What can I expect when I visit a DSS office?
Authored By: Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
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You may have an emergency and need assistance with finding shelter, food, turning on utilities and other critical problems and visit a DSS office to apply for assistance.
Or, you may have received a notice to terminate benefits and are visiting DSS to provide papers they requested so that you might maintain your benefits.
What can you expect when as a DSS applicant or recipient when visiting one of their neighborhood office locations?
Expected treatment by DSS workers
You have a right to be treated fairly, regardless of your race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion or handicap. (18 NYCRR 303.1; 06-ADM-05)
If you feel that you clearly are not receiving respectful treatment, you should ask to speak with a supervisor. Additionally, you may file a written complaint (see below).
Expected wait to be seen
You have a right to be seen the same day if you have an immediate need.
If you arrive before DSS closes, you have a right to be prescreened, assessed and provided with immediate needs, if eligible, on the same day. (02-ADM-02, 93 INF-3, Q. 3)
Communicating in your language
You have a right to communicate in your language. DSS is required to provide translation services if no one in the office can discuss your problem in your language with you. (06-ADM-05, 17-INF-14)
Make your primary language known at the beginning of your visit. If no language assistance is provided, ask to speak to a supervisor because DSS may not deny you access if they are unable to provide adequate interpretation services. DSS may allow you to use a relative or friend as an interpreter, but may not require you to bring your own interpreter.
You want to be accompanied by your...
If you are disabled and your disability requires assistance or accompaniment, you have a right to bring your caseworker, care coordinator, social worker, lawyer, family member or friend into any DSS interview. (TASB Ch. 3 p. 2, Appendix O, 16-ADM-08, FSSB Section 4: pp. 21, 25; Appendix N)
If you are told you are not allowed to bring accompaniment, then ask to speak to a supervisor.
You are delivering required documents
To prove you’ve delivered required documents, the best practice is to bring TWO COPIES of each page. Deliver one copy and have one stamped by DSS with the name “DSS”, the date and time of delivery and keep these pages for yourself.
DSS is required to assist you with obtaining documents, and DSS may have to cover the fees for this service depending on your situation. (18 NYCRR 351.5(a))
If you believe your circumstances make you eligible for shelter placement, you have a right to have a decision from DSS in writing the same day you visit. (18 NYCRR 350.3(a), (c); 02-ADM-2; GIS 09 TA/DC033)
If you are told you cannot have a decision the same day, then you should request an expedited fair hearing and go to your local legal services office for assistance.
If you have no identification verification, your application must be processed with letters from personal contacts that know you and can attest to your identity. (03-INF-25, Q. 78)
Your application for benefits
You have a right to a DSS application AND a right to receive a written decision on your application. (18 NYCRR 350.3(a), (c); 18 NYCRR 358-3.3)
Do not accept just a spoken answer that you do not qualify for benefits. A decision in writing may be very important to you if DSS made an error in your eligibility decision.
If given a denial, you may still have ways to dispute the decision
DSS is required to evaluate your needs according to the law. If you receive a written denial from DSS, it does not automatically mean that your case is closed.
If you believe there is a reason DSS is mistaken, you have a right to a “FAIR HEARING” in front of a judge to argue the decision. (18 NYCRR 358-3.1)
Take your written decision to someone familiar with the law for review.
You also have the right to complain to the local County Commissioner for DSS. (18 NYCRR 356.3; 06 ADM-05; 90 INF-53; TASB Ch. 4, pp. 1-4; FSSB, Section 9; pp. 192-194)
Disclaimer: The content on this site is offered only as a public service and does not constitute legal advice. You should contact an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.