Department of Human Services

Food Stamp Online  Policy Manual

Complaints, Appeals and Fair Hearings - Procedures




Food Stamp Table of Contents




(1)   Distribution of Appeal for Fair Hearing


(a)   The county office will fax the Appeal for Fair Hearing, to the Director of Intake and Conciliation on the day it is received.  The appellant may mail the form himself if he prefers to do so. 


(b)   Distribution of the Appeal for Fair Hearing, will be as follows:


Director of Intake and Conciliation (in the Division of Appeals) (by fax)

District Program Director                                                                

County Office

Appellant and/or his representative                                                  

Civil Rights/Title VI Coordinator, if discrimination is the issue (by fax)


(2)   Acknowledge of Appeals for Fair Hearing


An acknowledgement letter will be mailed to the appellant and/or their representative.


(3)   Interim Adjustments


While the appeal is pending, the county office will take any needed action on the case as a result of changes in the appellant’s circumstances, changes in agency policies, or to correct an error.  The usual written, advance notice of each change will be sent to the appellant.


(4)   Withdrawal of Appeal


The appellant may withdraw his appeal at any time during the hearing process.  If he is satisfied with an adjustment or an explanation of the reason for the action by local or district staff at any point during the appeal process, he should be given an opportunity to withdraw his appeal.  If he wishes to withdraw, he will be asked to complete Section I of the Withdrawal of Complaint (in Default Library), giving his reasons.  This is to be done in the individual’s own choice of words and handwriting, if at all possible.  If he wishes to withdraw but is not willing to sign this form, the worker can complete it and attach the appellant’s statement.


The DHS office will complete Section II of the Withdrawal of Complaint, giving the reason the appeal is being withdrawn.  The worker must explain any action being taken by the agency, the date, the facts upon which the action was based, and any admissions, stipulations or agreements between the appellant and the agency.  Applicable laws or regulations shall be cited.  If benefits are to be restored, the amount and effective dates shall be included. 


If Withdrawal of Complaint is received first by the DHS office, it shall be mailed on the day it is received, if possible, or on the first working day, if not.  Copies will be distributed to:


Appellant and/or his representative

District Program Director

Director of Intake and Conciliation (by fax)

County Office

Civil Rights/Title VI Coordinator, if discrimination is the issue (by fax)


(5)   Scheduling the Hearing


(a)   The Case Preparation Unit will schedule the hearing and notify the appellant in writing of the date, time and place of the hearing. 


Advance written notice will be provided to all parties to the hearing at least ten days prior to the hearing unless the appellant requests less advance notice in order to expedite the scheduling. 


(b)   The letter to the appellant scheduling the hearing will provide the following information:


1.      Time, date, place, and nature of the hearing.


2.      A statement of the legal authority under which the hearing is held, including a reference to the particular sections of the statutes and rules involved.


3.      A short and plain statement of the matter(s) asserted.  The notice will define the issue(s) and will refer to detailed statements of the matter(s) involved. 


4.      Information about hearing procedures.


5.      The appellant’s option to present his case or to be represented by a lawyer or another authorized person.


6.      The appellant’s right to inspect the files of the agency with respect to the matter under appeal and to copy therefrom.


7.      The appellant’s right to present written evidence and testimonies and to bring witnesses and members of his family to the hearing.


(c)    Copies of the notice of hearing and subsequent correspondence will be sent to the district program director, the Hearing File, the appellant’s representative, if he has one, the Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer, and the Department’s Office of General Counsel if a staff attorney is representing the county office. 


(d)   The hearing will be held at one of the seven hearing sites located across the state.  However, if the appellant is unable to come to the hearing site, the hearing may be held in his home, or another mutually convenient place, or by telephone.


(e)   The Department shall expedite hearing requests from food stamp households such as migrant farm workers who plan to move from the State before the hearing decision would normally be reached.  Hearing requests from these food stamp households shall be processed faster than the others, if necessary, to enable them to receive a decision before they leave the area.


(f)     If the appellant does not appear at the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer will issue an Order of Default/Abandonment, which allows the appellant to establish good cause for his/her failure to appear at the scheduled hearing. 


1.      If the appellant does not respond within 15 days, the Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer will consider the appeal abandoned by the appellant and a Final Order will be entered.


2.      If the appellant does respond timely, the Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer will determine if he/she had good cause for failing to come to the hearing.


3.      If the appellant wishes to continue with the appeal and has good cause for failing to attend the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer will schedule another hearing by Order of Continuance. 


4.      The appellant will be notified that the appeal has been dismissed if the appellant does not have a satisfactory reason for failing to appear for the original, or the rescheduled, hearing.


(6)   Preparation for the Hearing


The Case Preparation Unit has responsibility for a case for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer, and will follow up with the counties to ensure a decision is carried out. 


(a)   Providing Information to the Appellant


The appellant or his representative must be given adequate opportunity to examine all documents and records to be used at the hearing at a reasonable time before the date of the hearing as well as during the hearing. 


The contents of the case, including the application form and documented verifications used by the Department to establish the appellant’s or eligibility and benefit level shall be made available.  However, confidential information, such as names of individuals who have disclosed information about the appellant without his knowledge or the nature or status of pending criminal prosecutions, is protected from release. 


Confidential information that is protected from release and other documents or records which the appellant will not otherwise have an opportunity to contest or challenge shall not be introduced at the hearing or affect the hearing official’s decision. 


If requested by the appellant or his representative, the Department shall provide a free copy of the portions of the case that are relevant to the hearing.


(b)   Evidence


The Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer can only record as evidence that which is formally presented and accepted by him as such.  His conclusions of law and the final decision in the case must be based on the finding of facts from the evidence presented.  Therefore, it is vital that parties to the case are prepared to present evidence which is sufficient in quality and quantity to meet the test of finding of fact. 


(7)   The Hearing


The Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer will conduct the hearing, which will not be open to the public except with the consent of the appellant.  The county office shall be represented by the Case Preparation Unit staff and other Department staff, as indicated by the situation.  District and State Office staff may be included as needed.  Investigative Services will be represented if possible where a special investigation was involved in the action being appealed.  Friends or relatives of the appellant may attend the hearing if the appellant so chooses.  However, the Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer shall have the authority to limit the number of persons in attendance at the hearing if space limitations exist.


(8)   Group Hearings


The Department may respond to a group of individual hearing requests by conducting a single group hearing where the sole issue is a State or Federal law or policy or a change in State or Federal law or policy.


(9)   Appellant’s Rights during the Hearing


         The appellant may not be familiar with the rules of order and it may be necessary to make particular efforts to arrive at the facts of the case in a way that makes the appellant feel most at ease.


         The appellant or his representative has the right to:


(a)     Examine all documents and records used at the hearing;


(b)    Present the case or have it presented by a legal counselor or other person;


(c)     Bring witnesses;


(d)    Advance arguments without undue interference;


(e)     Question or refute any testimony or evidence, including an opportunity to confront and     cross-examine adverse witnesses;


(f)     Submit evidence to establish all pertinent facts and circumstances in the case.


(10)  Maximum Time Limits


The maximum time limit for processing appeals is sixty (60) days for the Food Stamp Program, except when the hearing is delayed because of (a) illness of the appellant, or (b) delay in obtaining medical evidence because of circumstances beyond the control of the appellant or the Department. 


Within sixty (60) days of the receipt of a request for a fair hearing for the Food Stamp Program, the agency shall assure that the hearing is conducted, a decision is reached, and the household and county office are notified of the decision.  This time limit may be extended only if the Food Stamp household has requested a postponement of the scheduled hearing.  In this event, the time limit is extended for as many days as the hearing is postponed, not to exceed thirty (30) days.  (Note:  The time limit cannot be extended if a postponement is necessitated by the agency.)


The time limits specified above apply to the period extending from the date the original request is received by the Department until the date of the decision and the adjustment of the claim.


(11)  Reconsideration


Written notice of the right to petition for reconsideration and/or appeal is to accompany the initial order mailed to the parties.  A petition for appeal from an initial order must be filed with the Commissioner or his/her designated representative within fifteen (15) days after entry of an initial order.  Also, any party may, within fifteen (15) days after entry of an initial order, file a petition for reconsideration with the Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer stating the specific grounds upon which relief is requested.  If an initial order is subject to both a timely petition for reconsideration and appeal, the petition for reconsideration shall be disposed of first, and a new fifteen (15) day period shall start to run upon disposition of the petition for reconsideration. 


(12)  Judicial Review


A person who is aggrieved by a final decision in a fair hearing has the right to request judicial review.  Proceedings for review are instituted by filing a petition for review in a chancery court of Tennessee having jurisdiction and within sixty (60) days after the hearing decision by the Commissioner.


Glossary of Terms


Food Stamp Table of Contents