A nonpublic special education school or program or a related service provider or parent may be authorized to receive payments or reimbursements for special education services specified in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). If you submitted an invoice for special education services and were denied payment or reimbursement by D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) or the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), you may have the right to appeal the denial or nonpayment to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
The purpose of this page is to help you learn more about reimbursement for special education services and the OAH hearing process. This page does not give legal advice. You can only get legal advice from a lawyer.
Also, OAH tries to keep information on this page up to date, but laws and procedures sometimes change. You should refer to agency notices, OAH orders, and official sources of laws and rules for current information and requirements regarding your case.
How do I request a hearing?
Your hearing request must be in writing and filed with OAH. To make sure you include all the required information, you can use the Special Education Invoice Appeal Form.
Visit the Filings & Forms page for specific instructions on how you can file your hearing request with OAH.
Hearing requests must be filed within 75 calendar days of the “invoice processing date,” unless DCPS or OSSE sent an untimely dispute notice, in which case a hearing request can be filed within 120 calendar days of the invoice processing date. The time period runs from the “invoice processing date” as defined in the regulations at Title 5, Subtitle A, Chapter 29, Section 2999 of the D.C. Municipal Regulations (DCMR). Click on “Where can I find laws and regulations that apply to my case?” below for more information about relevant OSSE regulations.
OAH Rule 2808 has more information about OAH hearing requests. OSSE regulations also explain hearing request requirements, including deadlines for filing. These regulations are in Title 5, Subtitle A, Chapter 50, Section 2905 of the DCMR.
What are the OAH Rules and where can I find them?
The OAH Rules explain all the steps required to complete the OAH hearing process, from requesting a hearing to appealing a judge’s final decision. You can find the OAH Rules on the Rules & Laws page. You must follow the OAH Rules throughout the process.
All the rules that apply to an invoice dispute case are in Chapter 28. The table of contents for Chapter 28 can help guide you to the information you need.
Where can I find laws and regulations that apply to my case?
Every case has its own facts and circumstances, so some cases may involve laws and regulations that are not listed on this page. However, the D.C. Code and the D.C. Municipal Regulations (DCMR) generally cover the issues in invoice dispute cases.
The D.C. Code is where you can find laws passed by the D.C. Council. Within the bounds of the law, a D.C. agency may then make regulations creating requirements and procedures for the program or service the agency administers. Regulations are often more detailed than laws, but laws have greater authority. If there is a discrepancy between a law and a regulation, the law applies. When a judge decides a case at OAH, he or she may apply both laws and regulations to reach a final decision.
You can find laws regarding special education in Title 38, Chapter 25B of the D.C. Code. Among other things, this chapter includes sections on the assessment and placement of students requiring special education services, as well as broad requirements for funding those services. Title 38, Chapter 26 of the D.C. Code establishes OSSE as the state education agency (SEA), giving OSSE responsibility for state-level supervisory functions for special education.
As the SEA, OSSE makes regulations for special education services, including invoice processing. The OSSE regulations for special education invoice processing are in Title 5, Subtitle A, Chapter 29 of the DCMR. This chapter includes sections detailing the processes for invoice submissions, dispute notifications, and OAH hearings, among other things.
For both the D.C. Code and the DCMR, it can be helpful to navigate to the relevant title and chapter numbers and look at section headings. The headings can help guide you to the particular sections that apply to the issues in your case.
If you are having difficulty finding or understanding laws or regulations that may apply to your case, click on the “I need more help” tab below for more information about who you can contact for help.
I am scheduled for a mediation. How do I prepare for the mediation?
Most invoice dispute cases are set for mediation, sometimes even before any other hearing is scheduled. Mediation is an informal process in which the parties meet with a neutral OAH mediator, usually another Administrative Law Judge, who helps guide a discussion to see if the parties can negotiate and settle the case on their own terms. Mediations are confidential, so discussions are not shared with the judge who would hear your case.
Mediation is led by the parties, so you can share or bring whatever information or documents you think would be beneficial for the discussions and help you and the other party reach an agreement. If the parties cannot resolve the case through mediation, the case will be scheduled for a hearing.
OAH Rule 2815 has more information about mediation. The OAH Rules are on the Rules & Laws page.
How do I prepare for a hearing?
The scheduling order from the judge will have specific instructions, but hearing preparation generally involves each side collecting the information they want the judge to know and planning how to present the information during the hearing.
Information you present during a hearing is called “evidence.” There are two broad categories of evidence:
- Verbal testimony (what you and other witnesses say at the hearing)
- Documents, photographs, or other physical items
For testimony, you can practice telling your side of the story before the hearing. If you have witnesses that will testify on your behalf, you can ask your witnesses to practice their testimony as well. Practicing your testimony can help make sure you and your witnesses don’t accidentally leave out important information and can help you feel more comfortable on the day of the hearing.
Documents, photographs, or other items you plan to use to support your case are called “exhibits.” You should collect all your exhibits before the hearing so that you can file a copy of the exhibit with OAH and “serve” a copy on the other party by the deadline given in the scheduling order. “Serving” means delivering, mailing, or faxing a copy of the exhibit to the other party. You can also serve exhibits by email if you and the other party have agreed in writing to allow service by email. You can find the contact information for the other party at the end of the scheduling order, on the page called “Certificate of Service.”
Also, as you prepare exhibits, keep in mind that OAH is separate from DCPS and OSSE. That means that OAH does not automatically have copies of anything you may have previously sent to DCPS or OSSE. To use those documents at the hearing, you still need to file copies with OAH. Even if the mediator and DCPS or OSSE reviewed your documents during mediation, you will still have to officially file them with OAH and serve them on the other party before the evidentiary hearing.
You should also keep in mind that properly filing and serving an exhibit does not automatically mean that the judge can rely on the information in the exhibit when making a decision. Instead, you need to be prepared to introduce the exhibit during your testimony or a witness’s testimony. In other words, you or a witness will need to describe the item and may need to answer questions about it, so that the judge can be satisfied that the item is relevant to the case and is reliable. After you or a witness describe an exhibit and answer any questions from the judge or the other party, you can then ask the judge to admit the exhibit into evidence. If the judge allows the exhibit into evidence, you can then refer to the item in detail during your testimony, and the judge can rely on the item when making a decision. You need to be prepared for this process for each individual exhibit.
Here are some of the common OAH Rules that apply to hearing preparation: Rule 2809 (Filing of Papers); Rule 2811 (How to Serve a Paper); Rule 2812 (Calculating Deadlines); Rule 2813 (Motions Procedure); Rule 2821 (Hearings and Evidence). Other rules may apply, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the OAH Rules’ table of contents so that you know where to go to look for particular requirements. The OAH Rules are on the Rules & Laws page.
How do I send documents or other exhibits I want to use for my case?
All exhibits must be filed with OAH and served on the other party.
You can file exhibits with OAH in person; by mail, email, or fax; or through the OAH E-Filing Portal. Visit the Filings & Forms page for specific filing instructions.
“Serving” means delivering, mailing, or faxing copies of your exhibits to the other party. If the other party has agreed in writing, you may also send exhibits by email.
Each party must file and serve exhibits by the deadline given in the scheduling order to make sure both sides have opportunity to review all the documents and other items the other side intends to use to support their case.
If you do not know the other party’s contact information, look at the “Certificate of Service” at the end of the scheduling order you receive from OAH. The Certificate of Service lists the contact information for each party.
What can I expect at a hearing?
You should look closely at your scheduling order for information about how your hearing will be held, but most OAH hearings are currently remote and are scheduled to take place by telephone. OAH uses a program called Webex to hold remote hearings, but only a phone is required for anyone to join. Visit the Webex Hearings page for more information about joining a remote hearing by phone.
If you are scheduled for a telephone hearing, you can request a video hearing or an in-person hearing, using the Request for Video Conference or In-Person Hearing form. Or, if you are scheduled for an in-person hearing, you can request to join the hearing by phone, using the Request to Participate by Telephone form.
The judge will explain at the start how the hearing will go. But whether remote or in person, an evidentiary hearing is generally divided into three main parts:
- Opening statements
- Presentations of evidence
- Closing arguments
An opening statement is not required but is your chance to give the judge a broad overview of your case and what you intend to prove through your evidence. The opening statement is not testimony and does not count as evidence, however. So, remember to present all of your evidence during the next part of the hearing, even if you talked about it already in your opening statement.
The presentation of evidence is the main part of the hearing. In invoice dispute cases, the provider or parent normally has what is called the “burden of proof” to show that a dispute is invalid and that DCPS or OSSE must pay the invoices. The provider or parent must show this by a “preponderance of the evidence,” or that it is “more likely than not.” Because DCPS or OSSE has the information about why they disputed or refused to pay an invoice, they will likely go first when presenting evidence. But the side with the burden of proof must present sufficient evidence to prove their case. So, in an invoice dispute case, if the provider or parent can’t give enough evidence to show that the invoices are valid and must be paid, then the other side wins.
When it is your turn to present evidence, you can give testimony and, if the judge allows your exhibits into evidence, talk about the documents or other items you have as evidence. (Click on “How do I prepare for hearing?” above for more explanation about how exhibits are admitted into evidence). You can also have your witnesses attend and ask them questions to get them to testify on your behalf. Asking questions of your own witnesses is called “direct examination.”
After you or a witness are done giving testimony, the other side can ask questions about the testimony that was given. This is called “cross examination.” Likewise, after the other side’s witnesses give testimony as part of their presentation of evidence, you will have the opportunity to ask them questions. However, neither side is required to ask cross examination questions, and the judge will not assume you agree with the testimony of the other side’s witnesses if you choose not to question them. The judge may also have questions for the parties and witnesses throughout the hearing.
Finally, after both sides have presented their evidence, each side can give a closing argument. A closing argument is not required but is your opportunity to summarize your evidence and legal arguments as to why you should win. The closing argument is not evidence, and you cannot introduce new exhibits during your closing or talk about information that was not admitted into evidence.
Throughout the process, keep in mind that all evidence and arguments are being given directly to the judge. An evidentiary hearing is not an opportunity for the parties to talk and argue between themselves. So, you should practice your opening statement, presentation of evidence, and closing argument as if you are speaking directly to the judge.
I do not speak English very well. Can I get an interpreter?
Yes. Upon request, OAH will provide a free court-certified interpreter at your hearing. You cannot have a friend or family member interpret for you during a hearing.
You may request an interpreter when you file your initial hearing request, or you may request an interpreter at any other time by calling OAH at (202) 442-9094 or by emailing [email protected]. But please let OAH know as soon as possible that you need an interpreter for your hearing to give OAH time to schedule an interpreter.
If you have not requested an interpreter by the day of your hearing, you should let the judge know that you need an interpreter, and the judge can try to get an interpreter. If the judge cannot find an interpreter right away, the judge will need to reschedule the hearing to give time for OAH to schedule an interpreter for a new hearing date.
will also provide an interpreter if you need to speak with an OAH Customer Service Representative or Resource Center staff, whether visiting in person or calling OAH by phone. Simply ask for an interpreter and identify your language when you visit or call, and OAH staff will contact an interpreter to assist.
I have an impairment that makes it hard for me to attend a hearing. Can I get an accommodation?
Yes. Upon request, OAH will provide reasonable accommodations to allow you to participate in your hearing. You may request an accommodation when you file a hearing request, or you may request an accommodation at any other time by calling OAH at (202) 442-9094 or by emailing [email protected].
Please explain the accommodation you need, and OAH staff will be in touch with you to arrange reasonable accommodations for the day of your hearing. OAH may need some time to arrange the accommodations, so please let OAH know as soon as possible what accommodations you will need for your hearing.
What if I need to change my hearing date?
You may ask the judge in writing for a different hearing date, also called a “continuance.”
For this type of request, you must first reach out to the other party to see if they will agree to a different hearing date. The other party doesn’t have to agree, or even respond. But you at least need to make a good faith effort to get the other party’s consent.
You then must file your request with OAH and send a copy of the request to the other party. To make sure you give OAH all the information needed for this type of request, you may use the Request for a Different Hearing Date form.
You should never assume that a request is granted. If your hearing date is approaching and you have not received a written response, contact the OAH Clerk’s Office to see if the judge has acted on your request. If the judge has not acted on the request by your hearing date, then the hearing will be held as originally scheduled and you will be required to attend.
OAH Rule 2813 has more information about filing case-related requests, also called “motions.” The OAH Rules are on the Rules & Laws page.
What if I miss my hearing?
If you missed your hearing, and you still want a hearing, you must ask for a new hearing date in writing as soon as possible. Even if the judge sends a Final Order in the other party’s favor before you file your request, the judge can still grant a new hearing and change the final order. However, you must give a good reason for having missed the hearing. To make a request, you may complete the Request for a New Hearing form and file the form with OAH and serve a copy on the other party.
OAH Rule 2828 explains more about this type of request. OAH Rule 2813 has more information about filing case-related requests, also called “motions.” The OAH Rules are on the Rules & Laws page.
How does a judge make a final decision?
The judge will not make a final decision about your case during the evidentiary hearing. Rather, the judge will take time after the hearing to carefully consider all the evidence before making a final decision in writing. The judge’s written decision is called a “final order.” The final order will be sent to all parties to the case and will explain the facts of the case as determined by the judge, the laws that apply to the case, and the judge’s legal conclusions based on how the law applies to the facts.
The final order will also explain your appeal rights, in case you disagree with the judge’s decision.
What can I do if I disagree with a judge’s final order?
If you disagree with a final order, you may either:
- ask the OAH judge to reconsider the decision or grant relief from the final order, or
- file an appeal with the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Visit the Closed Case Forms page, under “Filings & Forms,” for more information and instructions.
I need more help.
If you do not have a lawyer and need additional help, you may talk with someone with the OAH Resource Center. Call (202)-442-9094 and press "4" from the main menu, or send an email to [email protected]. The OAH Resource Center cannot give legal advice or be your lawyer, but our staff are happy to answer questions and give general information about invoice disputes and the OAH process.