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Message #620 Welfare rights

mp3 #620 Your Welfare Rights (mp3 file)

If you believe you are eligible, you can apply for Welfare. Welfare, which is an assistance program that is contributed to by the county, state and federal governments, and is administered by the county, generally refers only to the Welfare program formerly known as AFDC, "Aid To Families With Dependent Children," which is now called "CALWORKS," the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program.

To obtain Welfare you first have to complete a written application form, saying that your answers are true, under penalty of perjury. In any of the steps required in applying for Welfare, you can get help from anyone who has knowledge of your personal circumstances, including an attorney. If you can't fill out the forms yourself, someone acting for you may fill it out.

When you go to your county's department of public social services to apply, you should be given information about all Welfare benefits, the conditions of eligibility, what the program includes, and what related services -- such as Medi-Cal and food stamps -- are available to you. You should be given pamphlets that explain the rules regarding eligibility, and how to appeal the decision if your application is turned down.

Within a certain time period established by regulation, you should be told whether your application for aid has been approved or turned down. Your eligibility worker should tell you how long that time period will be.

If you are found eligible you will be able to get both financial and medical care without separate applications. These services should be provided promptly and regularly unless your circumstances change or you are later found to be ineligible.

In emergency situations known as immediate need, arrangements can sometimes be made to help you with medical care, services, food stamps, and money within a very short time.

Your eligibility must be checked from time to time. You will be notified and given information about what you must do. If the agency makes any change in your assistance, that is, if it is stopped or if it is reduced, you will receive an advance notice telling you about it. However, if you ask that your assistance be stopped or reduced, the agency may take that action without sending you a notice. And there are some other conditions under which the agency can take action without giving· notice. These will be explained to you when you first make your application.

You will be informed also about what you can do if your application is denied or not acted on within a certain time period. You are entitled to a state hearing, if you request it, and you will be told how to arrange for one. The hearing gives you your opportunity to present your argument to a state administrative law judge. The legal services office or the Welfare rights organization in your area can help you with the hearing. You must file your state hearing request within 90 days after the county mails a notice to you. If you are already on aid, in order to continue your benefits until the hearing, you must file your appeal before the effective date of the change in your benefits. You will usually receive a notice from the county, at least ten days before the effective date.

If you do have a hearing, you may represent yourself or have the help of an authorized representative, including an attorney. You will be allowed to go through your file and see every document and record the agency plans to use at the hearing.

You can bring witnesses, question any testimony or evidence, and cross-examine any witness against you. The hearing is run by many of the same rules that regulate a court trial, but is less formal. You will be notified by mail of the decision made at the hearing. Under certain circumstances, the Welfare department cannot make the proposed change until the hearing decision is received.

One important thing to remember about Welfare is that your name and any information about you is strictly confidential and cannot be turned over to any individual or agency other than those connected with the administration of the Welfare program for which you have applied.

For more specific information on this Welfare--called CALWORKS--program, view SmartLaw message # 621 "Welfare For Families With Children."

If you need public assistance because you are over age 65, blind, or mentally or physically disabled, then the program for which you are eligible is called Supplemental Security Income, and you may apply for it by calling the social security toll-free number listed in the government pages in your telephone directory, under United States government. It is not the same as the Welfare program run by the county.

If you have no minor children at home, you are between the ages of 18 and 65, and you are not blind or disabled, you may be eligible for general relief. This program is entirely paid for and run by each county, and in important ways is quite different from the program described here. You may inquire about it, and apply for it if necessary, at your county department of public social services.

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