Iowa DHS/HHS Appeal Hearings now take place by Video instead of Telephone

Historically, those appealing a founded or confirmed Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) or Health and Human Services (HHS) report of child abuse/neglect or dependent adult abuse/neglect had two options for their hearing: in-person in Des Moines, Iowa or by telephone. This year, the telephone option was eliminated and future hearings are being set by either video or in-person. That change has both pros and cons for litigants.

On the positive side, a video hearing allows the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who presides over the hearing to better assess credibility of witnesses. The switch to video will allow facial expressions and body language to be interpreted by the ALJ as they make a credibility determination. Attorneys can also read that body language when asking questions of a witness, and tailor follow up questions to hone in on anything that extra visual information provides. For example, I can think of many times I’ve cross-examined an Iowa DHS/HHS worker who was being dishonest, and what I saw of their body language helped me to ask further questions that exposed that dishonesty.

On the negative side, the switch to video hearings will make it more important than ever that people who are appealing a DHS or HHS assessment in Iowa properly prepare for that hearing. The preparation will now need to include dressing appropriately, having the right body language, and ensuring the surroundings that a person finds themselves in during the hearing are favorable.

On balance, I believe the switch the to video hearings is a good thing. However, handling appeals of DHS reports in Iowa is now something that requires a bit of extra care compared to years past. Now more than ever, a person who is handling a DHS or HHS appeal in the state of Iowa is well advised to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney.

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