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Applying for Benefits at DTA

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed February, 2019

What if DTA does not let me apply or tells me I would not qualify before I even fill in an application?

Anyone and everyone has the right to file an application. You may not be able to get benefits, but you have the right to apply. Do not take, “No” for an answer. Ask to see a supervisor or the assistant director of the office if they will not let you apply.

Sometimes a woman walks into the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), and a worker tells her that she can not get benefits. The worker tells the woman she should not even bother applying.

Insist on filing an application. The worker may be wrong.

If you have signed and dated an application, and DTA believes you cannot get benefits, they will send you a "denial" notice in writing.

Learn how you can appeal a denial.

What should I do to make sure my application for TAFDC, EAEDC, or SNAP/Food Stamps, goes smoothly?

  • Get a folder to keep all your welfare papers in;
  • Make copies of everything, and keep the copies in your folder;
  • Make a chart to keep in your folder. Every time you talk to someone make a note of:
    • the date you talked to the DTA,
    • who you talked to at the DTA, and
    • what was said.

Sample chart for tracking conversations with DTA

date you talked to DTA who you talked to what happened
6/10/2010 Ann Brown DTA never received some verifications, I will see if I can find them.
6/12/2010 Richard Price Wrote a note asking for what else I could use since it is so difficult and expensive to get my birth certificate from Pennsylvania.


DTA wants so many verifications and papers from me.  Is there anyone who can help me get them?

Getting all the proofs (verifications) that DTA asks for can be hard. You may have to do a lot of running around. If you do not get all the proofs in on time, it may take the DTA more than thirty days to open your case. Keep in touch with your worker. If you are having trouble completing forms or getting proofs, tell your worker. The law says your worker must help you get the proofs if you can not get them yourself. The law also says that DTA has to help you if you cannot get a document because a third party  (like your landlord or past employer) is not cooperating.

How does the application process work?

  • First apply. Sign and date the application. If you need help go to your local DTA office.
    •  Write in your folder the date you signed your application at DTA. This is important because DTA pays you back to the day that you sign an application.
  • DTA will give you an appointment for an interview within a few days. A DTA worker should ask you within 24 hours if you need immediate help. Tell her if you do.
    • For cash assistance (TAFDC or EAEDC) the interview usually happens at the DTA office.  For Food Stamps, it may happen over the phone. The worker will ask you questions and fill in forms on a computer. The worker will ask you about the father of your child, your income, address, and other details. If you are afraid of the father of your child, tell your worker.
  • After the interview, the worker will give you a written list of "verifications" (proofs) that you need to give to DTA.
    • Examples of "verifications" are birth certificates, bank books, notes from landlords, social security numbers for all family members who will be getting benefits, and proof your children have been vaccinated.
    • If you can’t get the documents that are on the list, ask your worker about other kinds of documents that you can give her instead. Your worker has to let you use other documents to prove the things that you need to prove.
  • If you bring all the required proofs to the DTA office within 22 days of signing your application, you should get your first payment on or before the 30th day.

Tips for applying.

  • If you need more time to get your proofs or documents, ask your worker in writing for an “extension” (more time). Put the date on your note to the worker. Keep a copy of the note in your folder.

  • If a DTA worker asks you to give her something you do not have and cannot easily get, like an expensive copy of a birth certificate from another state, explain in writing why you cannot get what the worker is asking for.   Put the date on your note to the worker. In the note, ask the worker to help you, or ask what other kinds of documents you can give her instead.  Keep a copy of the note in your folder.  

  • DTA is a big place and sometimes loses documents and notes you give them. Always keep a record of what you give them and the date that you give it to them. If you drop off papers in person, ask the receptionist to:

    • make a copy,

    • "date stamp" the copy,

    • give you back the originals.

    • Also ask for a copy of the date-stamped pages.

  • That will be your receipt, and your proof that you dropped off the documents.

  • It helps if you can talk easily with your DTA worker. Start out with a positive attitude. If your worker gives you a hard time or does not follow the rules, ask to speak with your worker's supervisor and explain the problem, or ask for another worker.

Get a a chart you can use to keep track of your calls with DTA.

Find your local DTA office.

Use this Checklist of Verifications to help keep track of the paperwork you need to give to DTA.

How long will it take to get the first payment for TAFDC, EAEDC, or SNAP/Food Stamps?

You have to give DTA all the proofs they need to get any money. If you give them all the proofs, they must pay you within 30 days from the day you applied. Sometimes they start payments before the 30 days are up.

While you are waiting, you can get "immediate needs" met. If you do not have food or clothing, or you need medical care, DTA should help you right away by giving you a voucher, emergency food stamps, and/or a temporary medical insurance card. DTA will subtract the cost of any vouchers that they give you from your first monthly payment.

Who to call for help

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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