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Schultz v. Kott

Decided: November 13, 1974.

ALBA SCHULTZ, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
MAURICE G. KOTT, PH.D., IN HIS CAPACITY AS ACTING COMMISSIONER, NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF INSTITUTIONS AND AGENCIES; G. THOMAS RITTI, IN HIS CAPACITY AS ACTING DIRECTOR, NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF PUBLIC WELFARE; FRANCES ROBBINS, IN HER CAPACITY AS HEARING OFFICER, NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF PUBLIC WELFARE, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Michels, Morgan and Kentz. The opinion of the court was delivered by Morgan, J.A.D.

Morgan

[131 NJSuper Page 218] Plaintiff appeals from a decision of the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies, Division

of Public Welfare (hereinafter Division), denying her aid under New Jersey's program of public assistance to needy persons who are permanently and totally disabled, N.J.S.A. 44:7-38 et seq., because of the Division's so-called "homemaker" regulations. New Jersey Administrative Code 10:81-8.7(A), 8.8(C), 8.15, 8.16. Plaintiff challenges the validity of these regulations as violative of the Supremacy Clause (U.S. Const., Art. VI) and Equal Protection Amendment of the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., Amend. XIV).

The public assistance program, known as Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled (hereinafter APTD), was a federal-state jointly funded public assistance program established by the federal Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1351 et seq., in which the State of New Jersey participates pursuant to N.J.S.A. 44:7-38 et seq. On January 1, 1974, however, those portions of the federal Social Security Act which provided for grants-in-aid to the states for the APTD program (Title XIV) were repealed pursuant to the provisions of Pub. L. 92-603, Title III, § 303; and a new program, known as the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, paid for and administered by the Federal Government, was created by Congress to aid the disabled, as well as the blind and elderly. (42 U.S.C.A., § 1381 et seq.). Through the enactment of L. 1973, c. 256 (N.J.S.A. 44:7-85) the New Jersey Legislature authorized the Commissioner of the Department of Institutions and Agencies to transfer funds previously appropriated for the former programs, including APTD, if such funds were necessary to implement the federally administered SSI program in New Jersey. Thus, as of January 1, 1974 the APTD program is nonexistent and the state "homemakers" regulation is no longer in effect. Although plaintiff's request to have this court enjoin enforcement of the "homemaking" regulation has consequently become moot, her eligibility for benefits under the repealed act from the date of her application therefor on

June 12, 1973 until its repeal is still a justiciable claim cognizable by this court.

Plaintiff is a 44-year-old woman who contends she has been unable to engage in gainful employment due to a chronic asthmatic condition which prevents her from tolerating even normal dust levels. She had previously received APTD benefits on a conditional basis until medical data concerning her condition was compiled. Such data disclosed to the Division that she was able to function as a homemaker for herself, her father and her daughter who live with her, and therefore was not totally disabled under the challenged "homemaker" regulations. She reapplied for benefits, which were denied on the basis of the State's "homemaking" regulations in the following terms:

The Decisional Panel concurs that the medical data relied on by the Medical Review Team establish the existence of a respiratory problem which could be considered permanent in relation to durational criteria specified in official regulation. However, the evidence supports a conclusion, despite the permanence of such condition, that the appellant, with some assistance from other persons possesses a significant combination of manipulative and managerial skills to assume responsibility for homemaking duties. Accordingly, a finding of total disability would be precluded and the finding of medical ineligibility to receive Disability Assistance is affirmed.

This appeal ensued.

The provisions of the federal Social Security Act pertaining to the formerly existing APTD program set forth the general purpose thereof, which was to enable each state:

[T]o furnish financial assistance, as far as practicable under the conditions in such State, to needy individuals eighteen years of age and older who are permanently and totally disabled * * *. [42 U.S.C.A. § 1351]

In an attempt to implement the stated purpose of the APTD program, the Division adopted by way of regulation the following standards against which an applicant's claim of total disability was to be measured:

The term total refers to the inability of the client to perform those activities involved in carrying out the normal responsibilities necessary in employment or homemaking. Thus, total disability means inability to engage in a useful occupation, including homemaking. [ N.J.A.C. 10:81-87(a). emphasis supplied]

The term "homemaking" was defined in New Jersey Administrative Code 10:81-15 in the following terms:

(B) 1. Homemaking involves ability to carry the home-management and decision making responsibilities and to provide essential services within the home for at least one person in addition to one's self. Homemaking may be ...


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