Articles Posted in Public Benefits

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Sunny Radebaugh contested both her inability to cross-examine the nurse who performed an annual assessment and the Department of Health and Social Services' reversal of an administrative law judge’s determination. Radebaugh was a Medicaid in-home nursing care benefits recipient, who had her benefits terminated by the Department after an annual assessment. The assessment concluded that Radebaugh’s physical condition had materially improved to the point where she no longer required the benefits. She challenged the termination of her benefits at an administrative hearing, and the nurse who performed the assessment did not testify. Following the hearing, the administrative law judge determined that the Department erroneously terminated her benefits. The Department, as final decision maker, reversed the administrative law judge’s determination and reinstated the decision to terminate Radebaugh’s benefits. Radebaugh appealed to the superior court, which first determined that the Department had violated her due process rights but then reversed itself and upheld the Department’s decision. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded Radebaugh waived the right to challenge her inability to cross-examine the nurse who performed the assessment. The Court held that the agency sufficiently supported its final decision. The Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s affirmance of the Department’s final decision. View "Radebaugh v. Dept. of Health & Social Services" on Justia Law

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An applicant for federal disability benefits applied for state benefits that were intended to provide basic assistance while the federal application was pending. The Division of Public Assistance denied these interim benefits, relying on a subset of the criteria that the Social Security Administration uses to determine eligibility for federal benefits. The superior court reversed this decision, holding that Alaska law required the Department to apply the same federal substantive criteria and procedural requirements to its determination of eligibility for state interim benefits. The Department petitioned the Alaska Supreme Court for review. After review, the Court concluded that, while state law did not require the Department to track the federal analysis exactly when it assessed eligibility for state interim benefits, the Department’s application of the law erroneously excluded a category of applicants who would be found to be disabled for purposes of federal benefits and who therefore should have been entitled to interim assistance. The Court affirmed the superior court’s decision in part, reversed it in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Services v. Gross" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits

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Dillip Mullings owned a NAPA auto-parts store in Seward called Resurrection Bay Auto Parts, Inc. Mullings hired Dennis Alder to be the store manager, a position Alder held from 2006 to 2010, when he was terminated. Alder did not keep a time card, but it was undisputed that he typically worked from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The extent of Alder’s overtime was not at issue on appeal; Mullings conceded that Alder worked over 40 hours a week. It was also undisputed that Alder was paid a salary and did not receive overtime pay. Once terminated, Alder sought unemployment compensation from the State. The Department of Wage and Hour determined that Alder was entitled to overtime pay, and attempted to negotiate a settlement on his behalf with Resurrection Bay. Alder later sued seeking overtime pay. The employer claimed the Alder was exempt from the overtime laws, but the superior court found he was not and awarded overtime pay and liquidated damages. The employer appealed. Because the employer failed to show that the manager satisfied all four requirements of the overtime laws’ exemption for executive employees, the Supreme Court affirmed the finding that the manager was owed overtime pay under Alaska and federal law. Furthermore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s award of liquidated damages, because the employer failed to carry his burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that he acted in good faith. View "Resurrection Bay Auto Parts, Inc. v. Alder" on Justia Law

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A member of the military moved to a new post in Alaska in 2005. Two months later, he was deployed to Iraq. After 16 months of service in Iraq, he returned to Alaska in December of 2006. Shortly thereafter, he applied for the 2007 Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), for his eligibility for 2006. The Department of Revenue denied his application. The service member filed an informal appeal and later a formal appeal with the Department, both of which were denied. The superior court affirmed the denial, concluding that the relevant statute required him to reside in Alaska for six months before claiming an allowable absence for military service and that the statute did not violate equal protection under the U.S. and Alaska Constitutions. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that because the service member was not eligible for the 2007 PFD, the Court affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "Heller v. Alaska Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Five disabled Alaskans sued their former representative payee. At the conclusion of trial, the superior court awarded both compensatory and punitive damages to the plaintiffs; it also entered injunctive relief against the representative payee as to both parties and non-parties. But it declined to enter other injunctive relief as to non-parties. Three of the plaintiffs appealed. They argued that the superior court failed to understand that non-party injunctive relief was available under Alaska's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act. Because the superior court actually entered non-party injunctive relief, the Supreme Court after its review of the case disagreed with the plaintiffs' characterization of the superior court proceedings and affirmed the superior court in all respects. View "Osbakken v. Whittington" on Justia Law

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Brian Ross had been absent from the State of Alaska since 1990, first as a student at the United States Naval Academy and later as a career Marine Corps officer. Despite his absence, Ross maintained Alaska residency and received a permanent fund dividend each year. In 1998 the Alaska Legislature amended the dividend qualifications to provide that anyone who was allowably absent for ten consecutive years would no longer be eligible for dividends. This ten-year rule, however, does not apply to members of the United States Congress, their staffs, or the families of either. In 2009 Ross and his children applied for dividends but were denied because Ross had then been absent for ten consecutive years from the enactment of the ten-year rule. They appealed the denial, but the denial was upheld at an informal agency appeal, a formal agency appeal, and by the superior court. Ross appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the ten-year rule violates his equal protection and substantive due process rights. Because the ten-year rule and congressional exception are fairly and substantially related to the legitimate state interests of limiting dividends to permanent Alaska residents and preventing fraud, and because the ten-year rule is rationally related to the legitimate state purpose of reducing administrative burdens, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court as to these claims. View "Ross v. Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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A man filed an application for both occupational and nonoccupational disability benefits from the Public Employees Retirement System, claiming disability from both physical and mental conditions. An administrative law judge (ALJ) denied his claim, finding that he failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that he had a physical or mental disability that presumably permanently prevented him from satisfactorily performing his job. The man appealed and the superior court affirmed the ALJ's determination. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the man challenged the ALJ's determination regarding his mental condition. Because the ALJ's written findings were sufficiently detailed to support the ALJ's conclusions, and because substantial evidence supported the ALJ's conclusion that the man’s mental condition did not amount to an occupational or nonoccupational disability, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision to uphold the ALJ's order. View "McKitrick v. Alaska Pub. Employees Retirement Sys." on Justia Law

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A worker was involved in a fight in a logging camp bunkhouse. He did not file a report of injury related to the fight for over a year. When he finally filed a report of injury, he alleged that he had injured his hip, lower back, and ear in the fight. His employer denied the worker benefits because he did not give timely notice of the injury. The worker then alleged that he had verbally informed his supervisor of the injuries. After a hearing, the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board determined that the worker’s claim was barred because he did not give his employer timely notice of the injury. The Board performed an alternative analysis assuming the worker had given timely notice and decided that the claim was not compensable. The Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission affirmed the Board’s decision. Because the Commission correctly determined that substantial evidence in the record supports the Board’s decision on the compensability of the claim, the Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s decision. View "McGahuey v. Whitestone Logging, Inc." on Justia Law

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An elderly woman requiring long-term medical care gave $120,000 to her son in February 2007. The mother believed that the gift would not prevent her from receiving Medicaid coverage if she lived long enough to exhaust her remaining assets. She relied on a provision in Alaska's Medicaid eligibility manual that suggested prospective Medicaid beneficiaries could give away a portion of their assets while retaining sufficient assets to pay for their medical care during the period of ineligibility that Medicaid imposes as a penalty for such gifts. But by the time the mother applied for Medicaid in September 2008, the Alaska legislature had enacted legislation with the retroactive effect of preventing the kind of estate planning the mother had attempted through her gift. The State temporarily denied the mother's application. The son appealed pro se on behalf of his mother, who died in 2009. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the Alaska legislature's retroactive change to the Medicaid eligibility rules was valid. The Court thus affirmed the State's temporary denial of the mother's application. View "Pfeifer v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Serv." on Justia Law

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Parents requested that the Anchorage School District evaluate their child for eligibility for special education services. While awaiting the results of the eligibility assessment, the parents arranged for private tutoring. The school district did not assess the child’s eligibility within the statutorily-required time, and the parents requested a due process hearing. They also arranged for their child to be privately evaluated to determine whether he was eligible for special education services. The school district subsequently completed its evaluation and determined the child to be ineligible for services. At the due process hearing, the parents alleged that the school district committed procedural violations under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including impermissibly delaying the evaluation. They sought reimbursement for the cost of their child’s private evaluation and tutoring. An independent hearing officer presided over the due process hearing and ultimately agreed with the district that the child was ineligible for services. The hearing officer ordered the school district to pay the cost of the private eligibility assessment and to partially pay the cost of the tutoring. The superior court upheld the award of the private eligibility assessment, but reversed the award of the private tutoring cost. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the school district argued that the parents should not be reimbursed for the evaluation or the tutoring; the parents argued they are entitled to full reimbursement for both expenses. The central question the Court addressed was: where a child is ultimately determined to be ineligible for special education services, does the IDEA provide relief for procedural violations that occur during the process of evaluating the child’s eligibility for services? The Court affirmed the superior court’s decision, upholding the independent hearing officer’s award of the private assessment cost, but reversing the hearing officer’s award of the private tutoring expenses. View "J.P. v. Anchorage Sch. Dist." on Justia Law