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DSHS filing error may cost state nearly $5 million

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Sep. 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
September 21, 2011 1:19 pm

Some 34,000 recipients of a state cash benefit will receive extra money because someone at the state’s largest agency didn’t file paperwork to make a budget cut official.

The error is likely to cost the state nearly $5 million, said a DSHS spokeswoman, who said the agency is calculating a more precise figure and investigating why the paperwork wasn’t filed for a permanent rule change in Disability Lifeline payments.

Here’s the Associated Press story:

Error causes extra payments to disability program

SEATTLE (AP) — The state Department of Social and Health Services is sending supplemental cash to 34,000 recipients of a disability program after a filing error.

In a letter sent to state officials, the department says it failed to make a budget cut permanent and under law it now has to revert to amounts paid before lawmakers in Olympia cut the program’s cash.

The extra payments ranged from $27 to $69 will be sent to the 34,000 recipients of the Disability Lifeline program for a portion of July and all of August and September.

DSHS spokeswoman Kathy Spears said the department is calculating how much extra money was sent.

The department says it postponed filing the paperwork to make the cuts permanents because of potential additional reductions from Olympia. But the final paperwork was never filed.

Here’s the agency’s memo to legislators:

Disability Lifeline Payment Error Addressed

The Department failed to file a permanent rule extending a mandated reduction to Disability Lifeline grant standards allowed under the emergency rule which expired on July 12, 2011.  The emergency rule had reduced cash grants from $266 to $197.  Normally a permanent rule is filed concurrently with the emergency rule to avoid a lapse in the policy.  However, in this instance the Department did not begin the permanent rule process causing a lapse in the payment reduction.

Over the weekend of September 17 – 18, 2011, the Department’s Automated Client Eligibility System (ACES) recalculated benefits, issued client notices and supplemental payments to approximately 34,000 Disability Lifeline clients.  The supplemental payments range from $27 to $69 per month, per client and are for part of July and all of August and September.  An emergency rule has been filed to establish the grant for October at the lower $197 level.

The Department is reviewing and re-determining eligibility for individuals who applied and were incorrectly denied benefits due to excess income in the last three months (approximately 24 cases).  Medical benefits will be restored, retroactively, for clients determined eligible under the higher grant standard.

The Department is continuing to analyze the caseload and fiscal data to determine the anticipated budget shortfall and will develop an action plan to internally address any identified budget shortfall.

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