Frequently Asked Questions

What notices will I receive from the Appeal Hearings Section?

When an appeal is created, an acknowledgement letter is sent to each party.  Unless the appeal is dismissed by order of the hearing officer, you will also receive a Notice of Hearing.  In most cases, it will be sent at least 14 days prior to the date of hearing.  The Notice of Hearing will advise you of the time, date, and place of the hearing, as well as some basic information and hearing procedures. 


Where will the hearing be held?

The hearing is held by telephonic conference call unless you request a face-to-face hearing.  When face-to-face, the hearing is usually held in a Department office in the county where you reside.  The Notice of Hearing will notify you of the hearing location. 


What if the hearing is scheduled for a time when I am not available?

If you are unable to attend the hearing at the scheduled time, you must immediately request a continuance by contacting the Appeal Hearings Section.  Except for unforeseen emergencies, the request should be made at least five business days prior to the hearing date.


Do I have the right to see information held by the other parties to my case?

You may review your case file for the fair hearing issue before or at the hearing and obtain copies of documents in the file without charge.  If the agency fails to provide requested information, you may contact the hearing officer, who will determine the appropriateness of the request based on the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.  As part of the hearing process, the hearing officer will require the Department to send you all relevant documents prior to the hearing. 


How am I represented at the hearing?

You may represent yourself or be represented by an attorney or another person.  If you want legal representation, you are responsible for your attorney’s fees or arranging for any free legal services available in your community.  If you are not present at the hearing, your representative must have written authorization to represent you.  If you are represented by an attorney, the attorney must file a notice of appearance with the hearing officer and the opposing party. 


How should I prepare for the hearing?

It may be helpful to make a list of all the information relating to your case that you may want the hearing officer to consider.  You will need to submit any documentary evidence to the Appeal Hearings Section, with a copy to the Department, at least seven days prior to the hearing, as indicated on the Acknowledgment of Hearing and Notice of Hearing letters.

Persons with knowledge of your case should be asked to attend the hearing and testify on your behalf.  If you believe it is necessary to ensure that a person attends your hearing, subpoenas may be issued for such individuals.  Subpoenas must be requested in writing from the Appeal Hearings Section.  It is your responsibility to show the subpoenas have been properly served.  If you need the testimony of a person who is an expert, such as a doctor, you may also ask that person to attend the hearing and testify.  The expert may require a fee for their services. 


What will happen at the hearing?

In each case, the hearing officer will decide who will present evidence first and how the hearing will proceed.  This decision will be based on which party is requesting the action and the most practical and orderly way to develop the issue(s).  Before the actual presentation of the evidence begins, the hearing officer will explain the procedures to be followed.  If you are confused about the procedures, you should let the hearing officer know.  You will be allowed to ask procedural questions during the hearing. 

The hearing officer will allow each party to present witnesses and other evidence, and will also permit each party to question the other party’s witnesses.  This is called "cross-examination."  All relevant evidence may be presented; however, the hearing officer cannot base a finding of fact on hearsay alone.  The hearing officer may limit the presentation of evidence if it is repetitive, immaterial, or irrelevant.  Hearings are recorded, so it is important that you speak in an audible, clear voice.

The hearing officer is an impartial, independent person that has not been involved in the action under appeal, and who does not have any personal interest in the outcome of the matter.  The hearing officer will attempt to determine the truth, and understand and fairly evaluate the position of each party.  In doing so, he or she may ask questions of any party or witness at the hearing.


Will I be able to submit information after the hearing?

In some cases, the hearing officer may ask for or permit any of the parties to submit additional documents after the hearing.  If you want to submit a proposed order, you must tell the hearing officer before the close of the record.  The hearing officer will establish a time period to submit the proposed order. 


When will I receive the hearing officer’s decision?

The decision will come in the form of a written Final Order issued to both parties.  The time limits to enter a decision are generally set by federal program requirements, based on the date the state agency received the hearing request.  The limits are:  Food Assistance Program (60 days), Medicaid Program (90 days), and Cash Assistance (90 days).  The time limits may be extended in certain circumstances. 

If the final decision is not in your favor, you may appeal to an appropriate District Court of Appeal within 30 days of the date of the Final Order.  The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure provide the procedures for filing the appeal.  You may also want to contact the court for assistance with its requirements.  The Department (or the agency involved) does not have a right to appeal a decision.


What if I decide not to proceed with my hearing?

If you decide, at any time, that you do not want to proceed with your hearing, you must contact the Appeal Hearings Section and follow up in writing that you are withdrawing the request for hearing.  Once your written withdrawal request is received by the Appeal Hearings Section, the hearing officer will close your hearing file as withdrawn and the agency action will become final and binding. 


What will happen if I do not appear at the hearing?

If you do not appear at the hearing, you must call the hearing officer immediately to explain why.  If you do not contact the hearing officer, the hearing officer may rule in the agency’s favor. 

If an emergency arises on or before your hearing date and you will be late for the hearing, you should attempt to telephone the Appeal Hearings Section and explain the situation.


What if I have a disability that requires an accommodation?

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if you need a special accommodation to participate in the proceeding, you should contact the Appeal Hearings Section no later than seven days prior to the hearing. 


How do I file a complaint of discrimination relating to my Food Assistance benefits?

If your request for hearing is related to your application for/or receipt of Food Assistance benefits in accordance with federal laws and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy, the Department is prohibited from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, disability, political beliefs, or religion. To file a complaint of discrimination write to:  USDA Director, Office of Civil Rights Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, or call (202) 720-5964.