For Immediate Release

January 12, 2009

New York, NY – Last year, over 100,000 fair hearings were held in New York State.  However, little is known about their effectiveness and usefulness to citizens.  Dr. Vicki Lens, associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work, will be conducting a study to examine the efficacy of the fair hearing system in New York State.

Fair hearings are used by recipients of public assistance programs to appeal their case to a state administrative law judge.  When welfare officials deny, decrease or discontinue benefits to public assistance, health insurance and food stamp applicants and recipients, these individuals may request fair hearings on such determinations. 

“Fair hearings help insure that government officials are applying the law consistently, fairly and equitably, and as intended by policy makers. A well-run and well-used hearing system instills trust and confidence in both what government does and how it does it,” says Dr. Lens. “They also provide citizens with a forum to reverse any errors on their eligibility to receive public assistance benefits. When mistakes are reversed, it means people receive needed financial benefits and medical care.” 

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the proposed study will conduct field observations, in-depth interviews with administrative law judges and recipients, as well as analyze official written policies and procedures, to examine how hearing officers and agency officials, interact with citizens to resolve bureaucratic disputes within the context of the law and legal processes.  The study’s findings will help policymakers and administrators better design and implement administrative fair hearings, especially those utilized by marginalized and vulnerable populations.

For more information or to interview Dr. Lens, please contact Jeannie Hii at 212-851-2327 or jy2223@columbia.edu.

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