Kicking People While They’re Down: DHS Hearing on Drastic Rauner Rules Changes to Deny Benefits to the Needy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015

CHICAGO-Drastic rules changes the Rauner administration is proposing to tear apart the Illinois social safety net and make it easier to exclude the needy from a wide range of essential benefits, including food stamps, child care and Medicaid, will be the subject of a hearing TODAY at 1 p.m.

The Rauner administration is adding a blizzard of new barriers to access services as well as denying due process to the very poor in ways that conflict with existing statutes, regulations and court cases—not to mention Rauner’s own public statements that he is committed to preserving benefits for the vulnerable.

Among the changes, the state would alter the entire premise for Illinois social services and place the burden of proof for aid on those who need help the most—a drastic departure from current conditions—and would move hearings when benefits are denied far away from access points for the poor.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois member leader, Roshoundria Leach, a home healthcare worker in the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), testified in opposition to the rule changes by Gov. Rauner and the Department of Human Services.

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Roshoundria Leach_DORS_worker_testifying_DHS_Gov_Rauner_hearing_to_deny_care_Chicago_08_26_15_CROPMy name is Roshundria Leach.

I have worked as a home healthcare care provider for eight years.

I am also a proud union member of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, an organization that represents over 92,000 home care, nursing home, health systems workers and child care providers.

I appreciate the opportunity to express my strong opposition to the proposed rule changes by the Illinois Department of Human Services, especially with respect to the Home Services Program which I’m a part of.

Along with my fellow home care workers we officially endorse the comments filed by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and the Illinois legal services programs about the new DHS rule changes.

As a home care provider I support my own father, a retired police officer who served for over 17-years.

My father had one of his lungs removed during surgery four years ago when he was suffering from cancer. And he uses a wheelchair now to get around due to a severe back injury.

I am here as an advocate for him, my community of fellow home care workers and those who live with disabilities.

I see firsthand the difficulty of those who have to fight for their own care and access to vital services – not to mention the most basic tasks that many of us take for granted, like being able to feed, dress, and bathe, and the freedom of mobility.

These new proposed rule changes by DHS to limit and restrict both the notices to those who will be denied care; and to make the appeals process harder for low-income people and families to navigate, are simply unfair and unjustified.

Let’s be crystal clear: these rule changes are designed to make life more difficult and to prevent people from appealing to the State when they are denied vital services.

These changes will be felt by those who are most vulnerable and those who are in most need of support – whether the need is home care assistance, food stamps, or child care.

Three of the worst examples that demonstrate these barriers, especially for those in the Home Services Program, include:

1)      The burden of proof is placed on the program participants;

2)      Hearings will be moved far away from participants and difficult to access;

3)      And the difficulty in securing continued benefits while the appeals process is pending.

The main reasons why we oppose these rule changes include:

1) It is not right to expect consumers to be able to effectively navigate the maze of processes and procedures to appeal DHS’ decision to deny or reject care.

2) It is not fair to move hearings for appeals far away from consumers and that place a huge burden on them to travel to either Chicago or Decatur to appeal their termination in the Home Services Program. Let me emphasize as well that adults with disabilities face major obstacles with respect to transportation. These challenges create even further barriers to accessing healthcare and vital services.

3) Previously, a consumer had 30-days to continue getting vital services while they appealed their termination in the HSP program. But these new rule changes slash this timeframe to only 10 days.

As other advocacy organizations have stated about these rule changes, what has become clear is the necessity to make notices and the process for appealing the denial of services much simpler for clients – not harder.

DHS needs to make this process work better for those with disabilities, and create a system that is more streamlined and more effective.

And it is my personal belief – after seeing those who live with disabilities up close — that DHS should place its emphasis, focus and presumption towards granting vital services, especially for home care – and not in denying or taking services away.
But I have some questions of my own for the Rauner administration.

  • As a home care worker in the Department of Rehabilitative Services, why exactly, is the Illinois Department of Human Services instituting a series of hurdles in order to deny vital services and home care assistance to adults with disabilities?
  • I would like to hear, in plain English, the rational basis, and what objectives are being meant, to implement these new rules?
  • Please tell me, as a home care worker, as a taxpayer of Illinois, why these changes? And why now?

It appears to me that these new changes, especially for the Home Services Program, are a bureaucratic process to deny, defer, and delay services for low-income individuals and families who need support.

I wish I was testifying about why we must protect and expand vital programs — like the Home Services Program that gives adults with disabilities a sense of independence, privacy, decency, self-respect, and choice for their own care.

But instead, home care workers and fellow advocates are tasked with explaining how these hurdles will impact those with disabilities, and defending vital programs.

It is true that my father should hopefully not have to deal with being denied access to the Home Services Program because his health condition is so severe.

But what would happen if his case wasn’t as “severe”?

My father could just as easily be thrown off the HSP program – and we would have to navigate the extreme bureaucratic maze to fight for an appeal.

Imagine those individuals and families who don’t have those supports, or resources to fight for an appeal for either the Home Services Program, or child care, or food stamps?

That’s why I am lending my voice to this cause to stop this injustice.

For all these reasons, I urge Gov. Rauner’s administration, and the Illinois Department of Human Services, to stop its proposed rule changes and instead invest its time and energy into passing a state budget that protects and actually expands vital services for working families.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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