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How to fight a termination or reduction of DSHS public assistance

This explains your rights if DSHS tells you it will stop (terminate) or cut back (reduce) the cash, food stamps, medical, or child care assistance they have been giving you. The most important thing to know is that you must ask for an administrative hearing soon, usually within ten days of DSHS mailing written notice, to keep getting your benefits while you appeal. #7102EN

Please Note:

  • Read this only if you live in Washington State.

The Basics

Yes, read this if DSHS told you it will stop or cut back cash, food, medical, or childcare assistance they have been giving you.

We explain your rights in this situation.

  • If you decide to ask for an administrative hearing, do it quickly. You should usually do so within 10 days of DSHS mailing you the notice that says your benefits are stopping or being cut. This will let you keep getting benefits while you appeal DSHS' decision.

Your DSHS worker may believe one of these:

  1. Your monthly income or the things of value you own (resources) have gone up enough that you can no longer get any or as much benefits.
  2. Your situation may have changed so you or your family members are no longer the kinds of persons (such as you no longer have a disability, or your child has reached age 18) who can get that kind of benefit.
  3. You have not given DSHS info they need or you have not done something their rules say you must.

The written notice DSHS sends you must say:

  • The date your benefit will stop or go down. It must be at least 10 days after DSHS mails the notice.
  • Why your situation requires this change.
  • The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) numbers of the rules the worker used to decide your case.
  • How to appeal if you disagree.
  • How to keep getting benefits during your appeal.

Maybe.

  • The DSHS worker may not have known or understood all the important facts.
  • DSHS may have not used its rules correctly.
  • DSHS may not have taken all the right steps in deciding your case and giving you written notice.
  • DSHS may not have properly accommodated a disability you have that makes it hard for you to understand or follow their rules. Read DSHS Help for People with Disabilities: Necessary Supplemental Accommodations (NSA) to learn more.

You can do any or all of these:

  1. Ask for an administrative hearing.
  2. Ask for a DSHS supervisor to review and explain the decision.
  3. Reapply.

You have up to 90 days from the date of the notice saying your benefits would stop or be cut to ask for a hearing.

If you ask for a hearing within 10 days from the date of that notice, you will keep getting benefits up until the hearing.

  • If you get continue to get benefits and then lose your hearing, DSHS can bill you for an overpayment of up to two months' worth of benefits.

You can write or call the Office of Administrative Hearings:

Office of Administrative Hearings

P.O. Box 42489

Olympia, WA 98504

At OAH's website, click "contact us" for the phone number of your nearest office. You can also ask for a hearing by calling or writing your DSHS office.

  • If you contact OAH to ask for a hearing and to keep getting benefits until your hearing, you should also call your DSHS office and let them know you asked for a hearing and continued benefits. 

You can call the OAH to ask to have your hearing as soon as possible. This is an "expedited" hearing. Otherwise, your hearing will probably be 20 days or more after you ask for it.

Preparing for the hearing

A judge who does not work for DSHS will hold the hearing and issue a written decision. If you win your hearing and you did not get benefits up to the hearing, the judge will order the benefits you lost returned to you.

Before or after asking for a hearing, you can ask your DSHS worker to explain more about the decision to stop or cut your assistance.

You may learn DSHS had wrong or was missing information. If so, try to give DSHS the correct or missing info. Ask the worker for any help you need to get that info. If it would cost you to get it, ask DSHS to pay for it or if they would accept other proof.

You can also ask your worker's supervisor for a meeting to review the decision to stop or cut your benefits.

If you write the supervisor, they must write you back within 10 days. If that does not change things, you can write the head (administrator) of the local DSHS office, who also must write you back within 10 days.

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

Here are some reasons. This is not a complete list:

  • You think DSHS was right to stop your benefits. Your situation has since changed.
  • You have more info that might change DSHS' decision. Your DSHS worker or supervisor will only consider it if you reapply. You can reapply while also trying to use the new info in your administrative hearing.

* You can apply again for benefits any time, even if you have asked for a hearing.

Read Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing to learn what you can do to understand DSHS's reasons, get missing information, try to settle your case, and represent yourself if needed.

The rules DSHS lists in your notice and others it used in your case start with "WAC 388". Find them at the DSHS office, your county law library, public libraries, and online.

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Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

Last Review and Update: Apr 14, 2022
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