Limited English Proficiency (LEP)

Created on: 
Oct 21 2014

Revised March 23, 2020


This chapter provides staff with basic information about Community Service Office responsibilities in identifying the need for and providing services to LEP clients. LEP services are intended to ensure that persons limited in their ability to read, write and/or speak English have equal access to department programs and services. The provision of qualified interpreters and fully translated letters to LEP clients is required under the Reyes Consent Order (implementing previous Pre-Determination Settlement Agreements in 1983 and 1987 between the Region X Office for Civil Rights and DSHS) as well as by state (RCW 74.04.025) and federal laws (Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and implementing regulations at 45 CFR Part 80).

WAC 388-271-0010 What are limited English proficient (LEP) services?

WAC 388-271-0020 What are the department's responsibilities in providing me with an interpreter?

WAC 388-271-0030 What are the department's responsibilities in providing me with written communication in my primary language?

 Clarifying Information - WAC 388-271-0010

  1. The department provides interpreter and translation services in accordance with DSHS Administrative Policy 7.21.
  2. Clients are asked to identify if they have trouble reading, writing or speaking English on the Application for Benefits form. Just because someone appears to know English, does not mean they fully understand all communications provided by DSHS. They must be informed of their right to interpreter and translation services, at no cost to them and without significant delay.
  3. Each CSO has designated at least one staff to assist in coordinating interpreter and translation services for their office.
  4. Employees who have contact with clients are required to participate in LEP Program training. This training covers the following topics:
    1. LEP laws and regulations.
    2. Differences between bilingual workers and contracted interpreters.
    3. How to access the services of an interpreter in all situations.
    4. How to effectively conduct an interview with an interpreter.

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-271-0020

Interpreter Services

1.       If the client needs assistance in communicating verbally with staff, the client’s case will be assigned to an authorized bilingual employee who speaks the client’s language or an interpreter will be scheduled to facilitate communication with the client. These services are provided at no cost to the client and without significant delay.

2.       Family members, friends and children should not be used as interpreters.

3.       The department has contracts with brokers who assign interpreters to DSHS appointments. These services are charged at a minimum hourly rate for the first hour of services and in fifteen minute increments thereafter. Contact your CSO Interpreter Services Coordinator to request an interpreter through the interpreter brokerage contract. On-demand telephone interpreter services are also available by contract.

1.       Services are paid for at a per-minute rate at no cost to the client;

2.       On-demand telephone interpreter services are used as a backup to the brokered interpreter service contract that supplies in-person interpreters. It is also used for interpreting needs that are emergent and / or short in duration. As such, on-demand telephone interpreter services may be required for emergency applications and walk-ins.

3.       When calling a client on the telephone or receiving an incoming client call, you can use conference call capabilities to get an interpreter on the line.

4.       Ensure that both the client and the interpreter are aware that such phone calls are covered by DSHS confidentiality rules.

The department has contracts with sign language interpreter providers who assign interpreters for appointments with persons who are deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing. Contact your CSO Interpreter Services Coordinator to request the services of a sign language interpreter. Assistance in communicating by phone with persons who are deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing is available through the Washington Relay Service. Information about the Washington Relay Service is available at the following website:


Clarifying Information - WAC 388-271-0030

  1. Letters must be sent to LEP clients in their primary language and in English. These letters, including all worker fill-ins, must be fully translated for clients whose primary language is anything other than English.
  2. For these clients, if an English letter is sent or if the client has signed an English form that must be fully translated, the Department must reissue the translated letter and give the client time to respond. As a result, actions taken based on the previously released English letter must be rescinded.

Translated ACES Correspondence

  1. The following letters are generated by ACES and mailed from State Office:
    1. All Automated Case Maintenance (ACM) Letters with no free form text in supported languages and non-supported languages.
    2. Letters with free form text translated by an authorized bilingual employee.
  2. Print the following ACES letters locally and send to an authorized contracted translation agency:
    1. Letters with free form test resulting from action on a case when the client's primary language  "supported" (other then Spanish added by a certified bilingual employee) or "non-supported" language.

ACES supported languages include the following:

  • Cambodian
  • Chinese
  • Korean
  • Laotian
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese
  • Somali

Worker Responsibilities

  1. To ensure LEP clients receive adequate services:
    1. Identify the client’s primary language at first contact.
    2. Enter the correct Primary Language Code (PLC) into the Primary Language field in ACES. Primary language should be periodically discussed with the client and the PLC should be reviewed and updated as necessary. Care should be taken to not inadvertently change the PLC. Incorrect PLCs result in untimely and inadequate notice to clients, as well as increased translation costs.
    3. Inform LEP clients of their right to interpreter (verbal) and translation (written) services and that these services are available to them without charge or significant delay. This includes informing walk-in clients.

      Use the services of an interpreter if you feel you are unable to communicate with the client well enough to provide quality services, even if the client tells you they do not need an interpreter.

    4. Provide interpreter and translation services in a timely manner so that LEP cases can be processed within the processing timeframes defined in Chapters 388-406 - Applications, 388-416 - Certification Periods and 388-434 WACEligibility Reviews and Recertifications.
    5. Indicate any language needs on all referrals of LEP clients to other divisions, administrations, or agencies.
    6. Provide LEP clients with the same safeguards of confidentiality as provided to English proficient clients.
    7. Provide assistance to LEP clients in understanding and completing forms. Remember that LEP clients may have learning disabilities, cognitive problems and/or may not be literate in their native language. Include screening for Equal Access (See: Equal Access Chapter EA).
    8. In the event that there are no available employee or contractor resources to serve an LEP client in their primary language, an exception to policy may be made. This may include contacting refugee service providers, client advocates, member’s of the client’s community (e.g., church or community center), and as a last resort, friends or family members (minor children should never be used as interpreters) to ask for their assistance in facilitating communication with the client. Any exception to policy must be documented in the ACES narrative.

      Authorized representatives of LEP clients receive letters for the LEP client in English.

  2. Provide fully translated DSHS forms in the primary language of the LEP client whenever appropriate:
    1. Many DSHS forms are available in non-English languages at the DSHS Forms and Records Management (FRMS) web site and DSHS Forms page
    2. If the form is not available online, and has not been translated into the language needed for the client, make a request for the form to be translated through your CSO Translation Coordinator (CSO TC). The CSO TC will submit a translation request through the Translation Tracking System. Translation work is usually completed in 1-2 weeks.
    3. The ESA Translation Services Coordinator will email a copy of the form to the CSO TC when the translation is complete. The translated form will also be posted at the FRMS website.

      Fill-in text can be included on a DSHS form that is being translated for the first time. This information must be provided to the ESA Translation Services Coordinator when the translation for the form template is made.

  3. Provide fully translated DSHS publications in the primary language of the client whenever appropriate.
    1. Some translated publications are available in the Publications library.
    2. Publications needed in languages not available online can be ordered by completing a Communications Request form (DSHS 16-097) and submitting it to DSHS Visual Communications via fax: 360.902.7669 or email:
  4. Provide locally generated/client specific documents in the primary language of the client whenever appropriate.
    1. Translation of locally generated, client specific documents are provided by authorized bilingual employees or requested directly from an authorized translation services contractor. These documents include locally generated ACES letters, posters and CSO developed flyers. This process is coordinated through the CSO TC.
    2. The CSO TC processes the translation order by completing the Fax Translation Order form (DSHS 17-120) and faxing or emailing it, with the client specific document that needs to be translated, to an authorized contracted translation agency. 

    If a specific client needs information contained in a document immediately, you can request the services of an interpreter to explain the information or request a rush translation of the document from the CSO TC.

  5. Upon receiving completed translation work from the CSO TC:
    1. Make a copy of the English and translated documents.
    2. Mail the originals of both documents to the client.
    3. Send copies of the English and translated documents to DMS to be imaged into the electronic case record. If an exact duplicate of the English document is already in the ECR, do not send another copy to DMS.
  6. Continue benefits through the advance notice period if the action requires advance notice and the fully translated letter is mailed within the 10-day advance notice period.

ACES Documentation 

  1. On the ACES 3G Contact Information page:
    1. Enter the client’s PLC for the language the client reads and understands (the PLCs are listed in alphabetical order by language on the drop down menu from the PLC field).
      1. Code "EN" for clients that do not read any language.
      2. Code "OT" if the client's language is not listed (for other language) and enter the name of language in remarks behind the Contact Information Page.
    2. If the client needs assistance with communicating orally, indicate that an interpreter is needed in the Interpreter Needed field and enter the name of the language as directed above.
  2. Document the following information in the ACES NARRATIVE:
    1. All efforts to secure LEP services, including when efforts are unsuccessful. Document how the client was served if an exception to policy was made.
    2. The date a translation request was given to the CSO translation coordinator.
    3. The date a translated letter, form or publication was mailed or given to the client.
    4. The interpreter ID and vendor name who provided services for an interview with the LEP client.