EFFECTIVE DATE: 10/27/88
AR 88-6(8): Levings v. Califano, 604 F.2d 591 (8th Cir. 1979) Definition of an Inmate of a Public Institution -- Title XVI of the Social Security Act
Whether, for purposes of determining eligibility for supplemental security income (SSI), an individual is considered an inmate of a public institution when he or she resides voluntarily in such an institution and pays for all services provided.
STATUTE/REGULATION/RULING CITATION:Section 1611 (e)(1)(A) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1382(e)(1) (A)); 20 C.F.R. 416.201; 20 C.F.R. 416.211; SSR 80-11c
EIGHTH (NORTH DAKOTA, SOUTH DAKOTA, NEBRASKA, MINNESOTA, IOWA, MISSOURI, ARKANSAS)
Levings v. Califano, 604 f.2d 591 (8th Cir. 1979)
APPLICABILITY OF RULING:
This Ruling applies to determinations or decisions at all administrative levels (i.e., initial, reconsideration, administrative law judge hearing and Appeals Council).
This ruling revokes SSR 80-11c.
DESCRIPTION OF CASE:
Myrtle Levings began receiving SSI payments in January 1974. In September 1974, she entered Monroe Manor, a publicly operated nursing home in Missouri. During her entire residence at Monroe Manor, Ms. Levings paid for all services provided.
In April 1975, Ms. Levings informed the Social Security Administration (SSA) that she was residing at Monroe Manor. In November 1975, SSA notified Ms. Levings that she was ineligible for SSI payments because she was an "inmate of a public institution." In November 1975, Ms. Levings moved to a privately operated facility and received SSI while in residence. In December 1975, she reentered Monroe Manor.
In March 1976, SSA again advised Ms. Levings that she was ineligible for benefits due to her status as an "inmate of a public institution." She appealed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The district court affirmed the Secretary's decision. Ms. Levings then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. That court reversed the district court.
The Eighth Circuit held that Ms. Levings was not a "inmate" of a public institution within the meaning of Section 1611(e)(1)(A) of the Social Security Act (the Act). Absent statutory definition, the court held that words should be given their common meaning. The court stated that ordinarily, the term "inmate" refers to persons confined in institutions under some form of restraint, and not to persons residing at facilities voluntarily.
The court further cited the Secretary's regulation (20 C.F.R. 416.231(b)(3)) which stated, in part, that an individual who lives in a public institution and who "receives" treatment and care is an inmate of such institution. The court determined that since Ms. Levings paid for all services provided, she was "purchasing" rather than "receiving" treatment and services within the meaning of the Secretary's regulations.
STATEMENT AS TO HOW LEVINGS DIFFERS FROM SOCIAL SECURITY POLICY:
SSA issued a ruling of nonacquiescence (SSR 80-11c) in the Levings decision and revised its regulations to clarify SSA's policy. Under that policy, as reflected in 20 C.F.R. 416.201, an individual is an "inmate of a public institution" under Section 1611 (e) (1) (A) of the Act if he or she is a resident of a public institution. A resident is a person who can receive substantially all his or her food and shelter while living in the institution. Under the regulation, an individual meets this definition whether or not the individual resides voluntarily in the public institution, and whether or not the individual or someone else pays for the services provided to the individual in the institution. SSA's interpretation of the statutory term "inmate" recognizes the definition of "inmate" in the technical sense as a "person lodged with others, and often confined, in an institution, asylum, etc." Webster's New World Dictionary, Coll. ed., (1966). The statutory term "inmate" is thus not limited to involuntary confinement and includes individuals who are voluntarily in a public institution.
The Eighth Circuit's decision holds than an individual does not meet the definition of an inmate of a public institution if he or she resides at such a facility on a voluntary basis and pays for all services provided by the institution.
EXPLANATION OF HOW SSA WILL APPLY THE DECISION WITHIN THE CIRCUIT:
This Ruling applies only to cases in which the individual resides in a public institution in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, or Arkansas at the time of the determination or decision at any level of administrative review, i.e., initial, reconsideration, administrative law judge hearing or Appeals Council.
An individual who is a "resident of a public institution," as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.201, does not meet the definition of an "inmate" of a public institution as used in Section 1611 (e) (1)(a) of the Act if he or she:
- 1. is confined in such an institution voluntarily and;
- 2. pays for all services provided. For purposes of applying this Ruling, "pays for all services" will be interpreted to mean that the individual (or the individual's agent) pays, or is responsible for paying, the institution's charges for his or her care. Furthermore, for applicants, the intent to pay charges from subsequent SSI benefits will meet this requirement.
Date of Publication 10/27/88
 20 C.F.R. 416.231(b)(3) was subsequently revised to clarify SSA's policy. The revised regulation appears at 20 C.F.R. 416.201.
 It should be noted that the Eighth Circuit's holding in Levings has been applied to all SSI applicants and recipients voluntarily residing in "Missouri nursing home district nursing homes" and paying for any services or treatment under the district courts order in Hollingsworth v. Schweiker, Civil Action No. N81-0035C (E.D. Mo. March 3, 1983).