12/16/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: Bright Spot - Bureau of Hearings Team

Good Morning IDHS Team,

Each of us at IDHS strive to ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors receive services to ensure that every resident in Illinois can achieve self-sufficiency, independence, and health to the maximum extent possible. There are times when, despite our best efforts, some of our customers feel that they have not received the help or services that they need, or they feel as though their needs are not being met or heard. In those instances, these individuals turn to the Bureau of Hearings for a fair hearing regarding any issue that they have with their benefits or applications.

In today's Bright Spot, I would like to highlight the tremendous work being done by the team at the Bureau of Hearings (BOH). With fewer than 35 staff members, BOH provides due process through fair hearings for IDHS applicants and recipients, statewide. Due process requires proper notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard, and the team at BOH takes that requirement to heart. They work with the understanding that each appeal filing is more than another number: it is a fellow Illinoisan, it is a member of our community, it is a neighbor asking for help. This is why BOH staff takes each appeal one at a time, and it is why appeals, appropriately, take time from the other work that we have to do. While every situation is different and unique, fair hearings are a Constitutional requirement which allows the most vulnerable members of our population a meaningful chance to be heard regarding the services that we provide them.

Historically, the Bureau received around 2,000 appeal filings per month; however, since 2018, that number has more than doubled, and BOH now receives over 4,200 appeal filings each month. Over 80% of these filings are regarding issues related to SNAP and Medical benefits. Staying on top of this work was difficult before the pandemic. To compound the existing challenges for the Bureau, at the onset of the pandemic, BOH received over 7,000 appeal filings in one month. Despite this and the new challenges of an all-telephonic hearing process due to the pandemic, the team at BOH continues to ensure that every appellant has the opportunity to be heard in a meaningful manner, and with the invaluable help of the staff at local offices and of management across IDHS's Divisions, BOH has been able to close out a significant number of these appeals.

Thank you to the entire team at BOH, and to staff from throughout IDHS that continue to work with BOH to ensure that every appellant is given a meaningful opportunity to be heard.

Thank you,


Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS