food assistance

The new MIBridges! Applying for benefits gets prettier. (And better.)

It's here!  The new MIBridges website is an upgrade worth checking out. [You may want to bookmark michigan.gov/mibridges.] Although there are still a few bugs, if you are eligible for public benefits it is easier to apply and manage your benefits. 

Favorite Features

MIBridges Is Now Smartphone Friendly!

cellphones.jpg

As you can see from the images in this blog post, the new MIBridges is easier on the eyes.  The layout is more open and dynamic with pleasing colors. It is also very easy to use on a phone.  Uploading documents is as easy as taking a photo! 

 

It Is Easy To Upload Documents

When MDHHS needs to verify information, you used to have to wait for a request from the caseworker to upload a document in the old MIBridges.  Sometimes you would have to wait for a letter in the mail and then fax the information to MDHHS.  Now there is a new and improved interface that makes uploading documents a breeze. (Although MDHHS states you can mail your verifications, WHP staff suggests that you NEVER mail anything to MDHHS.  You have no proof that you turned in your documents. Upload or fax, that's the best.)  Now you can upload documents using your smartphone, tablet or laptop anytime and it's easy!  You don't have to wait for a request from the caseworker. 

Now hold onto your hat because after you have uploaded your documents, you can view your documents.  No more uploading documents with no confirmation or way to check if the upload was successful.   EASY and USEFUL.

 

Notifications

The previous MIBridges system allowed you to put in your phone number or email address and you were supposed to get a text or email when there was new information in your account.  You also have this option with the New MIBridges, but it is easier to find the "opt-in" notification, and it works more consistently. 

 

Report Changes

Now you can report changes quickly and easily.  Reporting proof of a new baby, a new job or enrollment in Medicare only takes a few minutes.  You report the change and upload the proof or verification in the same session.  There is no waiting for the caseworker to request a document.  If you know you need to provide proof of employment, pregnancy, change in income or any other changes, you can do it easily.

 

Identity Verification/Proofing

When you create an account or register for an account, you create a user id and password with 3 security questions.  MDHHS added another level of security, identity proofing.  Questions to which only you know the answer are pulled from your credit report to which only you know the answer.  This is a new level of security and will help to keep your information safe.  Keep a record of your new account information because it can be tricky to reset your password.  

 

My Benefits 

When you click My Benefits you can see all benefits for each member of your family.  If you click on an individual, you will see their Medicaid Health Plan if they have one.  

At this writing, this feature does not work 100% of the time, but when it works, it works well.

 

 View Letters 

You can see all the letters you have received for the last year.  In the old MIBridges, you could only see the last 60 days of letters.  Letters are visible the day they are generated.  If you are signed up for Notifications, you will be able to view your letter before it arrives in your mailbox.  

At this writing, this feature does not work 100% of the time, but when it works, it works well.

 

 Case History

When you click on Case History, you can see change reports, applications and renewals that were submitted.  This will help keep track of what you have submitted to DHHS.  It also keeps a record of when you requested a benefit or address update.  This is a handy feature!


The new MIBridges is available in English, Spanish and Arabic!

 

Give the new MIBridges a try!  And, as always, if you run into any trouble, have questions or need assistance, give us a call.  Washtenaw Health Plan - We Help People!  734-544-3030

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Emergency Food Assistance: Did you lose food because of the power outage?

poweroutage

Were you recently affected by the power outage?  There is help if your food was spoiled and had to be thrown away.  

visit a food pantry 

If you lost food during the outage and need food for your family, food pantries can help. Any eligible member of the community can go to a Food Gatherer’s pantry site for food if they are in an emergency and need food immediately. Emergency food resources are intended for those who do not have financial resources for food, and only provide a few days’ worth of food.

Food Gatherers has a great list of food pantries and resources.  Here's a link to their searchable directory.

ACT NOW!

If you currently receive food benefits (sNAP/FAP/Bridge Card), you can apply for extra benefits 

You must visit your local DHHS office BEFORE or ON MONDAY, 03/27/2017 and request a 601 Affidavit.  The 601 Affidavit if printed at the local office and asks you to list the food you lost.  The form is returned to the caseworker and you should receive a notice with about 10 days.  You are eligible for extra assistance up to the amount of your monthly benefit.  If you get $16/month, you will only qualify for $16.  If you have a big family and your benefit is $600, you could qualify for up to $600.  

Your caseworker can request proof that your power was out.  In Washtenaw County, DTE has provided a letter to DHHS listing all the affected zip codes.  Here is a link to the letter.  Here are the zip codes: 48105, 48108, 48109, 48108, 48118, 48130, 48158, 48176, 48189, 48191, 48197 and 48198.  If you are in Wayne County, your DHHS office received a similar letter.  

If you currently do not receive food assistance from DHHS, you can still apply for help. 

lotsafood

If you are not currently receiving food assistance from DHHS, your best bet is to visit a food pantry.  You can apply for assistance from DHHS by filling out an SER application.  SER application in English. SER application in Spanish.  You are eligible for $3 per person per day.  If you have a big family, it might be worth it to fill out the application.  You can also go to the DHHS office and they can assist you with the application. You must apply before or on Monday, 03/27/2017. 

 

Interested in Food Policy?  Check out the Washtenaw County Food Policy Council!  

 

DHHS Policies

Food Benefit Replacement BAM 502

Emergency Services ERM 209 

 

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Medicaid Appeals Part 2: The Hearing Process

"I filed a hearing. Now what happens?"

You disagreed with DHHS and filed a hearing.  Here is a brief explanation of what happens next.  

Call Legal Services to see if you qualify for legal services to represent you. For Washtenaw County, contact Legal Services of South Central Michigan (LSSCM). LSSCM provides provides general civil legal services to low-income and senior citizens of Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Hillsdale, Ingham, Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, Shiawassee, and Washtenaw Counties.  To find help in other Michigan counties or elsewhere, Legal Services has a searchable map.

Then you start the process with the DHHS office. 

The Hearing Process

Phone Call

You may receive a phone call from your caseworker or supervisor. (You also may not receive a phone call.)  The DHHS representative may explain why you were denied and/or try to talk you out of filing a hearing.  They may agree that there is an error and say they will fix the problem.  Sometimes, they say they will fix the decision, you just need to "withdraw the hearing." 

Do not withdraw the hearing unless you agree with DHHS's decision after an explanation from the caseworker or supervisor.  If they agree there is a problem and say they will fix the problem, wait until the DHHS caseworker provides proof they have fixed the problem to withdraw the hearing. When you withdraw a hearing you are agreeing that DHHS has made the right decision and you cannot appeal that decision again. 

Pre-Hearing Conference

DHHS will schedule a Pre-Hearing Conference.  This meeting is a chance for you to explain the reason for your request for hearing, present any documents and see if the dispute can be resolved before the hearing. Typically these meetings are with your caseworker and their supervisor.  If you are correct and DHHS says they are going to correct the decision, do not withdraw the hearing until you have received a new determination letter or case action notice.  You should also confirm the changes have been made.  You may receive a summary in the mail but until you withdraw the hearing or the hearing takes place, your full hearing is still being scheduled.

You do not have to attend a pre-hearing conference, and if you don't attend--or if you attend but no agreement is reached--the appeal continues to a full hearing.

The HEaring

The Hearing is a formal meeting with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You can request that the hearing be in person--otherwise the ALJ may call in. Typically the caseworker and supervisor are in attendance. You are allowed to bring legal representation or a case advocate from a nonprofit, and in some cases Legal Services will be able to represent you. You can also request accommodations, such as a second language or sign language interpreter. Bring documents to support your case. The DHHS staff present their position, and then you will have a chance to present your position. The judge may ask you or DHHS staff additional questions. The ALJ will issue a decision.

The Decision

The ALJ will issue a decision.  You will receive a copy of the decision in the mail.  If your benefits were denied, you can reapply.  If your benefits were reinstated, DHHS should comply with the judge's order in a timely manner. 

 

 

Tips for Hearings from Michigan Legal Help

  • Bring any documents to the hearing you think might be needed to verify your income.
  • If it is difficult or impossible for you to provide certain documents, be prepared to tell the Administrative Law Judge what you have done to try to get the documents that are needed.
  • If you believe you have already provided all of the documents DHHS asked you for, the hearing is your opportunity to tell the ALJ what documents you provided, when you provided them, and how you delivered them to DHHS. Make sure you bring this information with you, along with anything you have that may show you already provided the documents.
  • You are allowed to have a lawyer, friend or other person represent you at the hearing.
  • Be prepared to spend most of the morning or afternoon at the hearing.
  • Arrive at the hearing location 10 or 15 minutes before your hearing is scheduled. Dress neatly, like you would for a job interview.
  • When you get there check in with the desk clerk.
  • You will be sworn in. Answer the ALJ’s questions clearly. Ask questions if you don't understand what is being said.
  • A DHHS employee will also have a chance to speak. When the DHHS worker talks, take notes. Don’t try to interrupt. You will have another chance to speak.
  • The ALJ will wait until everyone has had a turn to speak before making a decision. Or, the ALJ may not make a decision at the hearing. You may have to wait to get the ALJ’s decision by mail. Ask the ALJ questions if you don't understand what the decision is or when you will find out. The hearing is your opportunity to tell the ALJ your side of the story and explain why your benefits shouldn’t be terminated or reduced. 

 

Read Part 1, Medicaid Appeals: How to File a Hearing.

 

Resources:

Legal Services of South Central Michigan

Find Legal Aid anywhere in the United States from Legal Services Corp.

I Need to Appeal DHHS's Denial or Termination of My Benefits self-help online tool from Michigan Legal Help.

Going to Court:  Extra Tips and Forms Toolkit from Michigan Legal Help

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2016-2017 School Year Started. Should Your Kids Get Free and Reduced Price Lunch?

School started!  Over 100,000 public schools and nonprofit private schools offer free breakfasts, lunches, and sometimes even dinners to more than 31 million children! But over 1/3 of the families that are eligible for free and reduced price meals don't take advantage of the programs.

How do you qualify for free and reduced price meals and milk?   If you already get food assistance or cash benefits, you should qualify automatically.  Otherwise, check your income on the chart below.   If your income is within the guidelines, contact your school for a form to fill out. Your child's school may send a form home or you may have to go to the school office to get the form. 

Photo Credit: Tim Lauer. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: Tim Lauer. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Only one application is required per household, and you can sign up at any time during the year. So if someone stops working in November and your income drops, you can apply then.  [Ann Arbor Public Schools parents--the application is now online here. Ypsilanti Community Schools parents--the entire district is qualified for free breakfast and lunch, so no application is needed.] 

2016-2017 School Year Income limits for Free and Reduced Lunch 

2016-2017 School Year Income limits for Free and Reduced Lunch 

In some schools, the free/reduced price lunch enrollment will help you access additional benefits. For instance, in the Ann Arbor and Saline school districts, middle school and high school athletes can have "pay to play" athletic fees waived if they show they are enrolled in the free/reduced price lunch program.

Also, note! Most children who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch are also eligible for either Medicaid or the MIChild Childrens' Health Insurance Program. If you need help with that, call the Washtenaw Health Plan at (734) 544-3030 or get more information here.

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