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The DTA Assistance Line: Information for Clients and Community Organizations

Date: 
04/28/2016
Author: 
MLRI

On October 27, 2014 DTA implemented changes from a "case management" system to a "task-based" system for most DTA clients and a "Call Center" model. This change was part of DTA's Business Process Redesign (BPR). It followed DTA’s implementation of an Electronic Document Management system (scanning and processing documents at a centralized management center in Taunton).

More detailed information from DTA is available in DTA Operations Memo 2014-66.  

Under a task-based system, DTA case workers are assigned to tasks on a rotating basis in three main areas: a) incoming phone calls and phone interviews, b) working with clients in local offices, and c) handling “case maintenance” activities such as updating case information and processing paperwork.  SNAP workers are not assigned to a specific case.  TAFDC and EAEDC cash cases continue to have an assigned cash worker. Note that roughly 15% of DTA cases get cash assistance (TAFDC or EAEDC) plus SNAP--85% of DTA clients only get SNAP. The information below describes the features of this system and some advocacy tips.

DTA has ONE main phone number called the DTA Assistance Line:  1-877-382-2363.

The phone system was updated on April 25, 2016. The menu options have changed. Attached is an IVR "phone tree" with a list of the options that clients can access through the Assistance Line. 

The Assistance Line has an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, which means some of the features are automated without talking to a human being. This part of the phone system is available 24/7, 7 days a week. If clients needs to speak with a real person, the line is staffed with case managers from 8:15 AM to 4:45 PM on regular business days. For both cash and SNAP cases, the Assistance Line options allow DTA clients to: 

  • Hear information about their case 
  • Report a change of client address or a new phone number (only in English/Spanish)
  • Request an “Income Verification Letter” (a DTA letter the client can use to confirm SNAP or cash benefits received). 
  • Get general information about DTA’s programs and request a SNAP application to be mailed out
  • Connect with a Domestic Violence specialist
  • Request an “accommodation” for a person with disabilities or impairments who needs help
  • Reach other DTA offices including the Division of Hearings, Overpayment Unit, etc
  • Be transferred to a local DTA office phone line or an assigned case manager’s phone—for CASH cases only
  • Reach a supervisor or office manager if the client disagrees with the worker.

In order to get specific case information or report a change, the phone line will instruct clients to enter their SSN and year of birth. Once this is provided, the client is told information about their case including:

  • Case status (active, pending, closed)
  • Amount of monthly cash or SNAP benefits
  • Current EBT card balance
  • Next payment date for benefits
  • The date DTA last received a document from the client (but does not say the document has been looked at or "processed")
  • Next date of recertification (but not interim report, if the household is on simplified reporting)

After this information is shared, the called is told they can press 1 to hear it again, press 2 for an interview, 3 to report a phone number or address change, etc. Clients may be confused becuase none of the options clearly state how to get to a live worker if the information provided did not answer their question. To reach a live worker from this part of the phone line, the client can press 2 for an interview. 

If the information entered does not match a case with that SSN and year of birth, then the IVR will not work and the person will be put in the phone queue to wait to talk with a case manager. Pressing "0" at any point in the IVR system does NOT result in being connected to a person.

NOTE:  Please flag cases of case heads who do not have an SSN to enter into the system. These clients need to contact DTA to use temporary ID number DTA has put on their case - but they may not know this number or be able to remember it. There may also be legal issues for clients who enter a non-SSN number into an SSN field in the IVR or MAP.  Contact an advocate.

What if my client does not speak English? 

This phone system will start up 5 languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese and Vietnamese. If clients speak a different language, they can press "6" in order to be connected with a live case manager who should provide an interpreter (during regular business hours). 

What else should I know about the Assistance Line?

DTA clients also have the option to speak with a DTA supervisor, Assistant Director or Director if they are not satisified with how the worker handled their case. They also have the right to appeal any decision they disagree with. For more information about how to troubleshoot or fix a SNAP case, go to our SNAP Triage webpage. 

Tips for clients and CBOs when calling the DTA Assistance Line:

  • To reach a live DTA worker for clients who do not have or do not know their SSN, we suggest waiting on the line then pressing “9” for help. If you need to reach a worker after entering SSN/year of birth, press “2” for an interview.
  • Most of the time you can press * to repeat options or # to return to the previous menu. There is currently no option to press “0” to skip the menu and reach a person.
  • Ask for the name of the DTA worker you speak with. This could be important if there is an issue down the road.
  • Track if case managers ask for excess verifications or claim they do not have the documents that were sent to EDMC. If you have questions about whether DTA should have asked for something, let us know. 
  • If calling or talking to a First Available Worker does not fix the problem, contact the DTA Ombudsman or a local DTA office manager. See our SNAP triage webpage for more information.
  • Remember that Lifeline (SafeLink, Assurance) cell phone minutes get used up when calling DTA’s Assistance Line - even when calling a Toll Free phone number! If possible, clients with these “free” cell phone plans should try to call from a landline or social service agency line if they have limited minutes. Click here to see the Mass Legal Help web page for more information about Lifeline/Safelink (in English and Spanish). 

Sending documents to the Electronic Document Management Center (EDMC):

The main fax number for DTA Taunton Document Center is 617-887-8765 .  See our Mass Legal Services EDM page for more information about sending documents to DTA.  If you are finding that client documents snail mailed to Taunton are arriving more than two (2) days from when they are mailed at a US Post Office or USPS mail box, please contact an advocate. Some CBOs and clients have reported periodic delays in documents getting to the Taunton EDMC. You may be able to find out when DTA received the last set of documents on the IVR phone system as well. 

Going to DTA office in person:  

Clients should be reassured that if they want to go into a local office, they have a right to do so and should be able to talk with a DTA worker in person at local DTA offices. They also have a right to hand deliver documents at a local DTA office if they do not want to fax/mail documents to Taunton, or if they want DTA to make copies of the documents they have.  Clients should NOT be handed an envelope to mail the documents they bring in person. 

***If you or your clients are having issues with the Assistance Line please share on this Google Form.

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