What is a TAFDC Domestic Violence Waiver?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last updated February 2019

What is a TAFDC domestic violence waiver?

If you cannot meet a welfare rule because of current or past domestic violence, you can ask for a "domestic violence waiver" of that rule. A "domestic violence waiver" will stop the rule from applying to you. You can get a domestic violence waiver of the welfare time limit, the work requirement, school attendance rules, and other rules. 

Which TAFDC rules can be waived with a domestic violence waiver?

You can get a domestic violence waiver of almost any TAFDC rule. People most commonly get waivers from:

  • the time limit rule,
  • the work requirement rule, or
  • teen school attendance rules

Can I get a domestic violence waiver?

You may be able to get a waiver of a TAFDC rule if you can show that if you had to follow the rule it would:

  • put you or your child at risk of more domestic violence; or
  • make it harder to escape from domestic violence; or
  • make it harder to recover from domestic violence; or
  • have a worse effect on you than it would on someone who has not lived with domestic violence.

For example

Any of the following might be a reason for getting a domestic violence waiver of the work rule, the time limit rule, or the teen school attendance rule:

  • you cannot meet the rule because you need to stay in hiding in order to be safe; or
  • you cannot meet the rule because you need to go to court, medical, counseling or other appointments during work or school hours because of the domestic violence; or
  • you have physical or emotional injuries from the violence and you need time to heal; or
  • you are just not ready to be off welfare because it took you time to heal, or go to school, or get ready to work.

Applying for a Waiver

You can apply for a waiver by:

  • Filling in a form and
  • Gathering proof of the domestic violence and
  • Your situation.

Proof can include a restraining order, police reports, medical records, or a signed statement by someone who knows your situation.

Each DTA office has a Domestic Violence Specialist who can help you get a "domestic violence waiver." You can ask to speak to a Domestic Violence Specialist and complete the form with her.  Or you can bring it home. You do not have to fill out the form in the DTA office if you do not want to.  You can have someone else help you.

If your request for a waiver is denied, you can appeal. 

Get the Waiver Form.

Find a DTA office has a Domestic Violence Specialist

Call your local legal services office for help.

Instead of a waiver you may want to ask for an "exception."

For example, If you cannot meet the work requirment because you are caring for a disabled child, contact the TAFDC DV Unit and ask about an exception.  You can continue to get benefits if you get the exception.

Learn more about "exceptions" in the Income and Benefits section of MassLegalHelp.

Should I apply for an Exception or a Waiver?

Exceptions are quicker to get than waivers. Exceptions also have less paperwork and do not require you to answer as many private questions. So if you qualify for both an exception and a waiver, you probably will want to ask for an exception.

What if DTA denies my waiver request?

If the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) denies your waiver request, you can appeal. Call your local legal services office for help.

I can't work because I have health problems caused by domestic violence. What's the difference between applying for a disability exemption and applying for a domestic violence waiver?

If you have mental or physical health problems that make it hard for you to work, it is usually better to apply for a disability exemption than a domestic violence waiver of the work rule or time limit.

You have the right to a disability exemption if your mental or physical health problems are bad enough. There is a clear checklist that DTA must use to decide if you get the exemption. If you apply for a domestic violence waiver, DTA does not have a clear checklist. If DTA decides not to give you the waiver, it is harder to prove in a hearing that you should get it.
A disability exemption means that both the time limit and the work requirement will stop applying to you. With a domestic violence waiver, DTA might not agree to waive both rules.
If you are not working, your welfare grant will be a little bit higher if you get a disability exemption.

If you apply for a disability exemption, you may have to go to one or more doctor appointments. If you apply for a domestic violence waiver, you do not have to see a doctor.

You may want to talk to an advocate at your local legal services about your case before you decide whether to apply for a disability exemption or a domestic violence waiver of the work rule or time limit. You can also talk to a domestic violence specialist at the welfare office. See below for more information about domestic violence specialists.

Are there other things I should know?

Yes. There are other things that you should know. Learn more about Waivers for Domestic Violence in the TAFDC Advocacy Guide in the Income and Benefits section of MassLegalHelp.  Learn more about TAFDC in the Income and Benefits section of MassLegalHelp. Learn more about TAFDC for survivors of domestic violence in the Domestic Violence section of MassLegalHelp.

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