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AGLO 1970 No. 039 - March 19, 1970
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington
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                                                                  March 19, 1970
Honorable William Chatalas
State Representative, 33rd Dist.
2802 33rd Avenue South
Seattle, Washington 98144
                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1970 No. 39
Dear Sir:
            By letter previously acknowledged you requested our opinion on a question pertaining to the authority of the state department of public assistance to provide medical assistance to skilled nursing homes and intermediate care facility patients in facilities located outside of the state of Washington.  You have suggested in your letter that the department's authority in this regard may have been affected by the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court pertaining to the constitutionality of residential eligibility for state public assistance payments.
            The basic qualifications which must be met by all applicants for medical assistance are set forth in RCW 74.09.510, as follows:
            "Medical assistance may be provided in accordance with eligibility requirements established by the department of public assistance to an applicant: (1) Who is in need; (2) who has not made a voluntary assignment of property or cash for the purpose of qualifying for an assistance grant; (3) who is not an inmate of a public institution except as a patient in a medical institution and except as inmate in a county or city jail or juvenile detention facility, and who is not a patient under the age of sixty-five years in an institution for mental disease or tuberculosis and who is not a patient in a medical institution because of the diagnosis of psychosis or tuberculosis; and (4) who is a resident of the state of Washington."  (Emphasis supplied)
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
            Thus, clearly, the department of public assistance is authorized to provide medical assistance only to persons who are residents of the state of Washington.  However, it is perfectly possible that an individual who has qualified for and is receiving medical assistance from the department might be placed by the department in a nursing home or comparable facility in an adjoining state without losing his Washington residence.  The question of residence, in each case, must be determined on the basis of all of the facts pertaining to the case ‑ including such factual matters as where the recipient's permanent place of abode is located and whether he continues to maintain ownership thereof, etc.  The mere fact that a person temporarily is physically present in another state does not cause that person to lose his residence in this state.
            In so far as the recent United States Supreme Court decision to which you have referred is concerned, we assume you have in mind the case of Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 22 L.Ed. 2d 600, 89 S.Ct. 1322 (1969).  However, that decision had nothing to do with the question of how an individual's place of residence is determined for purposes of public assistance eligibility.  Rather, the Shapiro case only pertained to the constitutionality of "durational" residential requirements for public assistance ‑ i.e., requirements that an individual have resided in a given state for a specified period of time before qualifying to receive public assistance benefits.
            It is hoped that the foregoing explanation of the matter referred to in your request will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
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