Filing a County Assistance Office Appeal in PA

filing a cap appeal in PA: what you need to knowAn appeal is your legal means of challenging a decision made by your PA Department of Human Services (DHS) county assistance office that you think is unfair or incorrect.

Your right to appeal is perhaps your most important right as a benefits recipient!

  • Every client has the right to appeal any DHS action (or failure to act) and to have a fair hearing if they are dissatisfied with any decision to refuse, discontinue, change, suspend, or reduce assistance or benefits.
  • Each client has the right to represent him or herself at the hearing or to bring someone else such as a lawyer, friend, or relative to represent him or her.

How do I file an appeal?

Every form from the Department of Human Services has an appeal section on it. You need to do five things:

  1. Where it says “I want to appeal,” you should write: “I don’t agree with this decision.”
  2. Check the box for a “face-to-face” hearing or phone hearing. Also check the box for an interpreter, if one is needed.
  3. Sign and date it, write your address and phone number.
  4. Get a copy made so that you have one for your files.
  5. Get it to the county assistance office and get a receipt! If you drop it off, have them write you a receipt. If you mail it, send it by Certified Mail at the post office and keep the receipt.

You can also call your caseworker on the phone and let him/her know that you are appealing a decision and send them a written statement within three days of notifying them verbally.

  • You do not need to use their form, you can hand-write or type your own appeal letter.
  • Remember to keep a copy of your statement for your records.

The Pre-Appeal Conference

Your caseworker or their supervisor can schedule a pre-appeal meeting or agency conference to try to resolve your problem before it gets to the hearing level. We recommend that you request this meeting and take an advocate or someone else you trust to this meeting!

You should not waive your right to a hearing if your problem is not fully resolved at this meeting. Expect the caseworker to tell you that you can’t win, or to otherwise discourage you. If they promise to do something, get it in writing.

An appeal hearing is your right! Your benefits may not be changed until the appeals process is over. However, if they decide against you, you may be liable for an over-payment in benefits.

There are important deadlines in filing an appeal, so file your appeal immediately!

13 days: If you appeal within 10 days of the date on the notice, your benefits will not be cut and the Dept. of Human Services (DHS) won’t take any benefits back unless you lose at the hearing.

30 days: You have 30 days to appeal any decision about your cash or Medical Assistance (MA). DHS can reduce your benefits if you miss the 13-day deadline, but they will give them back if you win your appeal.

90 days: You have 90 days to appeal any decision about your SNAP benefits/food stamps. DHS will start taking your benefits if you miss the 13-day deadline, but they will give them back if you win your appeal.

What happens after I file the appeal?

You will have an opportunity to meet with the caseworker and their supervisor at an Agency Conference to attempt to settle the matter. If unsuccessful, you can proceed to a hearing in front of a hearing officer. At the hearing, you can present your evidence.

Make sure to take an advocate or someone you trust, and be sure they write down important things that are said.

  • An advocate can be a friend, a social worker or counselor, or a family member.
  • You can also call Neighborhood Legal Services at 412-255-6700 or Just Harvest Food Stamps team at 412-431-8960 (option 3).

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