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Fighting a Denial of DSHS Public Assistance

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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) and their office denies you benefits. #7100EN


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Should I read this?

Yes, if you applied for cash, food stamps, medical, or childcare assistance from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and they denied you benefits.

That does not describe me. Where can I get other info?

If you are already getting help and DSHS ends your benefits, read How to Fight a Termination or Reduction of DSHS Public Assistance.

If DSHS asks you to repay benefits you already got, read Fighting an Overpayment of Cash Assistance, Medical Assistance or Food Stamps.

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

Why did DSHS deny me benefits?

Their worker 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, such as have a disability or are within a certain age range, who can get that benefit.

  • You or your family are not citizens or a type of immigrant who can get that benefit.

  • You have not given DSHS info they need or have not done something their rules say you must.

How does DSHS tell me about the denial?

They must send you a written notice stating all of these:

  • What benefit.

  • Why the facts in your case do not make you eligible.

  • The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) numbers of the rules the worker used to decide your case.

  • How to appeal.

Why might DSHS be wrong?

  • 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. See DSHS Help for People with Disabilities: Necessary Supplemental Accommodation (NSA).

What if I disagree with DSHS?

Do any or all of these:

  1. Ask for an administrative hearing.

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

  3. Re-apply.

When should I ask for an administrative hearing?

*You have up to 90 days from the date of the denial notice to ask for a hearing.

How do I ask for a hearing?

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 www.oah.wa.gov/. Click on “Contact.” 

  • Call or write your local DSHS office.

When will the hearing happen?

If it is an emergency, call the OAH to ask 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.

Who conducts the hearing?

An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who does not work for DSHS will conduct the hearing. The ALJ will send you a written decision. If you win, the ALJ usually will order the benefits paid effective the day DSHS denied them.

*If you are representing yourself, read Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing.

What is Review and Explanation?

Before or after asking for a hearing, you can ask your DSHS worker to explain more about the decision. You may learn DSHS was missing or had wrong info. If so, try to give them the right info. If you need help getting that info, ask the worker for help. If you have to pay to get the info, 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 termination. 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 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 an administrative hearing.

Should I re-apply?

Yes, if either of these is true:

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

  • You have more info that might change the decision. Your DSHS worker or supervisor refuses to look at it unless you re-apply. You can re-apply while also trying to use the new info in your administrative hearing.

You can re-apply for benefits at any time, even if you have asked for an administrative hearing.

How do I get ready for an administrative hearing?

See Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing for how to

  • Understand DSHS’s reasons.

  • Gather missing info.

  • Try to settle your case.

  • Represent yourself.

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. Find them at the DSHS office, your county law library or public library, and online.

These should help you understand the rules for some benefit programs:








This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of August 2018.

© 2018 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014.
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)


Last Review and Update: Aug 27, 2018