Applying for Benefits at DTA

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated May 2010

What if DTA does not let me apply or tells me I would not qualify before I even fill in an application?

Sometimes a woman walks into the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), and a worker tells her that she can not get benefits. The worker tells the woman she should not even bother applying.

Insist on filing an application. The worker may be wrong. Anyone and everyone has the right to file an application. You may not be able to get benefits, but you have the right to apply. Do not take, “No” for an answer. Ask to see a supervisor or the assistant director of the office if you need to.

If you have signed and dated an application, and DTA believes you cannot get benefits, they will send you a "denial" notice in writing. You can appeal denials.

What should I do to make sure my application for TAFDC, EAEDC, SNAP/Food Stamps, or Emergency Assistance goes smoothly?

  • It is important to get a folder to keep all your welfare papers in;
  • Make copies of everything, and keep the copies in your folder;
  • Make a chart to keep in your folder. Every time you talk to someone make a note of:
    • the date you talked to the DTA,
    • who you talked to at the DTA, and
    • what was said.

Sample chart for tracking conversations with DTA

date you talked to DTA who you talked to what happened
6/10/2010 Ann Brown DTA never received some verifications, I will see if I can find them.
6/12/2010 Richard Price Wrote a note asking for what else I could use since it is so difficult and expensive to get my birth certificate from Pennsylvania.

Getting all the proofs (verifications) that DTA asks for can be hard. You may have to do a lot of running around. If you don't get all the proofs in on time, it may take the DTA more than thirty days to open your case. Keep in touch with your worker. If you are having trouble completing forms or getting proofs, tell your worker. The law says your worker must help you get the proofs if you can not get them yourself. The law also says that DTA has to help you if you cannot get a document because a third party  (like your landlord or past employer) is not cooperating.

This is how the application process works:

  • Go to your local DTA office and ask for help. You will have to sign and date an application. Write in your folder the date you signed your application at DTA. This is important because DTA pays you back to the day that you sign an application. You will be given an appointment to return for an interview. A DTA worker should ask you within 24 hours if you need immediate help. Tell her if you do.
  • Within a few days, you have an interview with a worker. For cash assistance (TAFDC or EAEDC) and Emergency Assistance shelter, the interview usually happens at the DTA office.  For Food Stamps, it may happen over the phone. The worker will ask you questions and fill in forms on a computer. The worker will ask you about the father of your child, your income, address, and other details. If you are afraid of the father of your child, tell your worker.
  • After the interview, the worker will give you a written list of "verifications" (proofs) that you need to bring in. (See Checklist of Verifications) Examples of "verifications" are birth certificates, bank books, notes from landlords, social security numbers for all family members who will be getting benefits, and proof your children have been vaccinated. If you can’t get the documents that are on the list, ask your worker about other kinds of documents that you can give her instead. Your worker has to let you use other documents to prove the things that you need to prove.
  • If you bring all the required proofs to the DTA office within 22 days of signing your application, you should get your first payment on or before the 30th day.

Some tips for making the process go smoothly

  • If you need more time to get the documents together, ask your worker in writing for an “extension” (more time). Put the date on your note to the worker. Keep a copy of the note in your folder.
  • If a worker at DTA asks you to give her something you don't have and cannot easily get (for example, an expensive copy of a birth certificate from another state), write a note, put the date on it and explain why you cannot get what the worker is asking for. In the note, ask the worker to help you, or ask what other kinds of documents you can give her instead (there are many!). Keep a copy of this letter for your records.
  • DTA is a big place and sometimes loses documents and notes you give them. Always keep a record of what you give them and the date that you give it to them. If you drop off papers in person, ask the receptionist to make a copy, "date stamp" the copy, and give you back the originals. Also ask for a copy of the date-stamped pages. That will be your receipt, and your proof that you dropped off the documents.

It helps if you can talk easily with your DTA worker. Start out with a positive attitude. If your worker gives you a hard time or does not follow the rules, you can ask to speak with your worker's supervisor and explain the problem, or ask for another worker.

How long will it take to get the first payment for TAFDC, EAEDC, or SNAP/Food Stamps?

You have to give DTA all the proofs they need. If you give them all the proofs, they have to start paying you within 30 days from the day you applied. Sometimes they start payments before the 30 days are up.

While you are waiting, you can get "immediate needs" met. If you do not have food or clothing, or you need medical care, DTA should help you right away by giving you a voucher, emergency food stamps, and/or a temporary medical insurance card. DTA will subtract the cost of any vouchers that they give you from your first monthly payment.

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