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Lawrie v. Department of Public Aid

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 10, 1977.

CHARLES LAWRIE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC AID, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE DIERINGER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The plaintiff, Charles Lawrie, is a mentally retarded adult who resides at Beverly Farm, Godfrey, Madison County, Illinois. Plaintiff first applied for public aid on April 6, 1972, to pay for support at Beverly Farm. The application was denied by the Madison County Department of Public Aid on April 26, 1972. The reason given for the denial of aid is that Beverly Farm refused to promise to accept the payment of the Department as payment in full, as required by the Department's regulation (Topic 5556.3) which prohibits supplementation of public assistance. Plaintiff appealed the denial of his application by notice to the Department of Public Aid, on June 23, 1972. A hearing was held, and on October 20, 1972, the Department informed the plaintiff his appeal had been denied. Plaintiff then filed a complaint under the Administrative Review Act. After briefs and hearings, the Circuit Court of Cook County, on April 9, 1975, entered an order reversing the decision of the Department, and holding the Department's policy of "no supplementation" null and void as not authorized by the Public Aid Code and violative of the Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution and the Illinois Constitution. From this order the defendant, the Department of Public Aid, brings this appeal.

The issues are whether the Public Aid Department's regulation prohibiting supplementation is contrary to Illinois statutory law and whether such policy denies the plaintiff equal protection of the law, as provided for in the State and Federal constitutions. The issues do not include problems of evidence. The facts in this case, as presented above, are undisputed and are not in question.

In order to better understand the issues it is necessary to set out some portions of the Illinois Public Aid Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 23).

The "Public Purpose" section of the Public Aid Code provides, inter alia:

"The purpose of this Code is to assist in the alleviation and prevention of poverty and thereby to protect and promote the health and welfare of all the people of this State.

The maintenance and strengthening of the family unit shall be a principal consideration in the administration of this Code. All public aid policies shall be formulated and administered to achieve this end." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 23, par. 1-1.

The section of the Public Aid Code entitled "Amount of Aid" provides:

"The amount and nature of financial aid granted to or in behalf of aged, blind, or disabled persons shall be determined in accordance with the standards, rules and regulations of the Illinois Department. Due regard shall be given to the requirements and conditions existing in each case, and to the amount of property owned and the income, money contributions, and other support, and resources received or obtainable by the person, from whatever source. The aid shall be sufficient, when added to all other income, money contributions and support, to provide the person with a livelihood compatible with health and well-being." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 23, par. 3-5.

The "Declaration of Public Policy" section of the Code provides:

"It is the intent of this Code that the financial aid and social welfare services herein provided supplement rather than supplant the primary and continuing obligation of the family unit for mutual help in times of unemployment, illness, or other misfortune. The obligation of the family unit is particularly applicable when a member is in necessitous circumstances and lacks the means of a livelihood compatible with health and well-being.

It is the purpose of this Article to provide for determination of the financial circumstances of legally responsible relatives, as defined in Section 2-11 of Article II, and for the enforcement of the legal obligation of support by those relatives able to furnish support, in whole or in part, to applicants for and recipients of financial aid. It is not, however, a condition of eligibility for financial aid that there be no responsible relatives who are reasonably able to provide such support in whole or in part. Nor, except as provided in Section 10-8, shall the existence of such relatives or their payment of support contributions disqualify a needy person for financial aid." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 23, par. 10-1.

The caveat relating to section 10-8, in the last sentence of the preceding section of the Code, concerns applicants whose families are willing to provide full support. Those applicants are removed from the rolls.

The section of the Public Aid Code relied upon most heavily by the Department in the case at bar is the section regarding the conditions of receipt of vendor payments, or payments made from the Department directly to the institution supplying goods or services to a recipient. This section provides, in pertinent part:

"A vendor payment * * * shall constitute payment in full for the goods or services covered thereby. Acceptance of the payment by or in behalf of the vendor shall bar him from obtaining, or attempting to obtain, additional payment therefor from the recipient or any other person. A vendor payment shall not, however, bar recovery of the value of goods and services the obligation for which, under the rules and regulations of the Illinois Department, is to be met from the income and resources available to the recipient, and in respect to which the vendor payment of the Illinois Department or the local governmental unit represents supplementation of such available income and resources.

Any vendor who accepts a vendor payment and who knowingly obtains or attempts to obtain additional payment for the goods or services covered by the vendor payment from the recipient or any other person shall be fined not less than $50 nor more than $500, or be imprisoned for not more than 6 months, or both." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 23, par. 11-13.

Other sections of the Code grant the Department the power to establish standards by which need for public aid will be determined (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 23, par. 12-4.11), and to make all rules and regulations as may be necessary or desirable for carrying out the provisions of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 23, par. 12-13).

The Department claims section 3-5 of the Code requires the Department to determine the applicant's need, and when such need is determined section 11-13 ...


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