Widespread terminations, denials, and reductions in benefits can be a sign that the state is using benefits technology, especially when there is no other obvious explanation for the cuts. Technology can also show up in smaller or different ways, such as cuts to only particular groups of recipients, delays in processing applications, or confusing notices. Although it can be hard to get information about and understand the technology being used, there are many ways to successfully fight the cuts—we talk about those here. And keep in mind that fighting these immediate cuts can lead to broader advocacy against the underlying system as you learn how the system works in practice, what its shortcomings are, who is affected, and why the government agency adopted it.
Start with these resources
Right now, the most important thing is making sure that people can access the benefits they need. If you suspect that technology is playing a role in benefits cuts, keep reading.
Appeal and have a hearing
Benefits cuts must come with the option to appeal the cut and have an administrative hearing (sometimes called a “fair hearing”) to prove that the government is wrong. This is the quickest way to formally fight a cut. Hearings involving benefits technology are different from other hearings. Learn how to prepare, attack the decision, increase knowledge for future fights, and build a record for appeal with the Fair Hearing Guide for Attorneys and Fair Hearing Guide for People Getting Benefits.
When fighting cuts, you’ll want to ask the right questions about the benefits technology so you know what steps to take. The Key Questions Guide is a good place to start (and don’t worry if you don’t know the answers to all these questions right away).
The government doesn’t generally explain the benefits technology it uses to the public. You will have to dig for information by searching agency websites, doing discovery in the appeal hearing (or other litigation), or making public records requests through freedom of information (FOI) laws. Look at the Public Records Request Guide for tips on writing a request that will get you the information you want as quickly as possible.
Understand the technology lifecycle
Though it sometimes seems that benefits technology appears out of thin air, the government has a long planning process before using technology to make decisions. Read the Lifecycle Framework to understand the government’s planning process so that you know what to look for in your situation. And, by understanding the lifecycle, you can think about ways to get involved before the technology is used, move fights upstream, and prevent cuts from happening in the first place.
Build a broader strategy
Many advocates face barriers to building strategies around different technologies—for example, not knowing whether a technology is worth trying to fix or if it’s better to get rid of it. We’ve written the Making Sense of Technology Problems Framework to help you figure out what kinds of strategies could be successful in the long term based on your situation.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Technology problems happen all the time, all over the country. Take a look through our Case Study Library to look at real-world examples of technology issues that other advocates have (successfully!) dealt with. You’ll find information on their situations and strategies, as well as contact information if you need to reach out.
Advocates have used litigation to gather more information about benefits tech, prevent problems, and stop harmful cuts. The Case Study Library highlights many of these cases. If you want more information about litigation advocacy, please use our contact form.
Advocate in other ways
There are many ways to fight benefits cuts besides just litigation. We’ve written a few guides, including the Public Participation Advocacy Guide, the Media Advocacy Guide, and the Community Building Advocacy Guide. Each type of involvement is important to build power.
Using the fair hearing process to appeal a denial, a cut to services, or an eligibility termination that involves benefits tech can be an effective tool for attorneys and advocates in helping a client regain their benefits. There are also opportunities in the fair hearing process to help attorneys and advocates build understanding of how benefits determinations are made and the role of technology in this process. This guide goes through the basics of the fair hearing process for public benefits and highlights advocacy opportunities, strategies, and consideration points specific to public benefits technology. It includes suggestions on how to get information about the technology used and how to question whether a decision made by technology was correct.Fair Hearing Guide for Attorneys
This guide will help you start piecing together why and how benefits tech is being used and how it is impacting people.
This guide will help you think through how you can use public records requests to help find out why the state decided to implement a benefits technology system, how they implemented it, and how they are using it.
The Case Study Library concisely describes real examples of technology affecting access to public benefits, and how issues were resolved.
A guide for people have had their benefits denied, reduced, or terminated with public benefits technology used as part of the decision process.