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Burlington County Board of Social Services v. G.W

March 27, 2012

BURLINGTON COUNTY BOARD OF SOCIAL SERVICES, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
G.W., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development, Docket No. GA299603.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hoffman, J.S.C.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued February 14, 2012

Before Judges Parrillo, Skillman*fn1 and Hoffman.

The opinion of the court was delivered by HOFFMAN, J.S.C. (temporarily assigned).

Appellant, G.W., appeals from the final decision of the Director of the Division of Family Development terminating his General Assistance (GA) and Emergency Assistance (EA) benefits. Appellant contends his benefits were improperly terminated based on his eligibility for federal Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, even though he had yet to receive any SSD benefits as of the date of the termination. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

We briefly set forth the relevant facts. In September 2007, appellant, a fifty-four-year-old unemployable single adult without dependent children, began receiving GA and EA benefits administered by respondent, Burlington County Board of Social Services (the Board). In May 2009, appellant applied to the federal Social Security Administration (SSA) for benefits. On January 16, 2010, appellant received notice that he had been approved for Supplemental Security Income for the period June 1, 2009 through January 31, 2010 in a lump sum of $4,688. This amount was forwarded to the Board as partial repayment for the $15,060 in GA and EA benefits appellant received during that time period. The same notice advised appellant he was entitled to monthly SSD payments in the amount of $1,047, effective February 1, 2010. In February 2010 the SSA notified the Board that appellant's application had been approved.

In March 2010, appellant received notice from the Board that his GA and EA assistance would be terminated effective April 1, 2010. At the time his benefits were terminated, appellant was receiving monthly GA benefits in the amount of $210, and EA benefits in the form of housing support.

As to the reason for the termination, the letter advised appellant: "You are now receiving RSDI."*fn2 Although the letter did not reference a specific regulation providing a basis for termination, it is evident that the termination was due to the fact that appellant's eligibility for SSD placed his "countable income" above the maximum limit for a person to be eligible for GA assistance. With the addition of $1,047 in monthly SSD payments, appellant's countable income exceeded the $210 in GA benefits for a single unemployed adult with no children.

Appellant requested, and was granted, a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to contest the termination. See N.J.A.C. 10:90-9.3(a). Pending a final decision, appellant continued to receive GA and EA assistance. See N.J.A.C. 10:90-9.3(e). At the hearing, which was held on April 28, 2010, appellant testified that despite the notification of eligibility, he had not received any SSD payments.

In its written opinion issued May 18, 2010, the ALJ found that the SSD benefits for which appellant had been approved were properly included in his countable income, even though he had not received any payments. The ALJ therefore found the addition of these benefits placed appellant's countable income above the maximum limit for eligibility for GA assistance.*fn3 The ALJ further made credibility findings adverse to appellant regarding his alleged efforts to obtain his SSD benefits, describing his testimony as "inconsistent and conflicting."*fn4 The ALJ therefore affirmed the Board's decision to terminate appellant's benefits. On June 24, 2010, the Director of the Division of Family Development issued a final decision, adopting the ALJ's decision in full. Appellant now appeals this decision.

When reviewing a final decision of an administrative agency, our scope of review is limited. In re Herrmann, 192 N.J. 19, 27 (2007). "A strong presumption of reasonableness attaches to the actions of administrative agencies." In re Vey, 272 N.J. Super. 199, 205 (App. Div. 1993), aff'd, 135 N.J. 306 (1994).

In reviewing an agency's interpretation of a regulation it is charged with enforcing, we generally defer to the agency's construction of that regulation. Allen v. Bd. of Trustees, Police & Firemen's Ret. Sys., 233 N.J. Super. 197, 207 (App. Div. 1989). "An administrative agency's final quasi-judicial decision will be sustained unless there is a clear showing that it is arbitrary, capricious, or ...


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