DSS Staff on Leave After Forms Found

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Five employees of the state Department of Social Services have been placed on administrative leave after several boxes of welfare and voter registration request forms went unprocessed. (Published Tuesday, Nov 27, 2012)

    Five employees of the state Department of Social Services have been placed on administrative leave after several boxes of welfare and voter registration request forms went unprocessed.

    The Troubleshooters have learned the unprocessed forms were discovered in the DSS's Hartford regional office. 

    According to a memo sent by DSS commissioner Roderick Bremby to Governor Malloy, three managerial and two human resources workers are now under investigation.  Included is the office's former regional administrator, who was notified of relief of management responsibilities, effective November 15.

    Bremby called the findings "disturbing" and says there may be possible broader operational reorganization.

    According to a spokesperson, Malloy agrees with Bremby that this situation demands strong, corrective action.

    DSS administers over one-third of the state budget and serves more than 700,000 people.  Those who count on the Hartford regional office for assistance said problems and delays receiving service have been common.

    "Information and a lot of time mail is lost so you have to keep on going back and waiting for your benefits," said Junior Blake of Hartford.

    Others said lines at the office move slow.

    "Sometimes you just can't get the help while you're right there," said Laquisha Pugh of Hartford.

    DSS is also facing two major lawsuits from Legal Aid.

    One suit filed by New Haven Legal Assistance alleges 55 percent of Medicaid applications were not processed within the 45 day deadline set by federal law.  A class action lawsuit filed by Greater Hartford Legal Aid alleges within DSS there is "persistent failure or refusal of the defendant DSS commissioner to ensure the processing of food stamp applications in a timely manner."

    "The basic dysfunction of the agency is widespread and it's been brewing for quite some time," said Greg Bass, who serves as the litigation director for Greater Hartford Legal Aid.

    Federal law says applications for food stamps must be completed within 30 days.  According to the complaint, in 2010 more than 40 percent of food stamp applications were delayed beyond that deadline.

    "It's delaying the receipt of food stamps so the people who are eligible for food stamps are having trouble putting food on the table for their households," Bass said.