An interim report on the 125 boxes of applications found in a disorganized nature in the Department of Social Service’s Hartford office last month, revealed that some dated back to 2009, but that many had actually been processed.
Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick Bremby told Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian that “the review team found that the majority of documents had been processed and completed by the Hartford Regional Office.”
The 125 boxes of applications requesting social services or a renewal for state assistance were discovered by a low-level staffer, who brought it to the attention of the agency outside the traditional chain of command.
“The review team focused special attention on a minority of documents still in envelopes and which appeared to be unprocessed. The review team found a number of partially processed and unprocessed documents among this group,” Bremby said in a letter to Ojakian.
“In addition, the review team is addressing all of the other documents – that is, documents not still in envelopes – to ensure that all are processed. The review team is finding a number of unprocessed documents, including some from as early as 2009.”
There also were a number of documents that were client files and not applications. A more comprehensive review of the documents won’t be completed until next month.
“Work still needs to be done to ensure the maximum possible diligence and customer service measures,” Bremby concluded. “However, the situation with the Hartford Regional Office has been stabilized, with significant changes in the management and operational functions underway.”
The five Department of Social Service staffers involved in the managing the Hartford office, including the former regional administrator, two social service operations managers, and two human resource officers, remain on administrative leave.
In addition to the applications for Medicaid and food stamps there were eight voter registration cards, and a total of 98 people checked off a box requesting help with voter registration.
Bremby said his office is collaborating with the Secretary of the State’s office to determine whether these individuals have, in fact, registered to vote.
“DSS will renew offers of assistance to clients who have not registered,” Bremby added.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill expressed her disappointment shortly after the discovery of the boxes.
“While we await the outcome of this investigation, I can say that it’s very unfortunate if any eligible voter requested assistance with voter registration and did not receive it,” Merrill has said. “This would not be fulfilling their professional mandate under federal law.”
She explained that DSS is one of the agency under the Motor Voter law that is expected to help people who want to register to vote. She has said there could be repercussions for not transmitting the paperwork. It will be up to the state Elections Enforcement Commission to investigate.
The Department of Social Services has already been sued twice this year by its clients for failing to process Medicaid and food stamp applications in a timely manner.
Earlier this month, a federal judge sided with Greater Hartford Legal Aid attorneys who were seeking an injunction against DSS for its failure to process food stamp applications in a timely manner.
U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa Bryant acknowledged the agency’s “ameliorative measures to improve its timeliness rates,“ but said it’s not enough to dismiss the class action lawsuit or block the injunction.
Attorney’s with New Haven Legal Assistance filed a class action against DSS for its failure to process Medicaid applications in a timely manner. A settlement conference in that case will be happening later on this afternoon.