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Chapter 1 - Burial Assistance Program

Introduction 1.1

The Burial Assistance program is designed to provide assistance in paying for burial costs for individuals who die with very few resources and who do not have families who can afford burial costs. The Burial Assistance program has been allocated limited funding and, therefore, will operate on a first-come, first-served basis until available funding has been exhausted.

All applications for Burial Assistance are processed by the Burial Unit at the 645 H Street Service Center.

Legal Authority 1.2

Rights of Applicants and Recipients

D.C. Act 13-180; 29 DCMR 2600-269


Assistance Provided 1.3

Family members who apply for burial assistance on behalf of a deceased person will receive $800 toward the cost of burial or $450 toward the cost of cremation services. This assistance can be used to help pay for a cemetery plot and/or other burial-related costs. This program will only provide assistance in paying for burial-related costs if the burial is handled through one of the funeral homes under contract with the District to participate in this program and the funeral takes place within the Washington Metropolitan area. All payments are made directly to the funeral home. In addition, the total cost of the funeral, including the family contributions, cannot exceed $2,000 (not including the cost of opening and closing the grave), except in the case of a deceased person who requires an oversized casket. The total cost of the burial for a deceased person who requires an oversized casket shall not exceed $3,000.

Program Eligability 1.4

The deceased person must have been a District resident immediately prior to his or her death. In addition, his/her countable resources, when combined with those of any financially responsible relative, must be less than $800.

District residents, who had a prepaid funeral plan, or for whom a pre-paid funeral plan is held, are not eligible for assistance.

District Residency 1.4.1

For the purposes of this program, a resident of the District of Columbia is a person who was living voluntarily and not for a temporary purpose within the District. It includes the following:

  • someone who maintained a home in the District as his/her principal residence;
  • a District of Columbia resident residing in an institution outside the District, including, but not limited to, a hospital or nursing facility, and he or she retains a home or his or her spouse or parent maintains residence in the District;
  • a person, including prisoners, that a District agency placed in a institution located in another state;
  • a migrant worker who lived in the District; or
  • someone who was homeless, physically present in the District, and not a resident of another state.
  • a migrant worker who lived in the District.

Citizenship/Immigration Criteria 1.4.2

There are no immigrant-related restrictions for this program; thus, SSRs should not inquire about the deceased's immigration status, the immigration status of the relative submitting the application, or the immigration status of the legally responsible relatives.

Determining Financial Eligibility 1.4.3

The assets of the deceased and his/her financially responsible relatives should be considered when determining financial eligibility. The financially responsible relatives are:

  • the spouse of the deceased, if they were residing together at the time of death; and
  • the parents of the deceased, if the deceased was a minor child.

Countable assets shall include:

  • financial accounts (savings and checking) of the deceased and his/her financially responsible relatives;
  • Life insurance benefits already received by any financially responsible relatives;
  • Cash available from the deceased and his/her legally responsible relative; and
  • the net monthly earned and unearned income of the deceased person and his/her financially responsible relatives that was received during the thirty (30) day days preceding the application for burial assistance, less the Medicaid Medically Needy Income Level, based on the household's size.

When the financially responsible relative is the parent(s) of the deceased, the household size includes the deceased, his/her parent(s), the minor children of the parent(s), and any other dependents of the parent(s). When the financially responsible relative is the spouse of the deceased, the household size includes the deceased, his/her spouse, the minor children of the spouse, and any other dependents of the spouse.

Example 1

John and Jane Smith are husband and wife who live together. They have no children. John dies on

3/24/04. John was not working at the time of his death. Jane is employe and her net monthly income

is $2000.00.

$2000.00 - Monthly net income received in 30 days preceding death.

- 520.42 - Medically needy income level for h/h of 2

=$1479.58 - Countable Assets

Because the countable assets of Mr. & Mrs. Smith are more than $800, Burial Assistance will be denied.

Example 2

Thomas Jenkins, 17, was living with his mother Mary. Mary Jenkins has 3 surviving minor children and 2 adult children who reside with her. Mary receives $1000.00 monthly from unemployment benefits and one of her adult children receives net income of $3000.00 per month. Since Thomas's adult siblings are not financially resonsible relatives, their income and needs are not considered when determining Thomas' eligibility. The household will consist of Mary, Thomas and Mary's three remaining minor children.

$1000.00 - Mary's net income received in 30 days preceding death.

_- 917.92 - Medically needy income level for h/h of 5

$82.08 - Countable Assets

Because the countable assets of Ms. Jenkins are less than $800, she is eligible for Burial Assistance for Thomas.

The following types of income and assets are not considered:

  • individual retirement accounts;
  • life insurance policies other than benefits already received by a financially responsible relative due to the death of the applicant;
  • trust funds, when not available to the deceased person or his/her financially responsible relative prior to the funeral;
  • vehicles;
  • real property; or
  • any other asset not immediately accessible prior to the funeral.

Processing Applications 1.5

Who May Apply 1.5.1

An applicant for burial assistance must be a relative of the deceased, or a person authorized to act on behalf of the relative of the deceased. IMA would prefer the relative applying be the next-of-kin such as a spouse or a parent if the deceased was a minor child. If the deceased was neither married nor a minor child, the next-of-kin would include parents or siblings. A relative other than the next-of-kin is permitted to apply; however, that relative must have information about the circumstances of the deceased's spouse (if married) or parent (if a minor child) and must have authority to make funeral arrangements on behalf of the deceased.

An authorized representative must be at least eighteen (18) years of age and have sufficient knowledge of the circumstances of the death to provide the required information, or be a person with legal authorization to act on behalf othe applicant. In addition an authorized representative must provide a written statement from the applicant naming him/her as the authorized representative and stating why the applicant cannot attend an interview in person.

The application must be submitted prior to the release of the body to a funeral home, unless the funeral home is under contract to provide Burial Assistance services. If the body of the deceased person is released to a contractual funeral home, the application must be filed prior to receipt of burial or cremation services.

Application Form 1.5.2

To apply, the relative, or his/her authorized representative, must fill out the Burial Assistance Application form. This form requires information about the financial circumstances of the deceased and financially responsible relatives of the deceased — namely, spouses and, in the case of minor children, parents.

Application Interview 1.5.3

In order to process applications as quickly as possible, each applicant shall be interviewed on the date burial assistance is requested or, if that is not possible, on the following business day. The SSR shall provide the applicant with a written request specifying the information needed to complete the application and discuss how to obtain the needed information. The SSR shall not request documentation that they can obtain more easily than the person applying for burial assistnace. This would include information available through agency records, ACEDS interfaces, or collateral contacs with organizations that typically share information with IMA.

The application may not be denied if the applicant is attempting to obtain and furnish the required information, and has informed IMA accordingly. The application is considered complete when all requested information has been furnished.

Time Standard 1.5.4

An eligibility determination must be made within 3 days of receipt of all information. The day on which all information is received counts as the 1st day. (That is, if the SSR has all the needed information on a Monday, the eligibility determination must be made and a notice of denial or approval issued by Wednesday.) If possible, the SSR should attempt to make an eligibility determination when the relative submitting the application provides the final information so that the relative does not have to return to the Service Center to get the forms s/he will need to access the assistance with an undertaker under contract with DHS.

Relatives submitting an application should be encouraged to leave a phone number with the SSR and the SSR should attempt to call the relative when an eligibility determination has been made so the relative does not have to wait until the notice arrives in the mail.

SSRs should make every effort to accommodate families, including expediting cases in which the family is attempting to hold the funeral in less than two days from the date of application.

If all required information has not been submitted within 14 days of the date of application, the application should be considered abandoned and the SSR should send a denial notice to the relative submitting the application.

Notices 1.5.5

A notice of approval or denial must be issued for each application for Burial Assistance. The Authorization for Burial Assistance (see Section 1.5.5: Approved Applications in this Chapter) serves as the application approval notice.

Approved Applications 1.5.6

When an application is approved, the Authorization for Burial Assistance form must be completed. This form documents the funeral home selected by the customer and serves as a "receipt" for the customer to take to the funeral home. The original form must be given to the recipient, a copy kept in the case file, a copy faxed to the selected funeral home, and a copy forwarded from the Burial Unit to the agency's Chief Financial Officer who will provide payment to the funeral home.

Denied Applications 1.5.7

IMA must give each applicant whose application has been denied a clear, concise written statement of the reasons for the denial within three (3) business days of the denial. Each written notice should also inform the applicant of the right to an administrative review and fair hearing to contest the denial, and the steps the applicant may take to seek review.

Appeals 1.6

Each applicant has the right to appeal a denial of burial or cremation assistance. The applicant may request a fair hearing either orally or in written form. This request must be accepted by any staff person within IMA.

Except as indicated below, the hearing process outlined in Part VIII: Chapter 7, Case Maintenance: Grievances and Fair Hearings should be used.

The applicant shall have ten (10) calendar days from the date of the denial notice to file an appeal. An administrative review shall be held, unless waived by the applicant, as soon as possible but no later than ten (10) business days following the request for a hearing.

IMA shall not be represented by an attorney at the hearing or administrative review, unless the applicant is represented by an attorney.

IMA shall take all reasonable steps to hold a hearing, make a final decision, and where the decision is to grant benefits, provide burial assistance in a timely manner. In cases where a decision favoring the applicant is made, payment must be issued within thirty business days of completion of the administrative review or hearing.

Verification 1.7

The SSR should verify the following information:

  • the identity of the deceased;
  • the address of the deceased;
  • resources of the deceased;
  • net earned and unearned income of the deceased;
  • net income and resources of the relative(s) that are financially responsible;
  • household composition, when questionable; and
  • the cost of the funeral.

No information already entered in ACEDS needs to be verified further. Thus, if the deceased was a current recipient of TANF, SSI, FS, GS, or MA and information about his/her income and assets are in ACEDS and matches the information provided by the relative filing the application, further verification of the deceased's financial circumstances should not be requested. Similarly, if the financially responsible relative (spouse or parent) is a current recipient of TANF, SSI, GS,FS, or MA, information already in ACEDS should not be verified.

In some circumstances, relatives may have difficulty providing needed verification. In these cases, verification requirements can be waived if the information provided by the relative filing the application does not appear questionable.