Your rights at DTA if you have a disability or illness

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Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

You do not have to tell the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) if you, or someone in your family, has a disability or serious health problem.

But if you or a family member does have a disability or serious health problem, there are some special rules that can help you with your DTA benefits.

  • You may be able to get extra help dealing with DTA rules. This is called an accommodation.
  • You may be excused from the TAFDC time limit, work requirement and other rules.
  • If you get SNAP and a disability benefit, or are 60 or older, telling DTA about medical expenses may increase your SNAP.
  • If you are a single adult and have a health condition that prevents you from being able to work for 60 days, you may be able to get cash assistance through the EAEDC program.

You will need to tell DTA about the disability or illness for DTA to apply these rules.

What if I cannot do something DTA wants me to do because of my health, like go to appointments or fill out forms?

There is a law called the “Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The law says that DTA has to give you a “reasonable accommodation” for serious health problems that can be called disabilities. This means that DTA may have to give you extra help to meet DTA rules, or change what DTA asks you to do.

Every DTA office has a Client Assistance Coordinator (CAC) to help with your disability related needs. You can talk about what you need either with your DTA worker or with a CAC. See this list of CACs in each local office in DTA’s CAC brochure.

You can also call the DTA Assistance Line at 877-382-2363. There is an option to talk to someone about accommodations. That will connect you to a CAC.

What kinds of health problems are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

You have rights under this law if you have any kind of health problem that makes it hard for you to do something basic and important – like work, learn, or get around.

The health problem can be physical, like diabetes, asthma, or migraine headaches. Or it can be mental or emotional, like depression, anxiety, PTSD, or ADHD. It can also be a learning disability.

What are examples of accommodations?

Some common types of accommodations include:

  • DTA can read notices to you and explain what they mean.
  • DTA can help you fill out forms.
  • DTA can help you get any documents they need. They may need you to sign a release to get documents for you.
  • DTA can call you to remind you when a deadline is coming.
  • DTA can send you notices with a larger print size.
  • DTA can use “auxiliary aids” like sign language interpreters, CART, Mass Relay, and visual aids when communicating with you. 
  • DTA can make sure meetings happen in a quiet place or with good lighting.
  • DTA can schedule appointments at a time of day that works for you.
  • If you prefer in-person appointments, DTA can meet with you at the DTA office instead of talking on the phone.

These are just examples. You can ask DTA or the CAC for other things that you need. Contact your local Legal Services office if DTA does not help you with an accommodation.

Do I have to give medical documentation to get help or an accommodation?

No. Telling DTA is enough.

Learn more at about asking for an accommodation in Question 25 of the TAFDC Advocacy Guide.

How do I tell DTA about the disability or serious health problem?

DTA must ask you if you have a disability that makes it hard to do things DTA asks you to do. They have to ask when you apply for benefits or have an interview to review your eligibility.

You can also tell DTA at any time if you need help or an accommodation. DTA should find a way to help you. You should not lose benefits if you cannot do something because of a health problem.

What if I cannot work because I have a disability?

TAFDC cash benefits

If you get TAFDC cash benefits, DTA may tell you that you have to meet work rules and be under the TAFDC Time limit. If you cannot work full time because of a physical or mental health problem, you can apply to be “exempt” from having to meet the rules.

DTA is currently allowing people to be exempt due to disability if they tell DTA they have a health issue that will last more than 90 days. At some point in the future, DTA will start asking for more documentation.

If you have a health problem that will last less than 90 days, DTA can excuse you from the work requirement and other rules temporarily. This is called “good cause.”

EAEDC cash benefits

If you are an adult without minor children, and you cannot work due to a disability that is expected to last 60 days, you can get cash assistance through the EAEDC program. Your medical provider will have to fill out a DTA form.

SNAP food benefits

If you get SNAP and do not have children, DTA may say you need to meet SNAP work rules. But, you are exempt from the SNAP work rules if you have a disability. Make sure you tell DTA if you cannot meet work rules. See Question 56 of the SNAP Advocacy Guide. 

Also, you may be able to get extra SNAP benefits if you have medical expenses and get a disability benefit or are 60 or older. Learn how at: Tell DTA about medical expenses to boost SNAP.

What if I cannot work because my child or my spouse has a disability?

If you get TAFDC cash benefits and your child, spouse, or the child’s other parent who lives in the home has a health problem that makes it hard for you to work full time, you can ask to be excused from the TAFDC time limits and work requirements. This is called a “caretaker exemption.” Your family member’s medical provider will need to fill out a form. Ask your worker for a caretaker exemption. See TAFDC and taking care of a disabled family member for more information about how to do this.

What if my or my family member’s health problem is temporary?

If you can’t do something DTA asks you to do, like go to an appointment or work for a certain number of hours, because you or a family member is sick, you can ask for “good cause.” Having good cause means you will be excused for not doing what DTA asked you to do for right now.

DTA wants to ask me questions about learning disabilities for TAFDC. Do I have to answer the questions?

DTA may ask you if you want a “learning disabilities screening.” If you say that you do, they will ask you questions about whether you have trouble reading, doing math, or doing certain other things. The reason for these questions is to help you connect with an appropriate education, training, or job search program for your needs.

You do not have to answer these questions if you do not want to.

If you want help deciding whether or not to answer the questions, your local legal services office might be able to give you advice.

If your answers show that you might learn differently, DTA will give you the chance to get tested for free by a psychologist. If you decide to do this testing, you may find out information that will help you learn better. You may also get the chance to go to training programs or GED classes with teachers who can help you learn more easily.

What if DTA will not help me?

You can file an appeal of a DTA decision that you disagree with. Even before the appeal, you can contact your local legal services office.


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