who examined you. DSHS uses an eight-step "Progressive Evaluation Process" (PEP) form following WAC rules. You must figure out what parts of the evaluations and step of the PEP show DSHS's reason for denying or ending your eligibility for HEN.

*Learn more about how DSHS incapacity specialists use the PEP. Look at their Social Services Manual.

If you think any doctor who did an evaluation for DSHS may support you on any point DSHS has said is important, yes, you should ask that doctor for a letter of support. If you have a regular treating doctor, psychologist, nurse practitioner, or mental health worker, they may be able to provide the proof DSHS says it needs.

*If you are a client of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), ask your DVR counselor for copies of all medical or vocational information in your DVR file that may help.

If you believe more medical evaluations will prove your case, ask DSHS to set this up and pay for it. You must have a good reason for needing another evaluation. Here are some examples of good reasons. This is not a complete list:

  • DSHS made their decision without getting evaluations of all your medical problems they know about.

  • You have a history of a medical problem you still believe keeps you from working. No one evaluated it.

  • The DSHS evaluation forms a doctor filled out mention medical problems outside that doctor's expertise or recommend more evaluations that DSHS did not get.

  • You have other reason to believe the doctors who did DSHS reports did not completely evaluate your medical condition or fill out the form completely. (Examples: They did not put how long they expect you to be unable to work. They left out medical conditions.)

  • DSHS says there is no objective medical evidence supporting what a doctor has said about your condition, or how it keeps you from working. Ask them to follow up with the doctor or tell you what testing you need.  If you need further tests, ask DSHS to pay for them.

Call the OAH. (The number is on your Hearing Notice.) Ask for a pre-hearing conference where you can ask the ALJ to order DSHS to pay for another evaluation.

If the ALJ does not order DSHS to pay, try to get an evaluation from another doctor yourself. Try seeing a doctor you saw in the past.

Even if DSHS does not pay for the evaluation, you can ask your own doctor to use DSHS's evaluation form. Its format makes it easy to apply DSHS's criteria to your doctor's opinions. Ask DSHS for copies of the forms to hand-deliver to your doctors or print them yourself from the DSHS website. (Look for forms 13-021 and 13-865.) 

Finally, you can ask the ALJ at the hearing to order DSHS to pay for more evaluations. Any further evaluations you get may persuade the AHC to settle the case or rule for you at the hearing.

Make a copy for the ALJ of the helpful information before the hearing. If you give the AHC a copy before the hearing, the AHC should be able to get it to the ALJ for you.

If you cannot settle your case beforehand, you should testify at the hearing about how your medical problems limit what you can do. The WAC rules, DSHS evaluation forms, PEP form, and Administrative Hearing packet will help you focus.

At the hearing, give examples from your daily life, especially where you worked or tried. It may help to have one or more people who know you well testify to what you can and cannot do.

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Last Review and Update: Dec 14, 2023
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