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Danna v. Missouri Department of Social Services

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

December 2, 2014

ANNA DANNA, Appellant,
v.
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, FAMILY SUPPORT DIVISION, Respondent

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI. THE HONORABLE ROBERT M. SCHIEBER, JUDGE.

Bradley A. Constance, for Appellant.

Anna E. Connelly, for Respondent.

Before: Joseph M. Ellis, Presiding Judge, Victor C. Howard, Judge and Mark D. Pfeiffer, Judge. All concur.

OPINION

Page 822

VICTOR C. HOWARD, JUDGE

Anna Danna (Claimant) appeals from the judgment of the circuit court reversing the denial of nursing home benefits by the Director of the Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division (Division) and ordering the Division to approve her application for benefits as of the date the State of Missouri was named as a primary beneficiary of an annuity policy, which named Claimant and her husband as annuitants. Although the circuit court reversed the Director's decision, Claimant challenges the date when her benefits were to commence. As the party aggrieved by the Director's decision, Claimant filed an appellant's brief claiming that the Director erred in denying her application for benefits. Rule 84.05(e). In her sole point on appeal, Claimant contends that the Division erred in rejecting her application for benefits, and the Director erred in affirming the rejection, because the Division acted in an arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable manner in not giving her prior notice or the opportunity to change the beneficiary of the annuity. The circuit court's judgment is affirmed.

Factual and Procedural Background

Claimant moved into a nursing home on June 28, 2012, and on August 2, 2012, she applied for MO HealthNet nursing home assistance. On January 8, 2013, the Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division rejected Claimant's application because " countable resources exceeded the limits" for the program. Claimant appealed to the Director of the Division pursuant to section 208.080, RSMo Cum. Supp. 2013, and a hearing officer conducted a telephone hearing on April 5, 2013.

At the hearing, the Eligibility Specialist for the Division, who evaluated Claimant's application, presented evidence that Claimant's husband, Mitchell Danna, owned an annuity issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, which named himself and Claimant as annuitants. When Claimant moved into the nursing home in June 2012, the annuity policy had a value of $31,204.68. At that time, the claimant and her husband owned jointly or separately non-exempt resources, including the annuity policy, totaling $54,662.63. The spousal share was $27,331.31, half the amount of total resources. In August 2012, when Claimant applied for benefits, the annuity policy had a value of

Page 823

$30,004.50. At that time, Claimant and her husband owned jointly or separately non-exempt resources, including the annuity policy, totaling $45,904.24. Claimant's share of the couple's non-exempt resources at that time was $18,572.93, after subtraction of the $27,331.31 spousal share.

During her investigation of Claimant's eligibility, the Eligibility Specialist sent a written request for interpretation of the annuity policy to the Income Maintenance Program and Policy Department of the Division in November 2012. The Eligibility Specialist received a response that the annuity was actuarially sound and provided for equal payments for the rest of the annuitants lives but that the State of Missouri was not named as the contingent beneficiary upon the death of both spouses. The response concluded that in its current form, the income stream of the annuity was a countable resource. It further provided, " [I]f the Dannas were to add the state of Missouri as the primary beneficiary using the correct statutory language, the income stream would not be a countable resource."

Claimant did not present any evidence at the hearing but requested the hearing record be kept open for a period of time, which the hearing officer granted. On May 6, 2013, Claimant sent the hearing officer a letter and several exhibits. One of the exhibits contained evidence that as of April ...


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