Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1951 No. 442 - February 01, 1951
AGO Opinion Header Image
Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SECURITY ‑- DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH GOVERNING MEDICAL CARE FOR BLIND

1. Section 15, chapter 1, Laws of 1951, does not include the prevention of blindness or the restoration of vision provided in section 3, chapter 132, Laws of 1937.

2. The specialized service for blind persons provided in section 3, chapter 132, Laws of 1937, is the separate responsibility of the State Department of Social Security.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                 February 1, 1951

Honorable Roderic Olzendam, Director
Department of Social Security
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 442

Attention:  !ttJack M. Wedemeyer
            Assistant Director

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on the following questions:

            1. Does section 15 of Initiative 178, providing medical care, include the prevention of blindness and restoration of vision as set forth in section 3, chapter 132, Laws of 1937, and therefore transfer these programs to the State Department of Health; or,

            2. Since section 3, chapter 132, Laws of 1937, was not repealed by Initiative 178, does this specialized service remain a part of services for the blind as outlined in chapter 132 and therefore a separate responsibility of the State Department of Social Security?

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            1. Section 15, chapter 1, Laws of 1951, does not include the prevention of blindness or the restoration of vision provided in section 3, chapter 132, Laws of 1937.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            2. The specialized service for blind persons provided in section 3, chapter 132, Laws of 1937, is the separate responsibility of the State Department of Social Security.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 7, chapter 1, Laws of 1951, provides in part as follows:

            "On and after the effective date of this amendatory act the State Department of Health shall be responsible for providing necessary medical, dental and related services to recipients of public assistance and other persons without income and resources sufficient to secure them.  Eligibility for such medical service shall be established by the Department of Social Security."

            Section 1, chapter 132, Laws of 1937, (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. 10785-15) creates a division for the blind in the Department of Social Security which is charged with the duty of

            "* * * promoting, in the manner hereinafter set forth, the welfare of blind persons, persons with seriously impaired vision, and persons suffering from conditions which might lead to blindness."

            One of the important responsibilities of the division of the blind is to work with the Department of Health in the prevention of blindness under the provisions of section 3, chapter 132, Laws of 1937, (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. 10007-1) as follows:

            "In cooperation with the Department of Public Health, there shall be established and maintained such service as is needed looking toward the prevention of blindness, the purpose of which shall be to determine the causes of blindness, and to inaugurate and cooperate in any preventive measures for the State of Washington as may appear practicable.  * * *"

            Section 3 provides in addition that:

            "* * * Whenever a blind or partially blind person can be benefited by medical or surgical treatment for which he is unable to pay, arrangement shall  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] be made for an examination, with the consent of the individual, and for the necessary treatment by an ophthalmologist or physician skilled in the diseases of the eye."

            Thus the responsibility for providing eye examinations, eye surgery and treatment since 1937 has been lodged with the Division for the Blind of the Department of Social Security.  On May 10, 1949, this office advised your department that the provisions of section 15, chapter 6, Laws of 1949 (§ 9998330 Rem. Supp. 1949) relating to medical care for recipients did not repeal section 3, supra.  Section 3 is a special law relating to blind persons in this state and providing for the medical care and treatment of blind persons and it is not specifically concerned with persons as recipients of public assistance.  Section 15, chapter 6, Laws of 1949, which was amended by section 7, chapter 1, Laws of 1951, provides for the necessary medical, dental and related services to recipients of public assistance and other persons unable to pay for such care.  It is a general rule of statutory construction that repeals by implication are not favored by the courts, and a statute will not be held to have repealed a preceding statute by implication unless it is clearly manifest that the earlier statute is irreconcilably inconsistent and in conflict with the latter.  Buell v. McGee, 9 Wn. (2d) 84, 113 P. (2d) 522; State ex rel. Washington Mutual Savings Bank v. City of Bellingham, 8 Wn. (2d) 233, 111 P. (2d) 781; Batchelor v. Palmer, 129 Wash. 150, 224 Pac. 685; Bruner v. Little, 97 Wash. 319, 166 Pac. 1166.  There is no irreconcilable conflict between the two statutes, supra, and accordingly there has been no repeal by implication of the provision that eye surgery and treatment is provided by the Division for the Blind of the Department of Social Security.  In addition, there is no repeal by implication in the instant case under another rule of statutory construction that a general statute does not repeal a special one unless there is a plain legislative intent to that effect.

            Accordingly, you are advised that it is the opinion of this office that section 7, chapter 1, Laws of 1951, does not transfer the eye treatment and surgery provided for in section 3, chapter 132, Laws of 1937, to the Department of Health.  It remains the responsibility of the Department of Social Security to provide the care set forth in section 3, supra.  The Departments of Health and Social Security are jointly responsible, however, for establishing any measures to prevent blindness which may be practicable.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

JANE DOWDLE
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo