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PJC Brief Challenges ALJ Remands When Evidence Establishes Applicant’s Eligibility for Benefits

On June 17, 2005, the PJC filed an amici curiae brief with the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland in Smith v. Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  This case challenges to a common practice in which Administrative Law Judges in Maryland resolving disputes over an applicant’s eligibility for public benefits will remand a case back to the administrative agency in question, rather than issuing a final decision on the beneficiary’s eligibility.  The facts of this case concern a beneficiary’s application for disability-related Medicaid benefits, but the same problem arises in other programs such as Temporary Cash Assistance, Food Stamps, and Temporary Disability Assistance. 
Amici argued that this practice of delay not only threatens the health and safety of applicants, but also robs them of their constitutional due process right to a prompt decision on the merits of their eligibility for benefits by an impartial decision-maker.  As the impartial decision-makers in Maryland’s administrative adjudication process, Administrative Law Judges can and must provide decisions on eligibility for benefits.  With regard to the specific facts of this case, the brief presented research about the needs of Marylanders who are eligible for disability-related Medicaid and the deleterious effects of unnecessary delay in the processing of their benefits applications.
The brief was written by PJC staff attorneys Carolyn Johnson and Wendy Hess on behalf of the PJC, , Health Care for the Homeless, Inc., the Maryland Disability Law Center, AARP, the Homeless Persons Representation Project, the Civil Advocacy Clinic of the University of Baltimore School of Law, the Health Education Resource Organization, Inc., NAMI Maryland, and Medicaid Matters! Maryland.

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