Rights to Benefits






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Your federal and state governments administer and fund several assistance programs. In Tennessee, these programs include cash assistance in the form of Families First, Unemployment Insurance or Compensation, Veteran's Administration benefits, and SSI (Supplemental Security Income), as well as Food Stamps and TennCare. In addition, the State of Tennessee administers supplemental programs like W.I.C. (Women, Infants and Children), a food voucher program, and E.P.S.D.T., a health screening and treatment program for Families First children. Your local Department of Human Services can give you information on W.I.C. and E.P.S.D.T.

All programs require that you or the head of your household fill out an application and sign under oath that the information given is true. The agency must make a written decision as to whether you qualify for the particular program and send you a notice of their decision. Under every program, you have certain basic rights.

Each agency should provide you with written information or their employees should explain the program benefits, rules for being eligible, and your responsibilities to cooperate with the agency.

You have the right to make application for any of these programs, to look at the case file which the agency uses to decide if you are eligible for program benefits and to receive a decision about your application within a certain amount of time. Keep in mind that each agency has different time limits for different actions.

If you are denied program benefits or do not agree with the decision of the agency, you have the right to appeal the decision. To appeal any decision, you must file a complaint in writing with the agency within a certain period of time. Each agency has its own forms, procedures and time limits for appeals. You have the right to be represented by someone in your appeal and in any other matter involving the agency.

If an agency decides to stop or reduce your benefits, you may be able to have the benefits continued if you appeal within a certain period of time, usually ten days. Of course you may be forced to pay back the benefits you received after you were told the benefits would stop or be reduced.

If you are receiving assistance from such a program, the agency will check your eligibility from time to time. The agency should tell you what, if anything, you must do to continue receiving benefits. If the agency is going to stop or reduce your benefits, you have the right to receive a notice before the benefits are stopped or reduced. This gives you time to appeal the decision or try to get another source of income.

In every program you have the right to a hearing, sometimes called a fair hearing. The hearing is usually held in your area and gives you the chance to tell your story to a neutral person, a judge or a referee. You and your representative will be allowed to see every piece of evidence the agency plans to use at your hearing. You may bring witnesses to your hearing. The judge or referee will explain your rights, allow you and your representative to tell your story, make a taped recording of the hearing and reach a decision based on the evidence. This decision will be written and a copy will be sent to you and your representative. If you want to have a representative, the local legal services may be able to provide you with free assistance.

One important thing to know about these programs is your right of privacy. All information which is in your file is confidential. It cannot be given to other people or agencies unless you give your permission.