Human error blamed for denied benefits letter that panicked Texas grandma

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on January 9, 2013 at 8:35 AM

MESQUITE, Texas — There was laughter during dinnertime at grandma's house on Tuesday night for the first time in weeks.

"I couldn't sleep; no appetite, just worry... constant worry," said Janet Marsh, describing the emotions she's been fighting since four days before Christmas, when a letter arrived from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

"I read it and I couldn't believe it," she said. "I'm like, 'What?'"

The letter told Marsh that Medicaid and all state benefits for the three grandchildren she is raising were being denied. They were to be cut off because the kids "do not live in the home."

"That's not right!" she said. "It's not right!"

The children do live in her home, and they have been there for a year.

Marsh and her husband Clarence have legal custody of five-year-old CJ, seven-year-old Laila, and nine-year-old Devin. The grandparents are raising the grandchildren as if they were their own.

Marsh had to wait until after the Christmas holiday to speak to someone with the state, and got nowhere, she said.

"They told me someone reported to them that the children no longer lived with us," she said of her conversation with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. "I mean, where else do they think the children are, you know?"

Marsh said the state wouldn't tell her who reported the children had moved. She said they would only advise her that she had no option but to re-apply for benefits, a process could take weeks.

The youngsters were in danger of having no insurance, because neither Marsh nor her husband can add them to their coverage since they have not legally adopted them.

After almost two weeks with no hope, Marsh contacted WFAA. We called the state Monday, and by Tuesday, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said it was sorry. They explained it was all a mistake.

A worker had accidentally checked the wrong box in a database, which led to the benefits being cut and the letter being mailed.

"So the well-being of three young children is determined by someone clicking the wrong box on a monitor?" Marsh asked. "That's ridiculous."

She wants other families to be aware that mistakes can happen. On Tuesday afternoon, Marsh received an apology, and by Tuesday night, she knew she would finally rest.

"I'll probably sleep tonight for the first time in weeks," she said.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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