Case Notes: When Should I Use “Best Available Information”

“Best Available Information” is a statement that is used in case documentation (case notes) in only certain circumstances when the household cannot provide the usual verification that is needed to determine eligibility. The decision to state Best Available Information is simply a judgement call made on the part of the worker when all other attempts to obtain verification are exhausted. The following information is some helpful tips and examples concerning “Best Available Information”

Every AFS program expects applicant or recipient household members to make an effort to document all factors of eligibility as required. However, staff must explore alternative sources of verification and accept any reasonable documentation whenever what a household provides is insufficient. Although documentary proof is the primary source of earnings verification, evidence cannot be limited to any single type of document. For instance an income statement from the employer is a reasonable form of documentation in lieu of paystubs.

In certain circumstances, a household may advise the worker that it cannot provide the usual documents.  An example might be when the household is paid in cash and the employer refuses to write a statement to prove monthly earnings.  In this instance, the worker contacts the employer to verbally confirm earnings.  If the worker is unable to talk to the employer, the best available information may be the client’s statement.

There may be times when the client cannot provide verification of unearned income. For instance a one-time contribution to the household is declared but the amount cannot be verified as the person that gave the contribution is not available (out-of-town) at the time of benefit determination. Sometimes the client is unable to provide verification of child support income paid directly to the client because it may be received as cash; it is not court ordered; it is not paid through Child Support Services; and the non-custodial parent refuses to provide a statement (on paper or verbally over the phone) of the cash amount that is given. In both instances, the declared income amount would be coded in FACS and documented in case notes as best available information.

There could be a G1DX discrepancy that lists another address for a client. An Adm-92 would first be sent to the client to obtain the correct current address. If the client does not respond to the ADM-92, the new address being reported through G1DX discrepancy should be updated on the case and documented as best available information in case notes.

The use of “best available information” should be used sparingly and only when all other methods of obtaining verification have failed. Workers should continue to attempt to contact employers by telephone, and try other means of obtaining verification prior to using “best available information”. This process should occur at each application and renewal in which verification is required for determination of eligibility. For instance, if “best available information” had been used for a household for prior case determinations, it should not automatically be used for each re-application and renewal thereafter.

For more information on the process of when/how to arrive at “best available information” also see Consistency Tool: Verification Guide

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