Takahashi v. Dc Dept. of Human Services, No. 06-AA-1382.

Decision Date22 May 2008
Docket NumberNo. 06-AA-1382.
Citation952 A.2d 869
CourtD.C. Court of Appeals

Joseph R. Cooney, for petitioner.

Richard S. Love, Senior Assistant Attorney General, with whom Linda Singer, Attorney General of the District of Columbia at the time the brief was filed, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Edward E. Schwab, Deputy Solicitor General at the time the brief was filed, were on the brief for respondent.

Before FISHER and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges, and KERN, Senior Judge.


Petitioner Tomoyuki Takahashi petitions for review of the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") denial of his request for reimbursement from the District of Columbia Department of Human Services Rehabilitation Service Agency ("RSA") for tuition and other costs for his Fall 2005 semester at Beacon College.1 At issue is whether RSA was required to pay fall semester benefits (tuition and costs) to Mr. Takahashi when he enrolled and obligated himself to pay the tuition prior to applying for and seeking approval from RSA for the benefits.

We conclude that the ALJ's determination that RSA was not required to pay these benefits was not arbitrary and capricious. Further, the ALJ's conclusion that RSA fulfilled its obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (the "Rehabilitation Act") to provide transition services to children and adults under an Individualized Plan of Employment (the "Plan") by complying with the Memorandum of Agreement ("Agreement") among the various agencies in the District of Columbia government charged with providing comprehensive services to individuals with disabilities, was supported by substantial evidence.

The Agreement required District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") to be the lead agency for the purpose of identifying those students in need of transition services and referring them to RSA for transition and vocational benefits. Mr. Takahashi contends that RSA, not DCPS, was required under the Rehabilitation Act to have procedures to identify and complete the Plan for eligible students prior to their leaving school. He argues that as a result of RSA's failure to implement such procedures, a timely Plan was not completed on his behalf, and consequently, RSA's determination not to pay for all of his college expenses was erroneous. We are not persuaded by this argument. Accordingly, we affirm.

A. Factual Background

From 1998 through 2005, Mr. Takahashi attended George Washington Community Preparatory School ("GW Prep") a private secondary school in Springfield, Virginia, as a special-education student placed by the DCPS. The placement was funded by DCPS through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"). 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1490. In 1999, a number of service agencies including DCPS, RSA, and four other service providers entered into an Agreement, in an effort to identify students with disabilities expected to exit DCPS within two years and to provide those students with transition services into the adult community. The Agreement delineates the roles and responsibilities of each of the agencies that are signatories to the agreement. DCPS is designated in the Agreement as the lead agency responsible for identifying students within DCPS who may qualify for the RSA program in order to timely begin the transition services. Once a referral is received, RSA representatives attend the Individualized Education Plan ("IEP") meetings, when invited by DCPS, and assess the students to determine their eligibility to receive adult transitional and rehabilitative services.

Mr. Takahashi graduated from GW Prep in 2005 without ever being identified by DCPS as a student who might qualify for RSA benefits. In addition, DCPS never provided information about RSA to Mr. Takahashi or his mother. RSA was never aware that he was in the DCPS system, and therefore RSA never assessed him for transition services. In June 2005, Mr. Takahashi applied and was accepted to attend Beacon College in Florida. His mother, through her efforts to research public assistance programs to help fund his education, learned about RSA. On August 22, 2005, she applied for RSA benefits on Mr. Takahashi's behalf. At this point in time Mr. Takahashi was scheduled to begin his first semester at Beacon College a week later.

When RSA received Mr. Takahashi's application, it scheduled a two-day orientation session during the week of September 20, 2005 for him to learn about the RSA program; subsequently assigned him a vocational counselor; and had him take a psychological evaluation that confirmed his diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Learning Disability, and Asperger's Syndrome. After a psychiatric evaluation on November 8, 2005, Mr. Takahashi was approved for his vocational goals. RSA did not immediately grant him services, but ultimately RSA formulated the Plan in July 2006, authorizing payments for him to attend Beacon College in Spring 2006. RSA, however, declined to reimburse him for his educational costs for Fall of 2005 on the grounds that Mr. Takahashi incurred that debt before the date of application for RSA benefits and before the date of formal approval of his Plan. RSA conceded that it should have completed the Plan no later than December 2005, which is why it agreed to pay for the Spring 2006 semester.

B. The ALJ's Order

On June 30, 2006, Mr. Takahashi filed a petition with the OAH challenging RSA's decision not to reimburse him for the expenses incurred for the Fall 2005 semester. The ALJ framed the issues before the OAH as follows:

First, is the RSA program obligated (and if so, to what extent is it obligated) to identify a minor [child who is a] disabled student as a candidate for RSA benefits while he is receiving special education benefits? Second, assuming the answer to the first sub-issue is no, is the RSA program required to fund an educational program that the applicant has already committed himself to, but he has not yet entered the program as of the date of application.

In response to the first issue, the ALJ concluded that RSA is obligated to provide vocational rehabilitation services to eligible adults with disabilities, including transition services that facilitate the achievement of the employment outcome identified in the Plan, once such students in the special education system are identified to RSA by DCPS. Mr. Takahashi argued that the statute required RSA, in the first instance, to identify all students with disabilities who may qualify for vocational rehabilitation services. The ALJ concluded that RSA was not responsible in the first instance for identifying Mr. Takahashi, a minor disabled student who was receiving special education services from DCPS, as a student who might be eligible to receive RSA benefits. The ALJ concluded that the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 721(a)(11)(D), required coordination with educational and other officials in order to facilitate the timely transition of students with disabilities from educational to vocational rehabilitative services.

RSA complied with the Rehabilitation Act's requirement for interagency coordination, the ALJ concluded, by clearly setting forth the obligations and responsibilities of each of the relevant and responsible agencies in the Agreement. Specifically, RSA would fulfill its statutory obligations by: (1) assigning rehabilitation counselors to the "city-wide" high schools, both public and private; (2) providing education and technical assistance to staff, students, and families; and (3) attending IEP meetings when invited to do so by DCPS. RSA's fulfillment of these duties was dependent on RSA receiving from DCPS referrals with identifying information about the disabled students in need of RSA services. Thus, the ALJ concluded that RSA was not the agency responsible for the failure to identify Mr. Takahashi's transition needs, and determined that DCPS was primarily responsible for the neglect.2

The second issue the ALJ considered was whether RSA was required to fund the education program even though Mr. Takahashi had already applied and been accepted before applying to and receiving approval for RSA services. The ALJ concluded that RSA is required to issue benefits only to the extent available and in compliance with the fiscal restraints of the federal Rehabilitation Service Agency program and the District's Anti-Deficiency Act. 34 C.F.R. § 348 (2007). Therefore, RSA is required to determine an individual's eligibility for RSA benefits within sixty days after the individual has submitted an application. Before RSA is obligated to fund any particular service, it must work with the individual to develop a written Plan that sets forth the employment outcome; service providers; and methods to be used to procure the requisite services. The ALJ noted that there is no entitlement to receive RSA benefits in contrast to the IDEA program, which is an entitlement program. 29 U.S.C. § 722(a)(3)(B) (2007); 34 C.F.R. § 361.42(a)(5) (2007). Therefore, the ALJ concluded:

Even though [Mr. Takahashi] had not entered Beacon College when his mother referred him to RSA, [Mr. Takahashi] already obligated himself to attend Beacon and to pay tuition for the Fall 2005 semester. [RSA] played no role in that college application and never contracted with [Mr. Takahashi] or the school to fund this tuition. [RSA] had no obligation to pay for [Mr. Takahashi's] tuition until it had determined his eligibility and developed a[] [Plan], a contract for his vocational program.

Mr. Takahashi filed a Motion to Reconsider, which was denied. He timely petitioned for review.


In reviewing an OAH decision, we may reverse only if the findings are not supported by substantial evidence in the record or if the decision is grounded on a mistaken legal premise or is an abuse...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 cases
  • Smith v. U.S., No. 06-CF-243.
    • United States
    • D.C. Court of Appeals
    • February 26, 2009
  • Howell v. Gray, Civil Action No. 11–01177 (ABJ).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • February 14, 2012
    ...authorized vocational rehabilitation services pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 713(a). Takahashi v. D.C. Dept. of Human Servs., 952 A.2d 869, 874–75 (D.C.2008). Individuals apply for vocational rehabilitation services by contacting the RSA directly or upon referral. 29 D.C.M.......
  • Digsby v. U.S., No. 06-CF-1585.
    • United States
    • D.C. Court of Appeals
    • October 1, 2009
  • Recio v. D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Bd., 12–AA–292.
    • United States
    • D.C. Court of Appeals
    • August 22, 2013
    ...or of the statute which it administers is generally entitled to great deference from this court.” Takahashi v. District of Columbia Dep't of Human Servs., 952 A.2d 869, 874 (D.C.2008) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “However, we will not defer to the Board's interpretation......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT