Gardebring v. Jenkins
485 U.S. 415 (1988)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gardebring v. Jenkins, 485 U.S. 415 (1988)

Gardebring v. Jenkins

No. 86-978

Argued January 13, 1988

Decided April 19, 1988

485 U.S. 415

Syllabus

In 1981, the federal statute authorizing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program was amended to provide that a family receiving nonrecurring lump-sum income is ineligible for benefits for the number of months that the income would satisfy the family's standard of need. In 1983, respondent's husband received a lump-sum Social Security disability payment, which was expended within two days to pay family bills. Respondent reported the receipt and expenditure of the lump-sum payment to her Minnesota Department of Human Services (Department) caseworker and was advised that, under the 1981 amendment, her family would be ineligible for benefits for the next several months. The family continued to receive benefits while respondent's administrative appeal was pending, but the Department ultimately concluded that the federal statute must be enforced even though respondent had not received advance notice of the new lump-sum rule. Respondent then intervened in a pending class action in Federal District Court; the court held that the Department's implementation of the new lump-sum rule without adequate notice to AFDC applicants and recipients violated a federal notice regulation that, as promulgated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) before the 1981 amendment was enacted, requires that individuals be given "information in written form, and orally as appropriate, about . . . conditions of eligibility." The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's judgment in pertinent part.

Held: The federal notice regulation was not violated by the Department. Pursuant to the regulation, the Department has distributed two printed brochures that generally describe the AFDC program and the recipient's duty to report all household income monthly. When the 1981 amendment was enacted, the Department sent a letter to all AFDC recipients advising them of the major changes in the program and alerting them to the new lump-sum rule. The plain language of the federal regulation does not require that information be disseminated regarding every specific change in eligibility requirements. Moreover, the plain language of the notice provision and of other provisions in the same section of the

Page 485 U. S. 416

regulations establishes that only applicants, and not recipients, are addressed by the requirement that individuals be given information about the program. Further, even as to applicants, the notice provision requires only that printed information about access to AFDC benefits be available, and that such information may be transmitted orally as well. Finally, the Secretary believes it appropriate to rely on an oral explanation of the consequences of receiving a lump-sum payment when the recipient reports it to the family's caseworker. In sum, the notice regulation simply requires the State to publish a general description of the basic structure of the AFDC program and its availability. Pp. 485 U. S. 423-432.

801 F.2d 288, reversed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, and in which MARSHALL, J., joined as to the last paragraph, post, p. 485 U. S. 432. KENNEDY, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 485 U. S. 417

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