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What rights do I have when working with agencies that handle public benefits?

There are some basic things that you can expect across all agencies that handle public benefits. These include:

  • The right to appoint an authorized representative who works with the agency on your behalf. Each agency usually has their own form that you must complete to designate an authorized representative.
  • The right to file a grievance or complaint if something is not being handled appropriately. Grievance procedures should be available either online or in their office.
  • The right to appeal a decision. Most final decisions can even be appealed to the court level, however this is only after you have followed the agency’s appeal’s process first.

My application for benefits was denied, do I have the right to appeal the denial?

When you receive the written notice from your county job and family services, it should explain why your application for benefits was denied. If you believe that you are entitled to benefits and the reason for denial is not correct, you can request a state hearing. You will find information on the appeals process included with your denial notice.

Do I have appeal rights if my benefits were reduced or terminated?

Yes. You should receive a written notice that states why your benefits were reduced or terminated. Included with this notice you will also find a document that explains your appeal rights, including how to initiate the process and any important dates.

Can a store refuse to let me use my EBT card?

If the store accepts SNAP, then you have the right to use your SNAP card in that store. If the store does not accept SNAP, then the store can refuse to accept SNAP as a form of payment. It’s also important that you remember only grocery items can be purchased.

I’m homeless; can I still apply for SSI?

Yes. The Social Security Administration’s eligibility rules for SSI do not change for you based on your housing status; they are the same for all youth whether you are in permanent housing or are currently experiencing homelessness. It is important to note that the federal definition of disability is different for youth who is under the age of 18 vs. a youth who is over the age of 18. For the Social Security Administration, the glaring difference between the two age groups is the impact on the ability to function for minors and the impact on the ability to work for youth ages 18 and up. Youth must also be income eligible, be a U.S. citizen or have a qualifying legal status. The SSI Ohio Project is a program specifically designed to help target populations throughout the SSI enrollment process.

As a minor, do I get Social Security benefits if my parents get benefits too? And what if they pass way before they start getting them?

Yes. Minor children can receive benefits if their parents receive Social Security benefits, however, these benefits are payable to the parent or their representative only. If your parent passes away while you are still a minor, you may be entitled to Survivor’s Benefits.

Do I have the right to receive my SSI benefits directly?

If you were receiving SSI benefits as a minor, upon reaching the age of 18, you can request to have your SSI benefits paid directly to you. The Social Security Administration typically requires that you demonstrate the ability to manage your benefits. You will need to apply for the change in payee status by going to your local Social Security Office. If you are under the age of 18, a parent, legal guardian or representative must be identified as the designated SSI benefits payee.

Isn’t it my right to get unemployment benefits?

No. You must have worked enough weeks and earned enough money with a covered employer in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits. In conjunction with other criteria, your eligibility will be determined when you complete your application for unemployment benefits. It is important that, at minimum, you apply for unemployment benefits if you think that you may be eligible and allow the application to process.

Do I have a right to choose my child’s child care provider?

Yes. As long as the selected provider has an opening for your child or children.


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If I’m homeless or don’t have an address, can I still get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP—previously known as “food stamps”)?

Yes. When you identify as homeless, you are not required to verify where you live; but you must identify yourself as homeless. If you are staying in a shelter, you may want to consider bringing a verification letter to your county department of job and family services.

Am I allowed to go to a food pantry as a single person?

Yes. Food pantries do serve single person households and youth headed households. Be sure that you know what documentation to bring. The documents that you usually need are identification, proof of address (if different from the one on your ID) and ID for everyone in the household (insurance cards, letters from school, etc.). You will also sign a statement of income.

If I had Social Security Income (SSI) as a minor, do I still have the right to receive it as an adult?

Maybe. Generally, 30 days before your 18th birthday, you will need to contact your local Social Security Administration office and apply for SSI benefits as an adult. The Social Security Administration will evaluate you to determine if you meet the federal definition of a disabled adult and the extent to which your disability impacts your ability to work and earn income. Be sure to keep all of your documentation and original copies of paperwork that you submit. If you are a young adult preparing to age out of foster care, you can apply for SSI benefits as early as 180 days (6 months) before you exit from foster care.

Do I need a parent or legal guardian’s consent to apply for SSI?

Beginning at age 17 ½ and older, you can apply for SSI benefits on your own and without consent from a parent or legal guardian as long as you are mentally competent, do not have an appointed guardian ad litem and are not living in an institution. If you are younger than 17 ½, you will need the consent of a parent, legal guardian or guardian ad litem to apply for SSI benefits.

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is health insurance that is available to income eligible persons. You must apply for Medicaid in order to receive the benefit. Typically, applications are submitted either to your county Department of Job & Family Services.

Do I have the right to access any medical care option available to me with Medicaid?

No. It is important to understand that medicaid, as a health insurance provider, already has parameters around what is and is not a covered procedure. And while some procedures are covered, they require a series of prior authorization steps that have to be completed before approval. To prevent yourself from incurring medical bills, you will want to check with your medical provider to ensure that they accept Medicaid and that any procedure being done is covered by Medicaid.

My utilities are about to get shut off; who can I call?

You will want to contact your utility provider as soon as you receive the disconnect notice. It is important that you do not wait until the last minute to contact the utility provider. If you are living with someone else who is responsible for paying the bills or their name is on the utility account, you will want to encourage them to contact the utility to try and make arrangements for payment. You may also want to check and see if there are community resources that are able to assist in payment of the bill.

Do I have additional protections from utility shut off if I have a medical condition?

Yes. The utility company can provide you with a medical certification waiver, which you would be required to have your treating physician complete on your behalf. You will want to ask the utility company how they would like they would like to receive the form back. Please note: you must have a qualifying medical condition to to prevent utility shut off.

I can't get medical verification because my doctor's office is closed; doesn’t the utility company have to work with me?

No. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has strict guidelines about when and how utility companies handle disconnect notices, including how far advance notice to give customers.