If you are ever in the position of applying for financial help on behalf of yourself or a family member, you will likely be in the position of muttering statements that are quite unprintable about the requested documents, deadlines, paperwork and time involved.

I caution you, however, to not submit an incomplete or incorrect application. Take the time needed to do this process accurately the first time. While there may be a grace period for certain programs, it really is a rare occasion in which one can submit a corrected or updated application after the deadline.

If data is requested, you need to have it available and write it or input it on the forms.

If supporting documents are needed, you need have copies of the specified paperwork for either submitting with the application or make it available if that will be a later stage in the approval process.

If you don’t understand how to answer a question (is this money considered income or assets? how do we list household members in split custody situations?) after reading the instructions in the application packet or link, then call the agency or look up the FAQs on their web site for guidance.

And be sure to sign the paperwork on the correct line.

Here are some “operator error” situations that are known to aggravate the process of applying for resources and services:

Incomplete applications

Here’s an FAQ from the MIChild program, a health insurance option for children of lower-income but working Michigan families:

What is the biggest problem with incomplete MIChild applications?

Incomplete applications delay processing of the application thereby delaying access to care for children.  Some of the reasons that an application is considered incomplete are relationship of all household members, especially parent/child, income information of household members, lack of signature on the paper application.

When an application is sent in with incomplete information, how does MIChild or MDCH contact the client and how long do they have to return the documents?

They are contacted by both mail and telephone. They have 10 days to provide the information or clarification.  After that, their application is denied.

Here’s a similar note on the FAQ section of applying for unemployment benefits in Michigan:

You must respond to ALL questions unless instructed. Incomplete applications will not be accepted.

Wrong names / identity numbers

Another issue that can create red tape when you didn’t intend to involves paying attention to legal names and identity numbers. Here’s part of a discussion about known problems with the college financial aid process while working on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, explained on the FinAid.org site.

Use your legal name as it appears on your Social Security card. Using a nickname or any other name will cause a processing delay.

Be careful to write your Social Security Number (SSN) and date of birth accurately and clearly. Any errors in the SSN or date of birth will cause processing delays.

Check to make sure you haven’t accidentally swapped your Social Security Number with your parents’ Social Security Numbers.

What if no one actually knows you or the family member by the birth name or legal name, and using it causes confusion? You might want to go through a legal name change process and settle that out.

Did the system actually accept your application?

Many agencies have moved away from paper applications to online applications.

The advantage for you, the client, is that the online systems often have built-in prompts to point out a box that was overlooked or appears to not have been answered correctly. In other words, you’ll have a chance to catch some errors before hitting “send.”

The trade-off with sending data to an online system is you need to make sure it really was saved and accepted. It is smart to print off and or save screen shots or emails of the confirmation numbers and received messages, and the entire application if you have the means of doing that.

This instruction is part of the FAQ section of Michigan unemployment benefits application:

When the system informs you that you have completed the application, select the “Proceed” button to submit your claim.

If you exit before you select the “Proceed” button, all information you have entered will be lost. Any appointments made or notices of publications being sent by the system will be canceled.

After clicking “Proceed”, wait for a confirmation page containing your confirmation number. Your application has not been accepted until you see the confirmation page.

Print the confirmation page or write down the confirmation number. Your confirmation number is proof that you filed a claim.

For more tips on how to navigate the social safety network or financial aid system, go to my Do you need assistance? page.



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