ACLU Indiana Wins State Supreme Court Ruling For Hoosiers Denied Welfare Benefits

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
March 22, 2012 12:00 am

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Indianapolis – In 2008, a 2 year-old from Muncie, Ind. who suffered a rare neurological syndrome was one of hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers denied Medicaid because of an onerous state welfare policy. Today, the Indiana Supreme Court handed a victory to his family and to every other Hoosier who receives such benefits.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana won the class-action lawsuit that will result in changes to the intake process used by Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration for applicants and recipients of Medicaid, Food Stamp, TANF and Hoosier Healthwise benefits.

Prior to today’s decision, FSSA routinely denied benefits to program applicants, and terminated benefits to Hoosiers already enrolled, without providing adequate information, explanation or assistance. FSSA mailed applicants and recipients denial letters-sometimes to the wrong addresses-saying they had “failed to cooperate” with a process that involved submitting as many as 20-30 documents to verify eligibility to participate, including bank statements, identification cards and utility bills. If even one of the requested documents was missing, FSSA would reject the application.

The Indiana Supreme Court said, however, that FSSA’s failure to specify which documents it believed were not received violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The state’s fundamental obligation to inform benefit applicants of the specific reasons for denying claims has been established for more than 40 years,” said ACLU of Indiana staff attorney Gavin M. Rose. “We are exceedingly pleased with the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling to provide for the neediest among us where the state had voluntarily failed to do so.”

Gilbert Holmes, ACLU of Indiana Executive Director, said the case is an important victory for the disenfranchised, because it re-establishes long-recognized due process rights: “The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed that constitutional rights will not be denied to Hoosiers, particularly those who are disabled.”

The decision in Sheila Perdue, et al. v. Michael A. Garano, et al. was issued by the Indiana Supreme Court under Cause No. 49S02-1107-PL-4337.

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