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Court rules FSSA notices are unconstitutional

March 22, 2012

The Indiana Supreme Court has held that the notices sent by the state Family and Social Services Administration to inform applicants they were denied Medicaid, food stamps, or family assistance benefits are unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s due process clause because they do not sufficiently explain the reasons for being denied.

In Sheila Perdue, et al. v. Michael A. Gargano, et al., No. 49S02-1107-PL-437, the justices partially reversed and affirmed the Marion Superior Court on a challenge to the state agency’s automated system of processing claims for benefits.

Plaintiffs brought a class action against the FSSA seeking declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the administration of Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Sheila Perdue also brought an individual disability discrimination claim.

The trial court granted summary judgment to FSSA on plaintiffs’ claim that their procedural due process rights were violated, but it granted summary judgment to Perdue individually and to the class of SNAP applicants/recipients whose benefits were denied or terminated for failure to cooperate. On cross-appeals, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment as to Perdue and as to those whose SNAP benefits were denied or terminated for failure to cooperate, and it reversed the award of summary judgment to FSSA, holding the procedures at issue did not afford plaintiffs due process.

Accepting the case, the Indiana justices held that the FSSA’s denial notices are insufficiently explanatory but that the agency may deny an application when that person fails to cooperate in the eligibility determination process. On that issue, this case is remanded to the trial court to adjudicate the plaintiffs' related claims for relief.

The justices agreed with the trial court’s grant of Perdue’s summary judgment motion on the grounds that she is entitled to reasonable accommodation in applying for benefits. But that accommodation doesn’t require the FSSA to provide a caseworker or case management services.




 

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