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McKenzie v. District of Columbia Department of Human Services

July 11, 2002

GERALD P. MCKENZIE, PETITIONER
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, RESPONDENT



Petition for Review of a Decision of the Department of Human Services (MA-305935)

Before Terry, Schwelb, and Reid, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terry, Associate Judge

Argued March 14, 2002

In November of 2000, petitioner Gerald McKenzie and his guardian, Sheridan Bacchus, moved from the District of Columbia to a suburb in Maryland. Thereafter the District of Columbia Department of Human Services ("DHS") determined that Mr. McKenzie was no longer eligible for Medicaid benefits through the District of Columbia because he was no longer a resident. Mr. McKenzie contested that ruling, but a hearing examiner upheld it, and the Chief Operating Officer of DHS adopted the opinion of the hearing examiner as a final decision. Mr. McKenzie now seeks further review in this court, arguing that, despite moving to Maryland with Ms. Bacchus, he remains a resident of the District of Columbia. We affirm the decision of DHS.

I.

Petitioner, Gerald McKenzie, is a thirty-eight-year-old man who is disabled by Down's syndrome. He was born in the District of Columbia and lived here with his mother until she died in 1982. In 1995, Sheridan Bacchus, his aunt, petitioned the court to be appointed Mr. McKenzie's legal guardian. A Superior Court judge found that

[Mr. McKenzie's] ability to receive and evaluate information effectively or to communicate decisions is impaired to such an extent that he . . . lacks the capacity to take actions necessary to . . . obtain, administer, dispose of real and personal property . . . ; provide health care, food, shelter, clothing, personal hygiene, and other care . . . ; [and] acquire and maintain those life skills that enable him . . . to cope more effectively with the demands of his . . . own person and of his . . . own environment . . . .

On the basis of these findings, the court granted the petition and appointed Ms. Bacchus as general guardian and limited conservator of Mr. McKenzie. *fn1

For several years Mr. McKenzie lived with Ms. Bacchus at an address in the District of Columbia. During that time, he received Medicaid benefits through the District of Columbia and "day treatment services" from the D.C. Association for Retarded Citizens. In November 2000, however, Ms. Bacchus and her family, including Mr. McKenzie, moved to Hyattsville, Maryland. In January 2001 Ms. Bacchus informed DHS of the change of address. After receiving this notification, DHS determined that Mr. McKenzie was no longer eligible for Medicaid assistance from the District of Columbia because he was no longer a District resident. Ms. Bacchus contested the determination and requested a hearing, asserting that "Mr. McKenzie remains a legal resident of the District of Columbia."

At the hearing, Mr. McKenzie argued, through counsel, that he was not capable of forming the intent to abandon his domicile and thus remained domiciled in the District of Columbia. Further, he maintained that District of Columbia law allowed his guardian to designate his domicile, and that Ms. Bacchus had stated her intent that Mr. McKenzie be a resident of the District. The hearing examiner rejected these arguments, concluding that Ms. Bacchus had "the legal authority to determine [Mr. McKenzie's] place of residence, and she exercised that authority by moving him to the state of Maryland with her when she changed her residence to Hyattsville, Maryland." The examiner also ruled that DHS's determination was consistent with both the DHS Income Maintenance Administration Policy Manual ("IMA Manual") *fn2 and the federal Medicaid guidelines published in the Code of Federal Regulations.

The decision of the hearing examiner was adopted as the final decision of DHS after an administrative appeal. The matter is now before us on Mr. McKenzie's petition for review.

II.

We must uphold DHS's decision "if the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record considered as a whole and the conclusions of law flow rationally from these findings." Kalorama Heights Limited Partnership v. District of Columbia Dep't of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, 655 A.2d 865, 868 (D.C. 1995) (citations omitted). Furthermore, when an agency's decision is based on an interpretation of the statute and regulations which it administers, we will uphold that interpretation as long as it is not unreasonable or contrary to the language or legislative history of the statute. Id.; accord, e.g., Levy v. District of ...


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