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Abulkhair v. State

April 9, 2009

ASSEM A. ABULKHAIR, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND PASSAIC COUNTY BOARD OF SOCIAL SERVICES, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Docket No. L-0625-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued February 25, 2009

Before Judges Waugh and Newman.

Plaintiff Assem A. Abulkhair appeals from the dismissal of his complaint, sounding in negligence and breach of contract, alleging that the State of New Jersey (State) and the Passaic County Board of Social Services (Board) wrongfully withheld $3,407 from benefits he received from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The dismissal was based on the doctrine of res judicata arising out of the fact that Abulkhair had unsuccessfully appealed the withholding of those same funds in Assem Abulkhair v. Passaic County Bd. of Soc. Servs., No. A-1683-05T5 (App. Div. Mar. 23, 2007) (Abulkhair I). We affirm.

I.

Abulkhair applied to the Board and received benefits from the General Assistance component of the Work First New Jersey welfare program (WFNJ/GA). N.J.S.A. 44:10-71 to -94. In the case of Passaic County residents, the WFNJ/GA program is implemented at the local level by the Board, which is the county welfare agency, pursuant to regulations of the Department of Human Services (Department), Division of Family Development (Division). See N.J.S.A. 44:10-73.

WFNJ/GA regulations permit the local welfare agencies to grant interim financial assistance to individuals who have applied to the SSA for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and whose applications are pending. N.J.A.C. 10:90-14.5(a). As a condition of receiving interim assistance, N.J.A.C. 10:90-14.5(c) requires that WFNJ/GA applicants execute authorization forms sanctioned by 42 U.S.C.A. § 1383(g) and 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1901-.1922. The forms authorize the SSA to forward some or all of the recipient's initial SSI payment directly to the welfare agency, rather than the recipient, so that the welfare agency can recoup the amount of the WFNJ/GA assistance granted from the time of the recipient's filing for SSI through the month in which SSI payments begin. 42 U.S.C.A. § 1383(g); 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1901-.1922.

Along with his application, Abulkhair executed an authorization for reimbursement form. The form stated:

I, Assem Abulkhair of the municipality of Passaic in the County of Passaic, in consideration of General Assistance to be granted me, do hereby authorize and instruct the Social Security Administration to send to the municipal treasurer my . . . initial SSI payment.

I further authorize the Director of Welfare to deduct from my . . . initial SSI payment as reimbursement an amount equal to the total amount of General Assistance which I received from this and other New Jersey municipalities . . . .

Abulkhair executed identical authorizations on November 17, 2003, and May 5, 2004. Abulkhair also executed a general agreement to repay form, which states in pertinent part:

I am applying for assistance for myself . . . under the Work First New Jersey Program. I understand that Public Law 1997, Chapter 14 requires me to repay from any lump sum of money or income that may be available to me . . . some or all of the assistance I or my household assistance unit have received from Work First New Jersey. . . .

I agree to repay the county/municipal agency an amount equal to the cash assistance and/or emergency assistance granted to me . . . if I or an assistance unit member ...


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