Tuesday, December 5, 2017

CVLS Volunteers Help Keep Food on the Table

Arefa Shakeel, Ropes & Gray LLP

Kendall Scott, Ropes & Gray LLP

Kenneth relies heavily upon his food stamps to make ends meet. Two years ago, Illinois’ Department of Human Services (DHS) conducted an over-the-phone re-certification for his benefits and asked him whether he was receiving any income. Kenneth answered, “no” although he was getting unemployment compensation at the time. He didn’t understand that this state benefit was considered income. DHS later learned of the unemployment benefits and informed Kenneth that a small percentage of his food stamps would be deducted every month until he repaid $590. Kenneth understood and did not contest this because he would still have enough to eat. Kenneth felt he was safe.

However, three months later, citing fraud, DHS completely suspended his food stamps for a year. Although DHS had never established that his reporting error was intentional, they refused to reconsider. Kenneth tried to remedy the issue on his own, but eventually he filed a pro se complaint for judicial review. Luckily, the judge sent him to CVLS through the Access to Justice Program.

Arefa Shakeel and Kendall Scott of Ropes & Gray represented Kenneth, arguing that his response did not arise to fraud. The Chancery Court agreed and reversed DHS’s termination. Arefa and Kendall continue to help Kenneth, to ensure that his withheld benefits are restored. Well done Arefa and Kendall!