by Gene Doyle, LMSW
To comply with the Stipulation and Order of Settlement in Rafferty v Doar, 13-CV-1410 (S.D.N.Y. October 23, 2015), OTDA and DOH jointly issued Administrative Directive 16-ADM-08 on June 22, 2016 to provide
"social services districts (SSD) with a summary and instructions on required actions regarding the provision of forms and notices in alternative formats and the use the Disability Accommodation Indicator (DAI) in response to the terms of the Rafferty v. OTDA, DOH, HRA, et al. (Rafferty) settlement, and OTDA’s decision to extend these accommodations to all SSDs, as well as to Public Assistance (PA) and Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) case types."
Upon request, written materials to a blind or seriously visually impaired applicant or recipient will be provided
"in the following primary alternative formats:
"• Large Print (18 point font)
"In addition, Braille format will be made available to any recipient or applicant upon request, when the recipient or applicant asserts that none of the primary alternative formats will be equally effective for them."
Written materials are defined as
• Applications ("documents made available to individuals for the purpose of applying to receive or to continue to receive SNAP, MA, PA, and/or HEAP benefits")
• Communications ("any personalized and individualized written notice that is issued by either the State or an SSD concerning an individual’s SNAP, MA, PA and/or HEAP benefits or application for SNAP, MA, PA and/or HEAP benefits") and
• Publications ("non-personalized and non-individualized documents that are made available to the general public concerning SNAP, MA, PA and/or HEAP benefits, including instructions to Applications and related informational materials").
The revised Applications and Publications are appended to Local Commissioners Memorandum 16-LCM-09 and can also be downloaded from OTDA. These revised Applications and Publications can also be downloads in Alternative Formats (except for Braille).
Social services districts (SSDs)
"must honor requests for alternative formats without requiring medical documentation to support the request, and staff must not deny a request for alternative formats based on judgment that the individual does not require an alternative format."
A new "Disability Accommodation Indicator" (DAI) has been created for the Welfare Management System (WMS) and Fair Hearing Information System (FHIS) to identify blind or seriously visually impaired persons and their requested alternative formats.
At the request of blind or seriously visually impaired persons, OTDA must provide the following Fair Hearing related communications in the requested primary alternative format:
• Notices pertaining to Fair Hearing requests and the scheduling thereof issued through FHIS;
• Decisions After Fair Hearing concerning SNAP and/or Medicaid benefits;
• Notices concerning compliance with such Decisions After Fair Hearing issued by OTDA's Office of Administrative Hearings; and
• Reconsiderations of Decisions After Fair Hearing issued by OTDA's Office of Administrative Hearings.
OAH Procedures Transmittal 16-08 was issued on July 7, 2016 to provide specific Fair Hearing related guidance:
"All fair hearing related communications, including Acknowledgement of Fair Hearing Request (OAH-4420), Notice of Fair Hearing (OAH-457), Fair Hearing Information System (FHIS) generated letters, Fair Hearing Decisions, scripted letters created by [Combined Automated Letters for Fair Hearings (CALFH)], re-opening letters, and reconsiderations letters must be offered in alternative formats for appellant with serious visual impairments or blind who request them."
When asking for a Fair Hearing, be sure to specify the primary alternative format requested by a blind or seriously visually impaired appellant. Also make sure that the local social services district has entered the appropriate Disability Accommodation Indicator (DAI) code on WMS because "If an appellant or representative requests a format other than what appears from the WMS interface, that indicator can be changed in FHIS, [the Fair Hearing Decision Management System (FHDMS)] or CALFH. DAI indicators entered in OAH systems will not update WMS" (emphasis supplied). OAH Procedures Transmittal 16-08 at p. 2.
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