We are writing to give you more updates of PROGRESS being made in Massachusetts! Some of this is "in the weeds" - but since many of you ask about or follow this stuff so, here goes:
1. BEACON System Improvements for SNAP Applications and Interim Reporting:
At the end of August DTA made many updates to their computer system, BEACON. We wanted to share with you some of the biggest changes that will impact your clients and your advocacy.
- Interim report processing: SNAP clients on Semi Annual Reporting (also called "interim" or annual reporting) need to complete an interim report after 6 months. In the past workers had to manually review those reports in order to keep the SNAP benefits going. Now, if the interim report includes NO changes in the household --e.g if the client checks off "no change" for all information-- the DTA Electronic Document Center (EDMC) will be linked to the case and SNAP will automatically continue. A DTA case manager will not need to review the "no change" Interim Report for SNAP to continue. The case will be sent to a DTA worker for review if a change is reported or if there is an outstanding match in the case. Important, clients who have changes DO need to report them (e.g. change in income, in household size, in address - so be sure your clients DO report changes when they happen!) This process will reduce the number of documents DTA workers need to look at so they have time for the interim reports that do have changes.
- Online or Virtual Gateway SNAP Applications: In the past, DTA workers had to manually "pull down" SNAP applications filed online through the Virtual Gateway. This required DTA staff to go into the Gateway system and retrieve the online application so they could work on the case. Following the "modernization" changes that started last October, many SNAP outreach partners and individual households reported that SNAP applications filed through the Virtual Gateway were "disappearing" or getting worked on weeks after they were filed. DTA has changed this process so that online applications are automatically pulled down and put into BEACON. After an online application is submitted, it will automatically go into the pool of applications for a worker to review. Also, a letter will automatically go out to clients that their application has been received. This substantially simplifies the online applications and should decrease the issues processing online applications. Please let us know if you see any problems with Virtual Gateway applications.
- Bay State CAP updates: The SNAP Elder Working Group has raised issues surrounding Bay State CAP cases (elder and disabled SSI recipients who automatically apply for SNAP through SSA). Many problems in this area are now being addressed by DTA. For example, if a Bay State CAP recertification is filled out, signed and sent to the DTA EDMC, the SNAP will be automatically re-certified (no DTA interview or verifications are required). DTA should continue the SNAP benefits at the SNAP-CAP rate and send an approval notice to the client. If you see any SSI recipients that have gaps in their SNAP or are "decapped" - e.g. do not get continued on Bay State CAP - please let us know.
2. DTA Issues Updated Medical Expense Brochure - in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and Link for Other DTA Forms On Line
Members of the Elder Working Group submitted comments to DTA on the SNAP Medical Expense Brochure. DTA has translated the brochure into three languages so far. You can find the brochures on DTA's website, here. https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-snap-benefits-food-stamps. Scroll down to last set of documents.
In addition, if you are looking for other DTA forms including the fliers describing DTA flier, "Do You Need Help Because of A Disability" (in 9 languages), you can find them on DTA's Online Guide, here: https://eohs.ehs.state.ma.us/DTA/PolicyOnline/olg%20docs/form/toc.html We are hoping DTA will move some of the more commonly used forms (such as the disability help form) to their home web page. Check out this page for more DTA forms, some of which are currently being revised by the "Forms Working Group."
3. Policy Brief - Nurturing Children: Solutions to Alleviate Hardships and Barriers for Families of Children with Special Health Care Needs
Over two million children in the United States under the age of five have special health care needs (SHCN) experiencing chronic physical, developmental, emotional and behavioral conditions that require more health and related services than their peers. This Children's Health Watch policy brief is the first in a two-part series exploring economic hardships faced by families with children with SHCN and relevant policy solutions.