93. Requesting a fair hearing
CDSS Office of Hearings and Appeals
744 “P” Street, M.S. 19-36
Sacramento, CA 95814
If there is an urgent matter, a person can ask for an “expedited hearing” which will be held within 10 business days of the state determining that the urgent need. ACL 13-40. The expedited hearing request should be sent to the local presiding judge. The Regional Offices link lists the office numbers and the names of the presiding judges.
A food stamp household can ask for a fair hearing to “appeal” any action affecting its benefits by doing so in person, by telephone or in writing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(h); MPP § 22-004.1, 63-804.3.] The applicant or recipient can ask for the hearing or can also have a representative request a hearing on its behalf. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(h); Welf. & Inst. Code § 10950; MPP §§ 22-004, 63-804.3.] It is always best to ask for the hearing in writing. The household should keep a copy of its request and make very clear that it wants a hearing. If the household does not understand what to do to question a decision affecting its benefits or has some type of trouble asking for a fair hearing, the food stamp office must help the household make such a request. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(i)(1); MPP § 22-004.211.]
To request a hearing, the applicant or recipient household can use the back of the “Notice of Action” or can write its own letter. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(h); MPP § 22-004.211.] All one has to do is say that s/he wants a fair hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(h); MPP § 22-004, 63-804.3.] It is a good idea to give some reason why the applicant or recipient wants the hearing, but not write any lengthy explanation or defense. For example, “I am not getting the right amount of food stamps” or “I was not given a dependent care deduction.” is all that is needed. The applicant or recipient should be sure to write down the date of the request, and also should try to write down his or her case number, if known.
If the person appealing would like an interpreter, including sign language, the language needed should be listed. This will result in the state providing a free interpreter. (Given the amount of information and that some of it is technical, an interpreter is recommended for anyone whose primary language is not English unless completely bilingual.) The household has a right to have an interpreter who speaks the claimant’s preferred language explain the hearing procedures in-language, and interpret for the household during the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(h); MPP § 22-004.211.]
The notice currently does not ask about disability accommodations, but it is advisable to ask for them as soon as possible. (These can be things like large print for the county’s position statement and the hearing decision, wheelchair accessible rooms, etc.)
The state agency will set up the hearing, but the time, place and date must fit the schedule of the applicant or recipient. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(l)(1); MPP § 22-045.2.] The state agency must tell the household in writing, at least ten days in advance, when and where the fair hearing will be. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(l); Welf. & Inst. Code § 10952; MPP § 22-045.3.] The state is currently setting hearings to be over the telephone (claimant can be in person with the county but the judge will be on the phone) as the “default” for rural counties. Claimants have the right to have the judge be present in person. If the hearing notice says that the hearing will be a telephone hearing, the claimant has the right to call the state number listed on that hearing notice and ask that the hearing be changed to “in person.” This will not count as a claimant postponement.
The notice must tell the household what rules the hearing officer will follow in running the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(l).] California does this by including the PUB 412 with the hearing date notice. If the applicant or recipient cannot make it to the hearing, s/he should ask the state agency to change the date. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(c)(4); Welf. & Inst. Code § 10957; MPP § 22-053.11.] The household has the right to put off the hearing for 30 days for any reason. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(c)(4); MPP § 22-053.11.] After that, the person must have “good cause” — a good reason for postponing. This can be things like needing to get a representative, illness, no childcare, etc.
The state agency or food stamp office cannot stop the household from having a hearing unless the applicant or recipient household or its authorized representative says in writing that it does not want the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(j)(2); MPP § 22-054.211(a).] State and county workers are prohibited from influencing the applicant or recipient to withdraw a fair hearing request. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(j)(2).] If the household agrees to withdraw its appeal but does not do so in writing, the withdrawal of the appeal must be confirmed in writing within ten days of the request, and the household has an additional ten days from the date it receives the notice of withdrawal to reinstate or request a new hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(j)(2).] During this ten-day period, a recipient household will continue to receive food stamps. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(k)(2).] If the household requests the fair hearing be reinstated, it is entitled to a hearing within 60 days of that request. [7 C.F.R. §§ 273.15(j)(2), 273.15(c).] The state agency must reinstate a fair hearing as requested from a household at least once. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(j)(2).]
The administrative law judge (ALJ) will dismiss a request for a hearing if the household or its representative does not show up for the hearing and does not have a good reason for not showing up. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(j)(1)(ii); MPP § 22-054.221.]