Independent Living Final Orders for April – June 2013

Through an agreement with the good people at Florida Administrative Law Reports, I’m happy to be able to share with you the Independent Living fair hearing final orders that would not have otherwise made it into the published FALR.

In this batch I received ten final orders ranging in dates from April 12, 2013 to June 20, 2013. Six of the orders originated out of Miami-Dade County. The other four came from Volusia, Broward, Palm Beach, and Leon Counties. An amazing NONE of the youth had attorneys for the hearings. Some of the hearings were clearly lost due to the youth not understanding what would constitute sufficient admissible evidence. One hearing was a clear victory for the youth, which Volusia County unsuccessfully took exception to. One Transitional Funds appeal was a partial victory for the youth, in that the reduction in funds was lessened by the hearing officer. The rest of the outcomes were decidedly unfavorable for the youths.

I noted one pattern that emerged from the facts. Many of the youth who were terminated seemed isolated from their IL case managers. They could not be reached or they did not discuss their options with their case managers at their monthly “check day.” It is impossible to say from these orders what the cause of that was, but I encourage my clients to stay in close contact with their IL support folks at every step of the way.

Another pattern that emerged was the one-semester stumble. A youth may fall below full-time enrollment for a semester but get it back together for the next semester. Those youths then face retroactive termination, irrespective of their current status. This seems very harsh. The new IL statute has provisions to minimize the impact of a stumble, by allowing part-time enrollment for situations beyond just medical disabilities. I hope that provision and related rule-making will help youths like these in the future.

It should be noted that these orders do not represent the total amount of kids who received unfavorable IL decisions. These are only the youth who requested a hearing and then showed up for it. Previous public records requests show that a large number of petitioners later do not appear for their hearings. Another unfortunate example of our failure to engage them and allow them to feel membership in the program.

Here are the orders…

Z.H. – 12F-08247
Final Order: 6/20/13
Volusia County
Petitioner pro se; Agency filed exceptions

Secretary’s final order contains lots of legal analysis. Secretary finds that eligibility period is one year prior to the review, not birthday to birthday. Secretary finds that you do not have to receive credit for a course to be considered enrolled in the course; enrollment and progress are separate. Secretary also finds that attendance is not factor for RTI eligibility, unless it is independently part of the school’s enrollment policy. The termination letter in this case only claimed “poor attendance” and not inadequate progress; therefore the issue of progress was not properly before the hearing officer.
RTI termination reversed.

M.W. – 12F-08113
Final Order: 5/2/13
Dade County
Petitioner pro se

Youth could not afford to enroll in MDC for the Fall, but enrolled in the Spring. Terminated for lack of enrollment .
RTI termination affirmed.

J.M. – 12F-09277
Final Order: 4/12/13
Dade County

Petitioner pro se; agreed to go forward with hearing without reviewing evidence
Youth was enrolled full time, but was withdrawn from one class. She subsequently did not enroll in another class for that semester.
RTI termination affirmed.

A.H. – 12F-08981
Final Order: 4/12/13
Dade County
Petitioner pro se.

Transitional funds for phone, rent, and education. TF denied because “you have not demonstrated means of being self-sufficient to include applying for jobs or providing proof of full time enrollment in school.” Petitioner was working, but not enrolled in school. Petitioner had a SafeLink phone. Hearing Officer found that his needs were being met without TF.
TF application denied.

M.A. – 12F-08250
Final Order: 4/12/13
Broward County
Petitioner pro se.

Disabled youth with “intellectual disability” was terminated from RTI for lack of enrollment. School states youth was no-show for first days of class and was withdrawn. Youth states it was because she was given the runaround by the school and didn’t understand the process. Hearing officer finds that disability would allow her to be enrolled part time, but she she was not enrolled at all.
RTI termination affirmed.

T.J. – 12F-08800
Final Order: 4/12/13
Palm Beach County
Petitioner pro se.

Youth completed vocational training in May 2012, and then enrolled in Adult Ed in November 2012. Hearing officer finds that youth was not enrolled and failed to satisfy the “alternative summer work requirement.” (Note: no authority is cited for the summer work requirement as a condition of RTI eligibility.)
RTI termination affirmed.

M.G. – 12F-08572
Final Order: 4/12/13
Leon County
Petitioner pro se; requested continuance to review evidence

Appeal of needs assessment calculations. Youth claimed expenses were higher than Estimated Cost of Attendance of school. Youth failed to get school to create adjusted cost of living or to supply evidence of actual expenses.
Reduced RTI amount affirmed.

V.L. – 12F-08985
Final Order: 4/12/13
Dade County
Petitioner pro se

Youth was withdrawn from one class and therefore not enrolled full time. By the time of the hearing, she was enrolled full time for the following semester. Hearing officer found that she was not enrolled full time.
RTI termination affirmed.

K.S. – 12F-09271
Final Order: 4/12/13
Dade County
Petitioner pro se

Youth withdrew from one course to avoid an F, which would lower her GPA. She therefore fell below full time enrollment. Youth may have misunderstood full time enrollment requirements. Youth did not consult with her Independent Living Specialist, even though they meet monthly.
RTI termination affirmed.

L.A. – 12F-07658
Final Order: 4/12/13
Dade County
Petitioner pro se

Needs assessment appeal. Agency calculated rent and utilities pro-rated by number of persons in the apartment, three, but actual cost was divided by two persons. Hearing officer recalculated based on actual costs.
Reduction granted, but lessened.

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