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Sweet v. Dept. of Public Aid

OPINION FILED MARCH 23, 1977.

JOYCE E. SWEET, APPELLEE,

v.

THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC AID ET AL., APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. William J. Sunderman, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE UNDERWOOD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Joyce E. Sweet, filed a claim with the Illinois Department of Public Aid for medical assistance under the State's "Aid to Families With Dependent Children Related" program (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 23, par. 4-1 et seq.). Her claim was denied on the grounds that she was ineligible for medical assistance since her husband had full-time employment and her children were therefore not "dependent" within the meaning of section 4-1.3 of the Public Aid Code and regulations thereunder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 23, par. 4-1.3). On administrative review, the circuit court of Vermilion County reversed the Department's decision and held that section 4-1.3 of the Code and all regulations promulgated by the Department pursuant thereto were invalid and unenforceable since they violated 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(8)(A)(ii). The court also entered a monetary judgment in the sum of $1,662.55 against the Department and held that plaintiff was entitled to medical assistance and AFDC benefits in the future. The Department appeals directly to this court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 302(a)(1). 58 Ill.2d R. 302(a)(1).

This case is concerned with two interrelated Federal assistance programs in which the State of Illinois has elected to participate — the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) and Medical Assistance (Medicaid) programs. Title IV of the Social Security Act of 1935 as amended (42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq. (1970)) authorizes financial assistance grants to participating States for the purpose of aiding needy dependent children who have been deprived of parental support or care for reasons specified in the Act. The broad purpose of the Federal program is to encourage "the care of dependent children in their own homes or in the homes of relatives by enabling each State to furnish financial assistance and rehabilitation and other services, as far as practicable under the conditions in such State, to needy dependent children and the parents or relatives with whom they are living to help maintain and strengthen family life and to help such parents or relatives to attain or retain capability for the maximum self-support and personal independence consistent with the maintenance of continuing parental care and protection * * *." 42 U.S.C. § 601 (1970).

"Need" and "dependency" are prerequisites for AFDC eligibility. With respect to need, the Federal statute provides in relevant part that a State plan must:

"(7) except as may be otherwise provided in clause (8), provide that the State agency shall, in determining need, take into consideration any other income and resources of any child or relative claiming aid to families with dependent children, or of any other individual (living in the same home as such child and relative) whose needs the State determines should be considered in determining the need of the child or relative claiming such aid, as well as any expenses reasonably attributable to the earning of any such income; (8) provide that, in making the determination under clause (7), the State agency —

(A) shall with respect to any month disregard —

(ii) in the case of earned income of a dependent child not included under clause (i), a relative receiving such aid, and any other individual (living in the same home as such relative and child) whose needs are taken into account in making such determination, the first $30 of the total of such earned income for such month plus one-third of the remainder of such income for such month * * *." (42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(7), (a)(8)(A)(ii) (1970).)

It is well established that the individual States are given broad discretion within the foregoing guidelines to set their own standards of need as well as the level of benefits to be paid under State-administered programs. Burns v. Alcala (1975), 420 U.S. 575, 43 L.Ed.2d 469, 95 S.Ct. 1180; Dandridge v. Williams (1970), 397 U.S. 471, 25 L.Ed.2d 491, 90 S.Ct. 1153; Rosado v. Wyman (1970), 397 U.S. 397, 25 L.Ed.2d 442, 90 S.Ct. 1207; King v. Smith (1968), 392 U.S. 309, 20 L.Ed.2d 1118, 88 S.Ct. 2128.

In contrast to the authority which Congress has delegated to the States to determine which families and children are "needy," the Federal act defines which children are "dependent" for purposes of AFDC eligibility. 42 U.S.C. § 606(a) provides as follows:

"(a) The term `dependent child' means a needy child (1) who has been deprived of parental support or care by reason of the death, continued absence from the home, or physical or mental incapacity of a parent, and who is living with his father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, stepfather, stepmother, stepbrother, stepsister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, or niece, in a place of residence maintained by one or more of such relatives as his or their own home, and (2) who is (A) under the age of eighteen, or (B) under the age of twenty-one and (as determined by the State in accordance with standards prescribed by the Secretary) a student regularly attending a school, college, or university, or regularly attending a course of vocational or technical training designed to fit him for gainful employment." 42 U.S.C. § 606(a) (1970).

In 1961 Congress added 42 U.S.C. § 607 to the Social Security Act, which broadened the definition of "dependent child" to include children deprived of parental support or care by reason of the unemployment of a parent. That section originally authorized the States to define what constituted "unemployment." However, in 1968, section 607 was amended to remove such authority from the States. That section now provides:

"(a) The term `dependent child' shall, notwithstanding section 606(a) of this title, include a needy child who meets the requirements of section 606(a)(2) of this title who has been deprived of parental support or care by reason of the unemployment (as determined in accordance with standards prescribed by the Secretary) of his father, and who is living with any of the relatives specified in section 606(a)(1) of this title in a place of residence maintained by one or more of such relatives as his (or their) own home." (42 U.S.C. sec. 607(a) (1970).)

Pursuant to the authority granted in section 607(a), the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare has promulgated regulations which provide that the definition of an unemployed father within any State-administered AFDC plan must include any father who is employed ...


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