1. I have a disability and cannot work full-time. Can I get cash assistance for myself and my children?
YES. If you are low income and meet the other welfare rules, you and your children are likely eligible for TAFDC (welfare). You do not have to be a disabled parent to qualify for TAFDC, but if you are, your family is exempt from the TAFDC 24 month time limit, the work rules and grantcut. If you are getting TAFDC now, you can still ask for a disability exemption at any time. If you are approved as disabled, your 24 month clock and work rule obligations stop. To be disabled under the TAFDC rules you must either receive SSI or Social Security disability recipient, or have a physical or mental impairment that lasts at least 30 days and substantially reduces or eliminates your ability to support yourself. For example, you may be disabled if you suffer from migraine headaches, asthma, cancer, severe arthritis, back pain. You may also be disabled if you suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders. If have a physical or mental impairment, or combination of impairments, that make it hard for you to work regularly and full-time, you should ask for a disability exemption.
2. How do I show I am disabled?
DTA will first give you a "Disability Supplement" to fill out (see question 3). DTA sends the completed Supplement to the Disability Evaluation Service (DES) at U. Mass Medical. DES will then contact your doctors directly for medical information, or they may set up a consultative exam for you to attend. You are not required to chase down medical reports or tests from your doctors, but it may help your case if you can. If you need to have a specialist evaluate your disability, be sure to say this on the Supplement. If DES does schedule you for a consultative exam, it is very important you attend unless you havea really good reason not to. After getting all you medical information, DES reviews your case and makes a decision about your disability.
3. What is the Disability Supplement?
The Disability Supplement is a form DTA should give you whenever you indicate you have a disability. You can get the form when you first apply, or whenever you request an exemption. YOU, not your doctor, must fill out this form. The Supplement asks for personal information about your age, health, education and work experience. Be sure to list all your physical or mental health problems, and all of the health care professionals who have treated you. Be sure to describe if you have pain, unusual fatigue, your medications, treatment and any side effects. If you have a medical condition that has not been diagnosed or treated, write this on the Disability Supplement and ask your DTA worker for help to see a doctor. Include as much information as you can about how your health problems affect your ability to do things that you used to do. You can complete the Disability Supplement at the DTA local office with the help of a DES Disability Assistant, or you can take it with youand have a friend or advocate help you fill it out. If you do not speak The form is available in English and Spanish, but you can also get an interpreter to help you fill it out. Ask your DTA worker about interpreter services.
4. My family has already used up our 24 months of welfare. Can I reapply for TAFDC and ask for an exemption?
Yes. You have the right to reapply for TAFDC at any time, even if you have used up 24 months of benefits. When you reapply, tell theDTA worker you are seeking an exemption from the time limit. Be sure to get the Disability Supplement form. Contact your local Legal Services office if you are denied the right to reapply or denied an exemption.
5. DTA denied my request for an exemption, but sometimes I need to stay home from work when I am sick. Will DTA cut off my benefits for not cooperating with work or community service?
DTA must allow you to show you have “good cause” for not cooperating with the work rules. If you are a family that must work or do community service for your benefits, you can still claim good cause if you need tostay home because you or your child is sick. Be sure to tell your worker as well as your community service employer why your cannot come to work. As long as you notify your DTA worker, DTA should not cut your TAFDC benefits (or “sanction” your case). If DTA denies your claim of good cause, you can appeal.
6. I have been denied an exemption. What should I do?
You have the right to ask for a fair hearing. For example, if your treating physician says you are disabled, but DES says you are not, they may have been wrong in denying your disability. DES may also have wrongfully denied your disability if they failed to pursue all your medical records, schedule an exam or provide you with translations or interpreters. If you received a notice denying your disability exemption or that your TAFDC will be cut off, contact your local Legal Services office immediately. You can also fill out the back and ask for a fair hearing. It's best to contact Legal Services, but if there is not enough time be sure to file for a hearing immediately. IMPORTANT: If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can also ask for a domestic violence waiver, whether or not DES thinks you are disabled under the TAFDC disability rules. Ask your DTA worker to arrange for you to speak with a Domestic Violence specialist immediately.Free legal services may be available to give you more advice or representation. Call your local Legal Services program in your community to find out how they can help.