About the Office of Appeals
The Office of Appeals at the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) serves as the CDHS executive director's designee for reviewing initial decisions when a client, licensee or vendor objects to an adverse action by CDHS, the counties or a CDHS contract agency. The CDHS Office of Appeals issues final agency decisions on behalf of the executive director.
Initial decisions for any dispute other than Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fair hearings are made by Administrative Law Judges in the Office of Administrative Courts. SNAP fair hearings are heard by the SNAP Hearings Unit, which is part of the CDHS Office of Appeals. For more information on the SNAP Hearings Unit, visit the SNAP Hearings Unit page.
How non-SNAP appeals work
Step 1: You submit a notice of appeal to the Office of Administrative Courts.
Step 2: The Office of Administrative Courts schedules a hearing either by sending a notice of hearing or by sending a notice of a scheduling conference, depending on the type of appeal filed. Once a hearing date has been determined, the Office of Administrative Courts sends the parties a Notice of Hearing and any other correspondence determined necessary. Most hearings happen via telephone or internet.
Step 3: An Administrative Law Judge who works for the Office of Administrative Courts holds a hearing to better understand the dispute and to determine the matter on the merits after considering the evidence and the applicable law.
Step 4: The Office of Administrative Courts issues an Initial Decision and sends it to the CDHS Office of Appeals.
Step 5: The Office of Appeals sends the Initial Decision to you by sending you a Notice of Initial Decision that includes your further rights of appeal.
Step 6: If you have a legal basis to disagree with any portion of the initial decision such as you believe the findings of fact or conclusions of law are incorrect, you may file exceptions (objections) by the specified deadline included in the Notice of Initial Decision. If the other party files exceptions, you will have an opportunity to file a response to any exceptions filed. A general dissatisfaction with the Initial Decision does not meet the standard of exceptions set forth in the various rules that are applicable to the program area.
Step 7: The CDHS Office of Appeals reviews the initial decision, the record in the case, any exceptions and responses filed, to reach a Final Agency Decision. Next, the Office of Appeals sends you a Final Agency Decision. The Final Agency Decision includes a statement regarding your options to appeal the decision to a court.
Step 8: The County Department is required to take action according to the ruling in the Final Agency Decision within a certain period of time after the County Department receives the Final Agency Decision from the Office of Appeals. For example, if the Final Agency Decision is to increase your benefits, the County Department will timely act to increase your benefits pursuant to applicable state department rules.
Step 9: In certain instances, an individual may appeal the Final Agency Decision to the Denver District Court for judicial review. Without a further appeal to the Denver District Court, the appeal is resolved with no further right of appeal and the Final Agency Decision stands.
More information about appeals and exceptions
Expand the sections below for more information about non-SNAP appeals (including State Administrative Procedure Act appeals, due process reviews, and the roles of the state-level Office of Administrative Courts and the CDHS Office of Appeals) and exceptions (such as filing exceptions and obtaining transcriptions and audio recordings of hearings).
- About appeals
State Administrative Procedure Act appeals
Appeals governed by the State Administrative Procedure Act include appeals brought by applicants, recipients, program participants, licensees, and vendors who are challenging adverse decisions made by CDHS, county departments of human/social services or agents of the state or county departments. The department programs that participate in this appeals process include:
- Colorado Works
- Adult Financial Programs
- Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)
- Child Welfare
- Adult Protective Services
- Child Care Facility Licensing
- Colorado Child Care Assistance Program State income tax intercepts/offsets regarding various program areas
Due process reviews
The Office of Appeals also conducts due process reviews for the following program areas. This type of review is completed by a Record Review only. Appeals of this type should be filed directly with the Office of Appeals:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Federal Treasury Offset Appeals
- Colorado Brain Injury Trust Fund Services (MindSource)
Reviews of this nature occur under the following circumstances:
- The State Department chooses to have a due process review.
- The statute or federal regulations require or allow an appeal that is not governed by the State Administrative Procedure Act.
- The nature of the review varies depending on the structure established by the State Department program area's statutes and rules. For some programs, the Office of Appeals provides a paper review; in other instances the Office of Appeals may, at its discretion, hold a hearing.
The role of the Office of Administrative Courts
Appeals (other than SNAP fair hearings) are first heard before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at the Department of Personnel and Administration, Office of Administrative Courts. The ALJ prepares an Initial Decision based upon the evidence, review of documents, and applicable laws. The Initial Decision and case file are then sent to the Office of Appeals for review and final determination regarding the case.
The role of the the CDHS Office of Appeals
The Office of Appeals reviews the Initial Decision to ensure that the ALJ’s Initial Decision is supported by the weight of the evidence and to ensure that the ALJ's decision complies with the federal and state laws, regulations, and rules. The Office of Appeals will also review any Exceptions (objections) filed by the parties. Exceptions should provide the Office of Appeals with an explanation as to why the parties have good cause to challenge the ALJ's decision. For any exceptions filed, the opposing party will have an opportunity to file a response unless the document intended as exceptions fails to assert any legal basis to warrant consideration by the Office of Appeals.
After reviewing the complete file, the Office of Appeals will affirm, modify, or reverse the Initial Decision. The Office of Appeals also has the option to remand the matter by returning the case back to the ALJ for additional review and consideration when necessary. The Final Agency Decision serves as the official and final action of the State Department of Human Services, which concludes the administrative hearing process.
Implementing the Final Agency Decision
The state department, county department, or its agent are responsible for implementing the Final Agency Decision in compliance with state department rules. Action taken by the county department or state department to implement the final agency decision is not subject to further administrative appeal unless a new adverse action occurs.
- About exceptions
The Office of Appeals will notify the parties, including the CDHS program area, that they may challenge the Initial Decision by filing Exceptions. Exceptions are written objections which state your disagreement with the Administrative Law Judge's decision. The Notice of Initial Decision will provide a specific due date for filing Exceptions (15 days plus 3 days for mailing from the day listed on the Notice of Initial Decision Certificate of Mailing). If the due date provided on the Notice of Initial Decision falls on a weekend or state holiday, the due date is moved to the next business day).
In your Exceptions, tell the Office of Appeals what specific fact, rule or statute you disagree with and why. (Be sure to include your name, case number, and any updated address/contact information.) Written briefs which merely state support for the Initial Decision or a general dissatisfaction of the Initial Decision, will not be treated as Exceptions. The Office of Appeals cannot consider any arguments other than the issues raised in the appeal before the Administrative Law Judge. The Office of Appeals cannot consider new evidence, which with reasonable diligence could have been produced at the time of the hearing or review. The Office of Appeals cannot consider any challenge to the facts of your case unless a transcript and/or audio recording in lieu of a hearing transcript is provided. The Exceptions must be in writing and be filed with the Office of Appeals by the due date contained on the Notice of Initial Decision unless the Office of Appeals grants a request for an extension of the due date for filing Exceptions. Any Exceptions received by the Office of Appeals after the due date for filing Exceptions will not be considered.
Exceptions can be filed by mailing to 3550 W. Oxford Ave., Denver, CO 80236, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Exceptions may be dropped off in person at the mailing address provided above. Any person hand delivering their Exceptions is advised that personnel receiving the hand-delivered document will only retrieve the document; personnel receiving the hand-delivered document cannot respond to questions about the appeal process.
If your filing is timely and is considered as valid Exceptions, the Office of Appeals will send the Exceptions to the other parties so they have an opportunity to respond to your arguments. Similarly, if the opposing party files Exceptions, you will have the opportunity to respond. The response must be filed in writing by the due date provided on the Notice of Exceptions. Responses may only address only the issues raised in the opposing party's Exceptions. The Office of Appeals does not provide copies of responses to Exceptions. Answers to, or comments on, written responses are not permitted even if a party filing a response provides a courtesy copy of his/her response to the other parties.
Transcripts and audio recordings
This information does not apply to a Record Review conducted by the Office of Appeals simply because in a record review, no hearing is held and thus, there is no transcript or recording of a hearing.
If you want to challenge the facts of your case, you must provide the Office of Appeals a transcript of the hearing (but see the “Audio Recording” section below for additional information and options that may pertain to you). The Office of Appeals needs to review the documents in the case file and the testimony when considering a challenge to the findings of fact. The party filing the Exceptions is responsible for requesting and receiving from the Office of Administrative Courts-the audio recording of the hearing, then paying for a transcriptionist (of their choosing) to transcribe the audio recording into a transcript, and finally, for filing the transcript by the due date for filing Exceptions. Transcripts are to be filed with a party's Exceptions, if a party needs additional time to file a transcript, a party must request additional time for filing Exceptions. When a party requests additional time, the Office of Appeals will review any such request and promptly issue a ruling on the request. Any transcript received by the Office of Appeals after the due date for filing Exceptions will not be considered.
If you cannot afford a transcript, you may request permission to file an audio recording. The request for permission to file an audio recording must be filed in writing with the Office of Appeals (be sure to include your name, case number, and contact information). The request must explain your financial circumstances and why you cannot afford a transcript. The request must include an explanation as to why it is essential for the Office of Appeals to listen to testimony of a specific witness or witnesses. A County Department's request to submit an audio recording instead of a transcript must state that funds are not available in the County Department's operating budget to pay for preparation of a transcript and the request must be certified by the County Director. This request must be filed prior to the due date for filing Exceptions, any submission of an audio recording without first obtaining permission from the Office of Appeals will not be considered.
A party requesting permission to file an audio recording of the hearing is still responsible for filing Exceptions to the Initial Decision by the due date provided in the Notice of Initial Decision unless an extension of time has been granted by the Office of Appeals. When a request for filing of an audio recording instead of a transcript is approved, the Office of Appeals will notify the parties. The requesting party is solely responsible for requesting the copy of the audio recording from the Office of Administrative Courts and for filing the audio recording with the Office of Appeals by the due date to file Exceptions or if an extension of time is granted, the new due date provided by the Office of Appeals.
Where to obtain a transcript or audio recording
To obtain the transcript or the audio recording, contact the Office of Administrative Courts:
Office of Administrative Courts
1525 Sherman St., 4th Fl.
Denver, CO 80203
Where to file your exceptions and accompanying materials
Exceptions and the accompanying materials are to be filed with the Office of Appeals. Documents filed with the Office of Administrative Courts will not be considered by the Office of Appeals unless it is clear that the document constitutes Exceptions to the Initial Decision and all of the following are met: the document is received at the Office of Administrative Courts by the due date for filing Exceptions and the document is received at the Office of Appeals prior to issuance of a Final Agency Decision.
- Glossary of terms
Term Definition Administrative Law Judge A licensed attorney employed by the Department of Personnel and Administration, Office of Administrative Courts to conduct hearings and enter decisions resolving disputes between the State Department, County Department, or their agents, and persons whose rights or benefits are affected by an agency action. Administrative Procedure Act Title 24, Article 4 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Burden of Proof The duty to prove the disputed facts and establish the claim or allegation. Conclusions of Law The part of the Initial Decision where the ALJ states his/her interpretation of applicable statutes or rules. De Novo Hearing A new hearing, where the ALJ considers the evidence without regard to decisions made earlier (e.g., local evidentiary hearing or conference.) Review of an ALJ's Initial Decision is not a de novo review, the Office of Appeals may not modify or reverse the ALJ's Initial Decision unless there were errors in law or fact. Exceptions Written arguments about why an Initial Decision is incorrect and should be reversed or modified by the Office of Appeals, or remanded back to the ALJ for a rehearing, further fact finding or reconsideration of the legal conclusions. Ex Parte Communication Information which is shared or communicated to the ALJ or Office of Appeals without the knowledge of other parties or opportunity for the other parties to participate or rebut the information. ¬ß24-4-105(14) C.R.S. prohibits the ALJ and Office of Appeals from engaging in ex parte communications with any. The prohibition on ex parte communications is essential to maintaining impartiality and to assure that all of the parties are given a fair and equal opportunity to be heard. To ensure impartiality, the Office of Appeals cannot provide legal advice or discuss the specifics of a case, it can only speak with the parties about the Office of Appeals procedures. Final Agency Decision The decision entered by the Office of Appeals, as the Executive Director's designee, which will affirm, reverse or modify the decision of the ALJ. The Final Agency Decision serves as the official and final action of the Colorado Department of Human Services and issuance of the Final Agency Decision concludes the administrative hearing process. To challenge a Final Agency Decision an individual must file suit in district court as mandated by the Colorado Administrative Procedure Act, Title 24, Article 4, of the Colorado Revised Statutes and/or file a motion for reconsideration. Findings of Fact The ALJ's statement of the facts of the case, as established by evidence (documents and testimony) entered at the hearing. The findings will usually reflect that one party's evidence on the factual issues was more persuasive than the other party's or the findings may show that a party with the burden of proof on an issue failed to introduce enough evidence to meet that burden. Good Cause Includes, but is not limited to: death or incapacity of a party, or his/her representative, any other emergent occurrence preventing compliance with applicable deadlines, lack of proper notice of the Initial Decision of the ALJ, substitution of a party's representative or counsel, if the substitution is shown to be necessary and diligently pursued, or where additional time is required to obtain a transcript of a hearing and the party can show that the transcript was ordered in a timely manner and is necessary for preparation of the party's Exceptions. Good cause does not include: excessive workload of either the party or his/her representative, a party obtaining legal representation in an untimely manner, failure to receive the Initial Decision when a party has failed to advise the Office of Appeals of a change of address or a correct address, or, any other circumstance which was foreseeable or preventable. Initial Decision The written decision entered by an ALJ, usually after a hearing, which is subject to review by the Office of Appeals. Once an Initial Decision is entered, the ALJ no longer has jurisdiction to consider any further arguments or motions. Once the ALJ had entered an Initial Decision, jurisdiction transfers to the Office of Appeals. Jurisdiction Authority to resolve an issue in dispute. Party of Interest Is the individual or individuals directly affected by the action (i.e., Appellant, Petitioner, Respondent), the individuals' designated representative or legal counsel, the County Department or its legal representative or authorized agent, the State Department, the relevant State Department program area or its legal representative or authorized agent. A party of interest does not include a physician or hospital, unless acting as the individual's representative, nor does it include a federal government agency. The Record The hearing record includes the request for hearing, motions and orders entered by the ALJ, notices sent by the Office of Administrative Courts, correspondence from the parties, and all documentary evidence admitted into evidence by the Appellant and agency representative as exhibits during the hearing in support of their positions. It generally includes application forms, case notes, eligibility documents, worksheets, and statements from employers or other collateral sources. Evidence is formally admitted into the record by the ALJ at the hearing, or after the hearing when the record is left open for filing additional documents. The Initial Decision and any written Exceptions, Responses to Exceptions, and transcripts (or audio recording) of the hearing filed with the Office of Appeals become part of the record after the hearing and will be part of the "state administrative record" certified to district court if judicial review is sought by the individual who filed the appeal. Reasonable Diligence A party made every reasonable effort to produce the evidence at the hearing and was without fault in the delay in submittal of the evidence. Response to Exceptions Written arguments, which respond to issues, raised or arguments made in an opposing party's Exceptions. State Department Rules An elaboration of state statute that requires or permits specific actions by the Department of Human Services and entities working on behalf of the Department. State rules are binding over applicants, recipients and the State or County Department or their agents only when the rules have been promulgated pursuant to Colorado Administrative Procedure Act (APA). State rules are published in the Code of Colorado Regulations and are available on the Secretary of State's website and the Department of Human Services' website (unofficial copy). Transcript A written version of the hearing that was recorded electronically by the ALJ.