Top Tips for a Smooth Lifeline Recertification Experience

Top Tips for a Smooth Lifeline Recertification Experience

Annual recertification is a requirement for all Lifeline and ACP subscribers. Each year, the program administrator (USAC) sends a letter asking customers to recertify their eligibility by providing proof of continued income eligibility.

This is a new requirement as part of the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order. Here are some tips for a smooth recertification experience: 

Don’t Forget Your Renewal Date

Lifeline subscribers must recertify their eligibility for free monthly talk, text, and data annually. TDS partners with the Lifeline administrator, Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), to simplify this process for our customers. You can complete the Lifeline recertification process online, by phone, or by mail.

Your renewal date will be indicated in your letter from USAC or, for those who recertify through the national verifier, in a notification sent to your email address. Keeping track of your renewal date is important because you will lose your benefits if you do not.

It’s not uncommon for renewal dates to be recorded in different locations – they may be buried in spreadsheets, trapped in email inboxes, or even captured in a shared drive. To effectively manage renewals at scale, it is vital that key dates are captured, stored, and communicated consistently to all stakeholders.

Be Prepared

Every year, Lifeline administrators check to see if eligible low-income households still meet the program’s requirements. If not, they’ll cancel your discounted talk, text, and data services. That’s why it’s important to recertify annually by phone or online.

Telecommunications providers verify Lifeline subscribers’ eligibility by querying state income databases or the National Verifier system. Then, they document the results on a form that meets commission rules.

Most subscribers can recertify over the phone with their application ID (found in their letter or texted). Others who need to submit proof documents will be asked to do so via mail.

Subscribers who pass the automated verification process will receive a confirmation letter from USAC shortly after their recertification attempt. But if they fail the verification process, they must submit additional documentation within 60 days or lose their Lifeline service.

Be Prepared for a Phone Call

You may receive a phone call about your annual renewal if you’re a Lifeline customer. You may also receive a letter, which you must sign and return by mail.

During recertification, the phone company will query state income databases and national verifiers to verify your eligibility. These queries can be disruptive to some customers, especially those who depend on their discounted telecommunications services for communication with family and friends.

This can result in many billing regrades and an increase in unbilled calls for some subscribers. The phone companies have asked for help from the Commission to minimize these impacts, and staff has responded by allowing carriers to add additional staff during peak return-mail times and by making database changes to detect eligibility errors better.

Preparation can help you get through these disruptions with minimal fuss. It’s a good idea to set up a quiet place to make your call and ask family members not to disturb you during that time. Having all the documents you need at hand is also a good idea. Lastly, using a trusted tool like sign now is best to ensure your electronic signature is legally binding. It complies with the ESIGN and UETA standards, both recognized in courts.

Be Prepared for a Letter

The annual Lifeline recertification process checks to ensure you still qualify for free talk, text, and data. The administrator, USAC, will send you a letter or a pre-recorded message on your phone asking for confirmation that you are eligible to continue receiving service.

Reading and responding promptly to any notifications you receive by mail or email is important. Ignoring these notifications could interrupt your service, affecting your ability to stay connected with friends and family.

In terms of the content of your letter, it is best to keep it short and to the point. Asking a friend or former colleague to review your letter for length can help ensure your message is delivered clearly and concisely.

Be Prepared for a Reminder Call

Every year, USAC (the administrator for Lifeline and the Affordable Connectivity Program) requires you to recertify your eligibility. They may do this by sending you a letter or calling you with a pre-recorded message on your phone. If they can confirm your eligibility from their records, there is nothing to do on your end other than respond promptly.

However, if they cannot confirm your eligibility, they will send you a letter asking you to provide proof of your income-based eligibility. Once you do, they can reconnect your service.

This is also why staying on top of notifications and deadlines is important. Ignoring them can result in a disruption of your services and can cost you money.

The best way to keep up with the annual recertification is to follow the instructions in the letter or call your service provider directly. You can recertify over the phone in about 10 minutes. Those who submit documentation cannot use this option and must do so by mail.

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