I applied for benefits. DSHS said no.

Read this for what to do if you apply for cash, food stamps, medical, or child care assistance from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) but they turn you down. #7100EN

Please Note:

  • Read this only if you live in Washington State.
  • If you get public benefits like SSI, food stamps, or TANF, and you have gotten legal financial obligations (LFOs) refunded by the Court, you may need to follow "spend down requirements" to keep getting benefits. You should tell DSHS about this refund as soon as possible. If you have questions, call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014 or see contact info below.  

The Basics

Yes, you should read this to find out what you can do if you applied for cash, food, or childcare assistance from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and they turned you down for (denied you) benefits.

If you are already getting benefits, and DSHS stops them, read How to Fight a Termination or Reduction of DSHS Public Assistance to learn more.

If DSHS says they gave you too much benefits, and you must pay back benefits they gave you, read Fighting an Overpayment of Cash or Medical Assistance to learn more.

If your problem is with Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), read one of these to learn more:

It depends. The DSHS worker who went over your application thinks any of these:

  • Your monthly income or things you own (resources) does not meet their guidelines.
  • You or your family are not the kinds of persons who can get the benefit you applied for. Examples: you do not have a disability, or you are not within a certain age range.
  • You or your family are not citizens or a type of immigrant who can get the benefit you applied for.
  • You have not given DSHS information they need.
  • You have not done something DSHS' rules say you must do.

DSHS must send you a notice that says all of these:

  • What benefit you applied for.
  • Why the facts in your case do not make you eligible.
  • Which Washington Administrative Code (WAC) rules the worker used to decide your case.
  • How to appeal.


  • 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 the right steps in deciding your case and giving you notice.
  • DSHS may not have taken the right steps if you have a disability making it hard for you to understand or follow their rules. Read DSHS Help for People with Disabilities: Necessary Supplemental Accommodation (NSA) to learn more.

You can do any or all of these:

  • Ask for a hearing.
  • Ask a DSHS supervisor to review and explain the decision.
  • Re-apply.

Preparing for a hearing

You have up to 90 days from the date of the denial notice to do this.

You can:

  • Write the Office of Administrative Hearings at P.O. Box 42489, Olympia, WA 98504.
  • Call your nearest regional office. Find the number at the OAH's website. Click on Contact
  • Call or write your local DSHS office.

If it is an emergency, call the OAH. Ask them to have the 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.

An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who does not work for DSHS leads the hearing. The ALJ sends you a written decision after the hearing.

If you win, the ALJ usually orders benefits paid dating back to the day DSHS denied them.

* Read Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing to learn more.

Before or after asking for a hearing, you can ask your DSHS worker to explain more about the decision. You might learn DSHS was missing or had wrong information. If so, you can try to give them the right information. If you need help getting that information, you can ask the worker. If you have to pay to get the information, ask DSHS to pay or if DSHS will accept other proof.

You can also ask the DSHS worker's supervisor for a meeting to review the decision. If you write the supervisor, the supervisor must write back within ten days.

If that does not change the decision, you can write the head (administrator) of the local DSHS office. The administrator must write you back in ten days.

If you disagree with what the worker, supervisor, and administrator decide, the matter is final unless you also ask for or have asked for a hearing.

Yes, if one of these is true:

  1. You think DSHS was right to deny you. Your situation has since changed.
  2. You have more information that might change the decision. Your DSHS worker or supervisor will only look at it if you re-apply. You can re-apply while also trying to use the new information in your administrative hearing.

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

Read Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing to learn more. It also explains how to:

  • Understand DSHS's reasons.
  • Get missing information together.
  • Try to settle your case.  

The rules DSHS lists in your notice and the others it used in your case start with WAC 388-. The rules about the hearing process are in WAC Chapter 388-02.

Read these to help you understand the rules for some benefit programs:




Health care

Other benefits

Special rules for immigrants

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Get Legal Help

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

Last Review and Update: Apr 18, 2022
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