Court: Indiana can't deny welfare without reason

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The Indiana Supreme Court said Thursday that the state Family and Social Services Administration can't deny Medicaid, food stamps or welfare to people without first doing a better job of telling them why.

The unanimous ruling came in a four-year-old class action lawsuit that challenged the way the outsourcing of the state's welfare system dealt with clients. The system has since been modified, but a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which filed the lawsuit in 2008, said the problem persists.

In a 23-page opinion, the justices said FSSA violated applicants' due process rights when it sent them notices that stated their benefits were denied because they had failed to cooperate without citing a specific reason. The 2008 lawsuit argued that the FSSA sent notices denying or cutting off Medicaid, welfare or food stamps because of missing documents in clients' applications, but never told clients which documents were missing.

In one case, the agency cut off Medicaid to a woman with hearing problems and other disabilities after a telephone interview that she had trouble understanding and refused to meet with her in person. The justices said the agency's treatment of the woman violated federal law including the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The woman had wanted to talk with a caseworker, but the ruling said only that FSSA must accommodate her disability but wasn't obligated to provide a caseworker.

"I think a lot of those issues have likely been resolved by the fact that they did get away from the modernization effort and revamped their offices so there is a little more person-to-person contact," ACLU attorney Gavin Rose said.

The woman whose benefits were cut off sued on behalf of all people who applied for or received public benefits from the FSSA. Rose said that could be as many as a million people.

FSSA spokesman Neal Moore said the agency was reviewing the ruling and had no comment.

The modernization effort involving a team of private vendors began in 2007 and introduced call centers, the Internet and fax machines as means to apply for benefits. It took away specific state caseworkers assigned to each household. But Gov. Mitch Daniels canceled the contract with IBM, the main vendor, in 2009 following problems that included lost documents, lengthy hold times for its call centers and too many errors in processing of food stamps and Medicaid.

After Daniels fired IBM, FSSA took its place as the leader among several subcontractors in the automation project and has gradually introduced a new system, dubbing it "hybrid." The system adds more face-to-face caseworker interaction with clients during the welfare application process.


  • You have no idea what your talking about
    Yeah that right medicaid which is a state program is responsible for national debt. Oh yeah what school did you get your advanced degree in mental health at? Thats what I thought. you do realize people pay into the system for decades and they are being denied right? Fica medicaid social security. My father paid his entire life and when he finally needed it some idiot like you decided nothing was wrong with him and a few months later he died of nothing being wrong with him. I'm in a frigging wheel chair and worked till I crippled myself and had to have 4 surgeries but nothing is wrong with me either. My uncle was told he had nothing wrong with him when he had 12% heart function. I believe this is the biggest rip off scam out there. You are forced to pay for benefits and then when you need them they are denied that way we can bailout wall street and give thieves golden parachutes. Keep blaming people that are crippled and poor for the massive waste at the pentagon such as the military base expansion in edinburgh indiana to support two wars that are over. thats a cool 100 million for empty buildings that will never be used.
  • Seriously?
    Having Bipolar disorder is NOT a disability. My ex husband is bipolar and a functioning, responsible citizen. The government does not owe you a living. It is this sense of entitlement that is destroying our country inside and out. From our national debt to the ridiculous taxes required to pay lazy people to sit on their rear end, our country has managed to dig a financial and moral (the worst of all) hole that we may never be able to climb out of.
    • Medicaid discrimination against residents under 55
      I messed up my last post. I ment to say the the local Medicaid office told my daughter that she couldn't get medicaid because of her age-51. That people in her age bracket fell between the cracks.
      • Discrimination against residents under 55
        My daughte is 51 and Bipolar. The local off in jeffersonville told her she would get help bcause of age. Medicaid screwed up her claims up,sent her a card for pregnancy and ignored the letter from her psychiatrist say she was disabled and can't work. At her hearing they didn't even include the letter-my daughter can them another copy. They violated statute IC12-14-15-1 by not even using that letter to make a decision. The only way the Mentally ill can get help to attempt suicide or hurt or kill someone. Then, will be sent to the psych hospital or prison, costing the State million of dollars which could have been saved by giving the disabled resident mediciad. You say that the mentally ill can use the local mental health facility not if the resident quit's her job during a breakdown. Family health is not taking anymore patients.
      • Privacy
        Not only does this system not work it also invades your privacy by including everyone in the household as a group. When your information is sent out everyone who has held that address or phone number information is included in the letter
      • people lie
        I know someone who applyed in two different states gets it lives with her husband so how do they beat the system,don't have to work for their food stamps,but other people do.i wish i was them so i could do the same thing
      • This wont help
        So I get to know in details why I was denied, sweet more failure!

      • Typical
        The state and the gov and the legislature all have the same attitude. The people do not count. The safety net and middle class do not deserve services. The elimiation of the taxes on the rich will help the state prosper. I am sure IBM is laughing as the company sue us.
      • State Supreme Court Medicaid Ruling
        While Medicaid is no longer privatized, the state has opted for a system that forces callers to speak with whoever in the state answers the phone. Despite numerous errors, no one would give me the number of my local office. People on the phone were rude and condescending. Until I contacted my state senator, I could not get my questions answered. This new system is ridiculous.

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