Kuhn v. Dept. of Human Services

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 02-15-2017
  • Case #: A157445
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Lagesen, J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; & Garrett, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

A service that is provided with the sole objective of assisting a disabled person to function comparably to a nondisabled person qualifies as a social benefit within the meaning of OAR 411-330-0020(81), even if someone else incidentally benefits from the service.

Petitioner (Kuhn), a developmentally-disabled adult woman, appealed an ALJ’s final order upholding the Respondent’s (DHS’s) reduction of community transportation benefits provided to her under her DHS individual support plan (ISP). Kuhn’s old ISP required her to maintain a monthly mileage log, then submit it to DHS each month for mileage reimbursement. In 2014, Kuhn’s caseworker determined some trips on Kuhn’s mileage log were not solely for her benefit, but rather, for the benefit of others as well. The caseworker then reduced Kuhn’s monthly mileage allowance to reflect only those trips taken for her sole benefit. Kuhn requested a hearing, but the ALJ upheld the reduction, ultimately determining that, to qualify as a social benefit, the sole effect of the service must have been to benefit the disabled person and nobody else. On appeal, Kuhn argued the ALJ erred in construing OAR 411-330-0020(81) to mean any trip benefiting someone other than herself did not qualify as a social benefit. A “social benefit” is “a service or financial assistance solely intended to assist an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability to function in society on a level comparable to that of a person who does not have an intellectual or developmental disability.”  (OAR 411-330-0020(81)). The Court concluded the text of the rule focuses on the purpose of the service rather than its effects, requiring that a service be solely intended to assist the disabled individual. Thus, under the rule, a service that is provided with the sole objective of assisting the disabled person to function comparably to a nondisabled person necessarily qualifies as a social benefit, even if someone else incidentally benefits from that service. Because ALJ’s interpretation of the rule focused on the effects of services rather than their objectives, the Court found it was erroneous. Reversed and remanded to an ALJ for reconsideration under the correct interpretation of the rule. 

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