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

The Basics

Yes, you should read this if you live in Washington state and DSHS told you it will stop (it will terminate) or cut back (it will reduce) cash, food, or childcare assistance they have been giving you. We explain your rights in this situation.

  • If you decide to ask for an administrative hearing, act fast. If you do so within 10 days of DSHS mailing you the notice that says they are terminating or reducing your benefits, you can keep getting benefits while you appeal DSHS' decision.

It depends. Your DSHS worker may believe one or more of these is true for you:

  • Your monthly income or the things of value you own (your resources) have gone up enough that you can no longer get any or as much benefits.

  • Your situation may have changed so you or your family members are no longer eligible (for example, you no longer have a disability, or your child has reached age 18) to get that kind of benefit.

  • You have not given DSHS information that 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 state rules the worker used to decide your case.

  • How to appeal if you disagree and how to keep getting benefits during your 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 all the right steps in deciding your case and giving you written notice.

  • You have a disability that makes it hard for you to understand or follow DSHS rules and DSHS didn't work with you to accommodate your disability. Read DSHS Help for People with Disabilities: Necessary Supplemental Accommodations (NSA) to learn more.

You can do any or all of these:

  • Ask for an administrative hearing.

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

  • Reapply.

You have up to 90 days from the date of the termination or reduction 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.

If you ask for a hearing within 10 days from the date of the notice, you will keep getting benefits up until the hearing. But if you then lose your hearing, DSHS can bill you for an overpayment of up to 2 months' worth of benefits.

There are different ways you can do this.
In writing: Write the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), P.O. Box 42488,
Olympia, WA 98504.

Verbally: You can call OAH at (360) 407-2700 or 1-800-583-8271 or tell DSHS that you want a hearing. DSHS may have you follow up with a written request.

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. 

If it is an emergency, you should call OAH to ask them to hold the hearing as soon as possible. This is called anexpedited 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. Read Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing to learn more.

 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 that is the case, try to give DSHS the correct or missing information.

If you need help getting that information, you can ask the worker. If you must pay to get the information, ask DSHS to pay, or if DSHS will accept other proof that you don't need to pay to get.

You can also ask the DSHS worker's supervisor for a meeting to review the decision to deny you benefits. If you write to the supervisor, the supervisor must write back within 10 days. If that does not change the decision, you can write to the head (the administrator) of the local DSHS office. The administrator must write back to you in 10 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:

  • You think DSHS was right to terminate your benefits. But your situation has since changed. You believe you are eligible to get more benefits again.

  • You have more information that might change DSHS' decision. Your DSHS worker or supervisor will only look at your new info if you reapply. You can reapply while also trying to use the new information in your administrative hearing.

Yes. 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 what you can do to understand DSHS's reasons, get missing information, try to settle your case, and represent yourself if needed.

Get Legal Help

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

Download | Printer-friendly

Last Review and Update: Sep 05, 2023
Was this information helpful?
Back to top