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Law Line - Government Benefits

These messages only provide general information. If you have questions about your own situation, you should talk to a lawyer. For information about applying for Legal Aid, go to the Apply for Help page.

What can you do if DHHR cuts you off of SNAP or Food Stamps because of lost paperwork?

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One of the most common problems with DHHR SNAP or Food Stamps cases happens when DHHR closes your case because they say you did not give them paperwork at re-certification. If this happens to you, here is what you can do:

  1. Every year DHHR asks you to send in paperwork to show that you still qualify for your SNAP benefits. DHHR asks you to send in updated paperwork to show your income, your assets, and your expense for things like housing costs, and medical costs.
  2. If you did not give DHHR the paperwork that they asked for on time, and you got a cut off notice from DHHR, you should mail or hand deliver your updated proof of income, assets, and expenses to them right away. You should keep a copy for yourself. If you hand deliver the paperwork to DHHR, have the staff make you a copy and date stamp it. If you can take care of this quickly, you may not end up losing very much of your SNAP or Food Stamps benefits.
  3. If you DID give DHHR the paperwork they asked for, you should mail or hand deliver another copy to DHHR. You should include a short letter addressed the County office SNAP Supervisor. In the letter, explain that you turned in the paperwork. You should tell what date you did it, and whether you sent it by mail or hand delivered it. Be sure to keep an extra copy of all of these papers for your self. If you hand deliver it to DHHR, ask the staff to make you a copy of the paperwork. Also ask, them to date stamp it.
  4. If you DID give DHHR the paperwork that they asked for, you should also ask for a Fair Hearing with the State Hearing officer for your DHHR office. When you were cut off SNAP benefits, DHHR mailed you a Fair Hearing Form to ask for the Hearing. On the form, be sure to check that you want a Fair Hearing, and not a pre-hearing conference. DHHR will act more quickly if you ask for a Fair Hearing. When you send in the Hearing Request, include a copy of the “lost” paperwork you already sent in that DHHR. Also enclose a short letter to the Hearing Officer that explains that you already turned in the paperwork.

What can you do if DHHR says that you were overpaid for SNAP or Food Stamps?

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If DHHR says that you were “overpaid” with SNAP or Food Stamps, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. If you got too much in SNAP or Food Stamps because DHHR made a mistake, you still have to pay DHHR back.
  2. DHHR can collect an overpayment from any adult who was a household member when the overpayment took place.
  3. It can be very helpful to talk with Legal Aid if you disagree with DHHR about an overpayment. You should not sign any paperwork about an overpayment that you disagree with. You should wait until you have a chance to talk with the attorney at Legal Aid before you sign a repayment agreement or a waiver of hearing.
  4. If you agree that you were overpaid, or DHHR shows that you were overpaid due to an honest mistake, DHHR can take certain steps. DHHR can reduce your current SNAP benefits by a small amount. DHHR can also ask you to agree to pay back a small amount every month if you no longer get SNAP.
  5. If DHHR cannot collect an overpayment from you by reducing your current SNAP benefits or through monthly payments, they will send your case to the TOPS program. The TOPS program can take money from your tax refund, your social security disability benefits, or your unemployment. TOPS cannot take money from your SSI.
  6. If DHHR says that you tried to lie to them or trick them into giving you more benefits, an overpayment case is more serious. DHHR calls these cases “Intentional Program Violations.” You should tell the Legal Aid intake worker if you think DHHR will try to say this and it will be important for you to prove your case if you disagree.
  7. If DHHR does find that you committed an “Intentional Program Violation” you can be disqualified from getting Food Stamps or SNAP for a period of time or for good. If the case involves more than $500 in stamps, it can even be sent to the county prosecutor. For these reasons, it will be important for you to get legal advice about your situation.

For more information about food stamps read this article.

Are there work requirements to be able to get food stamps?

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It depends. There is a certain group of people who must meet an exemption or they are required to work at least 20 hours a week to keep food stamps.

If you get food stamps and DHHR says you are an “Able-Bodied Adult without Dependents or “ABAWD” it means you:

  • Are between the ages of 18-49;
  • Do not have a child or disabled person you care for;
  • Are someone that DHHR believes is “fit to work”; and
  • Live in a county where DHHR believes there are jobs. As of January 2017, the counties where DHHR believes there are jobs are Cabell, Kanawha, Putnam, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Morgan, Berkley and Jefferson.

If DHHR says that you are an ABAWD, you must get a job or show that you are “exempt”, or excused, from the work requirement to keep food stamps. If you are not exempt, you can only get food stamps for 3 months if you do not have a job.

What are the exemptions from the work requirement?

You do not need to work 20 hours a week to get Food Stamps as an ABAWD if:

  • you are below the age of 18 or above the age of 50
  • you are Pregnant
  • you are a parent residing in a household where there is a household member under the age of 18
  • you are involved in a Substance Abuse Program and participation in that program would prevent you from meeting a work requirement
  • you are responsible for the care of an incapacitated adult – as verified through a written statement from a doctor
  • you are receiving or have registered to receive unemployment
  • you are medically certified as physically or mentally unfit for work
  • you are enrolled half-time in school and that schooling is permitted in regular food stamps rules
  • you work more than 30 hours per week or make more than $217.50 per week
  • you are receiving temporary or permanent disability benefits

If you need food stamps but are having trouble finding work and do not meet an exemption, you should contact DHHR. They will refer you to the Employment and Training program in your county. The Employment and Training program will count as a work program and will meet the work requirement for food stamps.

If you need food, and do not qualify for food stamps, or your stamps have run out, you may contact 211 for information about food pantries.

For more information about work requirements and food stamps in West Virginia read this article.

“Expanded Medicaid” Health Insurance

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In 2014 West Virginia greatly expanded the Medicaid Program. Working people with incomes can be eligible now. Single adults without children can be eligible now.

Over 150,000 West Virginians enrolled in this new Medicaid health insurance in 2014. Yes, you heard that right. Over 150,000 West Virginians enrolled.

How much does the new Expanded Medicaid health insurance cost each month?

Nothing! There is no health insurance premium to pay each month.

What about “co-pays” when I go to the doctor or get a prescription filled?

You will pay small fees when you use medical services. The amount you pay depends on your income.

For prescriptions, the fee is from $2 to $8 per prescription.

For doctor visits, the fee is from zero, nothing, to $4 per visit.

Who is eligible for the new expanded medicaid health insurance?

Anyone whose family income is below some fairly substantial amounts. For example:

  • A single person earning less than $16,000 a year.
  • A mom with one child and income below $21,700.
  • A couple with one kid and income below about $27,000.
  • A dad with three kids and income below $32,900.
  • A couple with three kids and income below about $38,500.

I got laid off recently. When I was working I earned more than those limits. But now I’m under those limits. Can I be eligible based on my income right now?

Yes. Eligibility is based on actual current income. It is not based on income you had in the past.

Is there a limit on how much money I can have in the bank, or how many cars, or other assets?

No. The “Expanded Medicaid” program does not ask what you own or how much money you have.

How do I apply for the new Expanded Medicaid?

Apply through the West Virginia DHHR.

  • DHHR has a web site application that is the easiest place to start. Go to www.wvinroads.org.
  • You can also apply by telephone. Call toll free 877-716-1212.
  • Or go to your local DHHR office.

How can I file for a Fair Hearing if I think that DHHR did something wrong or unfair with my benefits case?

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The information in this message applies to all DHHR programs. These programs include Food Stamps or SNAP, WV WORKS, Medicaid, LIEAP, and Emergency Assistance.

If DHHR denies you benefits, cuts your benefits, or cuts off your benefits and you think it is unfair you can file for a Fair Hearing. Fair Hearings are held at your local DHHR office in front of a State Hearing Officer.

DHHR should have mailed you a Fair Hearing Request Form if your benefits were cut down or cut off. If you did not get a form, ask Legal Aid staff to mail you a Form when you do your intake.

On the Fair Hearing Request form, ask for a Fair Hearing instead of for a case conference. If you can show that your benefits were cut off or cut down unfairly, you can check that you want “aid continuing” to keep getting your benefits until the Fair Hearing.

On the Hearing Request Form you should write why you think DHHR was wrong in the space at the bottom of the form. If DHHR lost documents you sent, or you can prove your case by sending documents to DHHR, mail those papers with your hearing request.

After you mail your Hearing Request, DHHR will send you a notice with your Hearing date. You should bring any witnesses or paperwork you need to prove your case to the hearing.

For more information about DHHR Fair Hearings read this article.

How can I keep my DHHR benefits while I am waiting for a Fair Hearing to take place?

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If you believe that your DHHR benefits were cut down or cut off unfairly, you should ask for a Fair Hearing. While you wait for your hearing, you can keep getting your benefits. To keep getting your benefits, you will need to check the box that says “Aid Continuing” on your Fair Hearing Request Form.

If you check this box on the Request Form and also check the box that you want a Fair Hearing, you can get your benefits until your hearing date.

For Food Stamps or SNAP, DHHR has to give you your benefits if you request the Hearing any time in the 30 days after you are cut off of SNAP or your SNAP benefits are cut down.

For other benefits such as West Virginia Works or Medicaid, you can keep your benefit if you return the form and request “Aid Continuing” within 13 days after you are cut down or cut off.

If you are not able to win at the Fair Hearing, you may have to pay these benefits back.

For more information about DHHR Fair Hearings read this article.

Who qualifies for Social Security Disability and SSI?

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If you are unable to work due to a medical condition, it may be possible to obtain benefits through the Social Security Administration. Depending on your work history, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. The Social Security Administration defines a “disabled” person as one who is unable to work because he or she has a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death.

SSI benefits are generally available to disabled individuals (including children) who meet certain household income guidelines, those who have never worked, and those who have worked but did not work long enough to qualify for SSD benefits. The base SSI benefit is $721.00 per month.

SSD benefits are generally available to disabled individuals who have worked for a specific period of time prior to the onset of the disabling medical condition. Monthly SSD benefit payment amounts are based upon one’s earnings history and may or may not be awarded in conjunction with SSI benefits.

For more information on Social Security claims, visit www.ssa.gov. Or read this article.


What can I do about a social security overpayment?

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A Social Security overpayment occurs when Social Security finds that your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits were higher than they should have been. This often happens if your income has increased or your expenses have decreased.

For example, you may not have told the Social Security that you started working or your child moved out of your house. In some cases, you may have reported the change, but Social Security delayed in decreasing your monthly check.

Social Security will send you a Notice of Overpayment. The letter will tell you how much you were overpaid. It will tell you to send the money back in 30 days.

If you get a notice of overpayment, make sure to read the Notice.
Make sure that the information is correct. Try to figure out if you were really overpaid the amount they say.

There are three ways to deal with the overpayment.

  1. Ask for Reconsideration. This means you want Social Security to look at your case again, Ask for a reconsideration if you think the amount of the overpayment is wrong, the amount owed is incorrect, or the reason given for the overpayment is wrong. You should file a Reconsideration quickly, but no later than 60 days from when you get the Notice.
  2. Ask for a Waiver. If you agree that you were overpaid, you can still ask Social Security to waive it so that you don’t have to pay it back. Ask for a waiver if you think that the overpayment was not your fault or you can’t afford to pay the money back.
  3. Ask for a Payment Plan. Do this if you think that the overpayment was your fault or you can afford to pay it back. You can tell Social Security that you want to pay the money back a little at a time.

Whatever you decide to do, act quickly. If you do not take care of the issue, Social Security will start taking money out of your future checks.

There are forms to submit for each of these options. You can submit the forms to Social Security in person or by certified mail with a return receipt request from the post office. To find the nearest SSA office call 1-800-772-1213 or go to www.ssa.gov.

For more information about Social Security Overpayments read this article.

How can I stop my social security disability benefits from being lowered or stopped?

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Before your Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits are lowered or stopped, Social Security must notify you in writing.

You may ask them to reconsider the decision. Fill out a ‘Request for Reconsideration’ form from your local Social Security office. You must make the request within 60 days of the date on the notice, or you must have a good reason if you request reconsideration late.

In order to keep getting the same benefits while the appeal is decided, you must request reconsideration within ten days of the date on the notice.

The form has three options to request a review:

  1. Case review - a representative will review your file and anything else you submit.
  2. Informal conference - you can review your file, submit evidence, and give testimony in a casual meeting.
  3. Formal conference - you will be able to present your case before a SSA representative.

If your request for reconsideration is denied, you may ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You must ask for this hearing within 60 days of the date you got notice of being turned down. To keep getting benefits during this time, you must ask for an ALJ Hearing within ten days of the date on the reconsideration decision.

You can file the hearing request at your local office or you can fill it out and send it by certified mail it to your local SSA office. The form number is HA-501.

You may file the request at your local Social Security office, or call the SSA toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 to get a form sent to you.

For more information about Social Security benefits read this article.