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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Allen v. State, Dept. of Health & Social Services, Division of Public Assistance (03/27/2009) sp-6347

Allen v. State, Dept. of Health & Social Services, Division of Public Assistance (03/27/2009) sp-6347, 203 P3d 1155

     Notice:   This opinion is subject to correction  before
     publication  in  the  Pacific  Reporter.   Readers  are
     requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk
     of  the  Appellate  Courts, 303  K  Street,  Anchorage,
     Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878,
     e-mail corrections@appellate.courts.state.ak.us.


            THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA

                                                            
CARLA ALLEN, )
) Supreme Court No. S- 12700
Appellant, )
) Superior Court No. 3AN-06-09151 CI
v. )
) O P I N I O N
STATE OF ALASKA, )
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & ) No. 6347 March 27, 2009
SOCIAL SERVICES, DIVISION )
OF PUBLIC ASSISTANCE, )
)
Appellee. )
)
)
IAN WALLIS,                   )
                              )    Supreme Court No. S-12864
             Appellant,            )
                              )     Superior  Court  No.  3AN-05-
11989 CI
     v.                       )
                              )
STATE OF ALASKA,              )
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH &   )
SOCIAL SERVICES, DIVISION     )
OF PUBLIC ASSISTANCE,         )
                              )
             Appellee.             )
                              )




          Appeal  in File No. S-12700 from the Superior
          Court  of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial
          District,  Anchorage,  Charles  T.  Huguelet,
          Judge.   Appeal in File No. S-12864 from  the
          Superior Court of the State of Alaska,  Third
          Judicial   District,  Anchorage,   Craig   F.
          Stowers, Judge.

          Appearances:   Nikole  Nelson,  Alaska  Legal
          Services    Corporation,    Anchorage,    for
          Appellants.  Rebecca C. Polizzotto, Assistant
          Attorney  General, Juneau, Laura  C.  Bottger
          and   John   W.   Erickson,  Jr.,   Assistant
          Attorneys  General, Anchorage, and  Talis  J.
          Colberg,   Attorney  General,   Juneau,   for
          Appellee.

          Before:    Fabe,  Chief  Justice,   Matthews,
          Eastaugh, Carpeneti, and Winfree, Justices.

          FABE, Chief Justice.

I.   INTRODUCTION
          Carla  Allen  and Ian Wallis are food stamp  recipients
who  each received an excess of food stamp benefits due to errors
made  by  the  State  of Alaska Department of Health  and  Social
Services, Division of Public Assistance (hereinafter the Agency).
The Agency seeks to recoup these overpaid benefits from Allen and
Wallis  by  reducing their future monthly food stamp  allotments.
Allen  and  Wallis  assert  that Alaskas  doctrine  of  equitable
estoppel  should  prevent the Agency from reducing  their  future
allotments  because the overpayments were caused by  the  Agencys
own  errors.   Because  applying equitable  estoppel  to  prevent
recoupment  of overpaid food stamps would create a conflict  with
federal food stamp law, which intends for such overpayments to be
recouped,  we  hold  that in this context equitable  estoppel  is
preempted  by federal law.  Allen also asserts that  the  Agencys
notice to her regarding its recoupment action did not comply with
federal  regulation  requirements and due process.   Because  the
notice  did not sufficiently inform Allen, as required by federal
regulations, of how the claim against her was calculated  and  of
her right to copy Agency records, we conclude that the notice was
inadequate.
II.  FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
     A.   Facts
          The  facts  of these consolidated cases are undisputed.
Appellants  Carla  Allen and Ian Wallis were both  recipients  of
food  stamps  funded  under  the  federal  Food  Stamp  Act1  and
administered  by  the Agency pursuant to 7 Alaska  Administrative
Code (AAC) 46.010 et seq.  Due to errors made by the Agency, both
Allen and Wallis received an excess of food stamps each month for
several  months.  When the Agency discovered its errors, it  gave
written  notice  to Allen and Wallis that it intended  to  reduce
their  future monthly food stamp allotments in order to  make  up
for  the  past  overpayments.  Both Allen  and  Wallis  objected,
giving rise to these actions.
          Carla  Allen  was a food stamp recipient in  2005.   In
August 2005 she reported to the Agency that her daughter would be
leaving her household for approximately six months.  This  should
          have triggered a downward adjustment of Allens monthly food stamp
allotment, but the Agency failed to act.  In November Allen again
contacted  the Agency regarding her daughters absence.   At  that
point  the Agency recalculated Allens food stamp allotment  based
on  the  reduction in her household size, as it should have  done
two  months  earlier.  The Agency then mailed a notice  to  Allen
informing  her  that she had received a total of $304  in  excess
food stamps during the months of October and November due to  the
agencys failure to code her daughter out of the household.
          Ian Wallis applied for food stamps in May 2004.  At his
intake  interview, Wallis accurately reported that  his  landlord
paid  for  his  heating  costs. However, the  Agency  incorrectly
credited  him  for paying his own heating costs, resulting  in  a
higher   food  stamp  allotment.   In  October  2004  the  Agency
discovered its error.  The Agency then mailed a notice to  Wallis
informing him that he had received a total of $448 in excess food
stamps  during  the  months of June through October  due  to  the
incorrect utility credit.
          The  Agencys  notices to both Allen and Wallis  further
stated,  [b]eginning next month, we must reduce your  food  stamp
benefit  by  10% or $10, whichever is more, until  this  debt  is
repaid.  The agency can adjust the claim if full payment  is  not
possible. The notices listed several options for faster repayment
of  the debt, ending with the instructions, [i]f you cannot  make
the  payments you have agreed to make, or you disagree with  this
action  and  want  to  review our records of  the  claim,  please
contact  [your  caseworker].  The notices  also  provided  charts
showing,  for each of the months of overpayment, the  amount  the
recipient  received, the amount the recipient had  been  entitled
to, and the corresponding amount of overpayment for that month.2
     B.   Proceedings
          1.   Carla Allens appeal
          After receiving the Agencys notice, Allen requested  an
administrative  hearing.   At  the  hearing,  Allen  argued  that
equitable  estoppel should prevent the Agency from recouping  the
overpaid food stamps, and that the Agencys notice to her did  not
comply  with  federal regulations.  The hearing officer  rejected
both  of these arguments, holding that equitable estoppel is  not
available as a defense in food stamp overpayment cases  and  that
the  notice to Allen met federal regulation requirements.   Allen
appealed the hearing officers decision to the Director of  Public
Assistance, who upheld it.
          Allen  then  appealed  to the  superior  court.   In  a
written  memorandum  decision  and order,  Superior  Court  Judge
Charles  T.  Huguelet affirmed the agency decision  on  both  the
equitable estoppel and the notice questions.  The superior  court
looked  to language in the Federal Register3 and determined  that
Congress  intended to preclude the defense of equitable  estoppel
under  the Food Stamp Act.  The superior court also decided  that
the Agency had provided sufficient notice to Allen under 7 C.F.R.
273.18(e)(3)(iv).   Allen  then filed this  appeal  on  both  the
equitable estoppel and the notice questions.
          2.   Ian Walliss appeal
          After receiving the Agencys notice regarding recoupment
          of $448 in excess food stamps, Wallis requested an administrative
hearing.   At  the  hearing, Wallis, like  Allen,  unsuccessfully
argued  that  equitable estoppel should prevent the  Agency  from
recouping  the  overpaid food stamps and that the Agencys  notice
violated  the federal regulations.  Wallis appealed  the  hearing
authoritys  decision  to the Director of Public  Assistance,  who
upheld it.
          Wallis  then appealed to the superior court.   Superior
Court Judge Craig F. Stowers upheld the Agency decision regarding
the  unavailability of the equitable estoppel defense but  agreed
with  Wallis  that  the Agencys notice did not meet  the  federal
regulation  requirements.  Language from the  Federal  Register,4
along with Judge Huguelets decision in Allens case, persuaded the
superior  court that Congress intended to preempt state equitable
estoppel defenses in the context of food stamp overpayments.  The
superior court also decided that the Agencys notice to Wallis did
not  meet the 7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)(iv)(E) requirement  that  it
show  [h]ow the claim was calculated, because it did not  explain
how  the  Agency  arrived at the basic amount of Walliss  correct
food stamp allotment, from which its calculation of the amount of
overpayment  flowed. Additionally, the superior court  held  that
the notice was not sufficiently clear regarding [t]he opportunity
to inspect and copy records related to the claim as required by 7
C.F.R.    273.18(e)(3)(iv)(H).  The superior court also suggested
that  in  order to avoid notice challenges the Agency should  use
notices   that   simply   copy   the   language   in   7   C.F.R.
273.18(e)(3)(iv)(M), stating [t]hat the State agency  may  reduce
any  part  of the claim if the agency believes that the household
is not able to repay the claim.
          Wallis  then  filed this appeal on the  sole  issue  of
whether  federal law precludes the defense of equitable  estoppel
in  food  stamp overpayment cases.  The Agency questions  whether
the  superior  courts decision affirming the Agency determination
in  part and reversing it in part constitutes an appealable final
order but supports the Courts accepting of the improper appeal as
a petition for review.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
          In an appeal from a judgment of a superior court acting
as  an intermediate court of appeal, we independently review  the
agency  decision,  giving  no deference  to  the  superior  court
decision.5   The  two  issues before  us  are  whether  equitable
estoppel is available as a defense to recoupment in a food  stamp
overpayment  case and whether the Agencys notice to  Carla  Allen
satisfied  federal regulation and due process  requirements.   On
questions  of law that do not involve agency expertise,  such  as
these,  we substitute our judgment for that of the administrative
agency, reviewing the legal issues de novo.6  In substituting our
judgment for that of the agency, we have a duty to adopt the rule
of law that is most persuasive in light of precedent, reason, and
policy.7
IV.  DISCUSSION
     A.   Federal  Law  Preempts the State Doctrine of  Equitable
          Estoppel in the Context of Food Stamp Overpayments.
          Allen  and  Wallis argue that the doctrine of equitable
          estoppel should prevent the Agency from recouping the food stamp
overpayments  they  received  because  they  spent  the  overpaid
benefits   in   reasonable  reliance  on  the  Agencys   mistaken
assertions  that they were entitled to those benefits.   In  both
the  Wallis  and  Allen cases, the hearing officer,  the  Agencys
director,  and  the  superior  court  declined  to  consider  the
potential  applicability of this defense, holding that  equitable
estoppel is simply not available in food stamp overpayment cases.
The  Agency  argues  that  this was the  correct  result  because
federal law preempts the state law doctrine of equitable estoppel
in this context.
          There  is  a presumption against federal preemption  of
state  law,8  and  preemption  doctrine  enjoin[s]  seeking   out
conflicts between state and federal regulation where none clearly
exists.9   Additionally, [w]here co-ordinate  state  and  federal
efforts  exist  within a complementary administrative  framework,
and  in  the pursuit of common purposes, as is the case with  the
food  stamp program, the case for federal pre-emption  becomes  a
less  persuasive one.10  But where state law comes into  conflict
with  federal  law,  the Supremacy Clause of  the  United  States
Constitution11 dictates that state law must always yield.12
          There  are  three major types of federal preemption  of
state  law:  express, field, and conflict preemption.13   Express
preemption occurs when Congress explicitly declares an intent  to
preempt  state  law  in a particular area.14   Congress  did  not
include any explicit statements regarding preemption of state law
in  the text of the Food Stamp Act, none are present in the  text
of  the  federal regulations, and the Agency does not argue  that
this is a case of express preemption.
          Field preemption is the term used when the federal  law
governing  a particular area is so comprehensive and so  complete
that  Congress  is  said  to have completely  occupied  a  field,
leaving no room for state law.15  We will not infer an intent  to
occupy  the  field where Congress has left some  room  for  state
involvement.16   The  Food  Stamp  Act  and  related  regulations
delegate broad authority to participating states in administering
the  food  stamp  program,17 including authority with  regard  to
overpayment  collection.18  The food  stamp  program  is  thus  a
cooperative  federalstate venture, which anticipates  significant
involvement  of  both  the state and the  federal  governments.19
Accordingly, field preemption is not applicable here.20  There is
a  role  for  state law in the administration of the  food  stamp
program, as long as it does not conflict with federal law.
          Conflict  preemption occurs when  a  state  law  and  a
federal law are in conflict, either because compliance with  both
state  and  federal law is impossible or because  the  state  law
stands as an obstacle to accomplishment and execution of the full
purposes  and objectives of Congress.21  The Agency  argues  that
equitable  estoppel  is  preempted in this  context  because  its
application would create a conflict with federal law. Because the
federal  food  stamp statutes and regulations  intend  that  food
stamp overpayments caused by state agency error be recouped  from
innocent food stamp recipient households, we agree.
          1.   The  federal  food stamp statutes and  regulations
          intend  that  food  stamp  overpayments  due  to  state
               agency  error be recouped from innocent  recipient
               households.
          The Food Stamp Act states that [e]ach adult member of a
household shall be jointly and severally liable for the value  of
any  overissuance  of coupons.22  In addition to  declaring  that
households  are  liable  for overpayments,  the  Food  Stamp  Act
specifically requires state agencies to recoup overpayments  from
households,  stating  that  a  State  agency  shall  collect  any
overissuance of coupons issued to a household by one  of  several
listed  recoupment  methods, such as reduction  of  a  households
future  monthly allotment, or by any other means.23   It  further
states  that  [a]  State agency shall collect an overissuance  of
coupons  issued  to  a  household . . . in  accordance  with  the
requirements  established  by  the  State  agency  for  providing
notice,  electing  a  means of payment, and establishing  a  time
schedule for payment.24  The only exception to the Food Stamp Acts
recoupment  mandate applies where a state agency can  demonstrate
that recoupment would not be cost effective.25
          The   Food   Stamp   Act  recognizes   that   sometimes
overpayments  are  made  to innocent households  but  nonetheless
provides for recoupment in such situations, imposing a cap of ten
dollars   or  ten  percent,  whichever  is  greater,  on  monthly
household allotment reduction for recoupment of overpayments  not
involving  recipient  fraud.26  The existence  of  this  cap  for
recoupment  from innocent households demonstrates  that  Congress
has  recognized that recoupment may cause hardship to recipients.
Congress  has  apparently  determined  that  a  cap  on   monthly
allotment  reduction of ten dollars or ten percent, whichever  is
greater,  is  sufficient to minimize the  potential  hardship  to
blameless food stamp recipients.
          Before  the passage of the Personal Responsibility  and
Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), involuntary
reduction of a households future monthly food stamp allotment was
not  an  option for recoupment of overpayments caused  by  agency
error.27   As  one  court has recognized, the amendments  to  the
statute  allowing involuntary allotment reduction as a collection
strategy  have increased the likelihood of success  in  recouping
overpayments  caused  by agency error.28  While  households  were
technically  liable  for  such  overpayments  prior  to   PRWORA,
recoupment was rarely possible because households were  judgment-
proof  and allotment reduction was prohibited.29  When it enacted
PRWORA,  Congress provided state agencies with a  more  effective
method  for collecting food stamp overpayments caused  by  agency
error.30   By making it much easier for state agencies to  recoup
overpayments  from  even  totally innocent  households,  Congress
reinforced its intent that state agencies be able to recoup  such
overpayments.
          The federal regulations implementing the Food Stamp Act
also  make  clear  that  recoupment of overpayments  to  innocent
households   is   required.   The  regulations  state   that   an
overpayment claim against a recipient household is a Federal debt
subject  to  this and other regulations governing Federal  debts,
that  [t]he State agency must establish and collect any claim  by
          following the[] regulations,31 and that a state agency must
develop  a  plan  for  establishing and  collecting  claims  that
provides   orderly  claims  processing  and  results  in   claims
collections similar to recent national rates of collection.32  The
regulations  reiterate the Food Stamp Acts assertion that  [e]ach
person  who  was  an  adult  member of  the  household  when  the
overpayment occurred is responsible for repaying it.33  They also
recognize,  however, the Food Stamp Acts limited exception  under
which  recoupment  is not required where it  would  not  be  cost
effective.34
          The  federal  regulations recognize and  address  three
different  types  of food stamp overpayment: Intentional  Program
violation  (IPV), Inadvertent household error (IHE),  and  Agency
error  (AE).35   The regulations treat each type  of  overpayment
slightly  differently,36 but nonetheless provide  for  all  three
types  of  overpayment  to  be  recouped  from  households.   The
regulations  incorporate PRWORAs determination  that  involuntary
monthly  allotment  reduction,  capped  at  ten  dollars  or  ten
percent,  is  a  permissible recoupment method  for  overpayments
caused by agency error.37  In fact, the regulations make allotment
reduction   the   preferred  method   of   recoupment   for   all
overpayments,  stating  that a state agency  must  use  allotment
reduction  unless  the  claim  is  being  collected  at   regular
intervals  at  a  higher amount or another household  is  already
having its allotment reduced for the same claim.38
          Thus, the federal statutes and regulations implementing
the  food stamp program intend for state agencies to recoup  food
stamp   overpayments  from  recipient  households,  whether   the
overpayments were caused by recipient fraud or entirely by agency
error.   While  federal  law grants state agencies  some  limited
flexibility  with  regard  to  how  this  is  accomplished,   the
application of a state law or procedure that would completely bar
recoupment of a large class of overpayments would clearly pose an
obstacle to this federal mandate.
          2.   Applying   equitable  estoppel  to  prohibit   the
               recoupment  of  food  stamp  overpayments  due  to
               agency  error would create an inescapable conflict
               with federal law.
          As  described  above, federal food stamp  law  requires
state  agencies to recoup food stamp overpayments from  recipient
households, regulates the manner in which they must  do  so,  and
makes  allowances  for  the fact that some overpayments  will  be
recouped from totally innocent households.
          Alaskas  doctrine  of equitable estoppel,  if  applied,
would  completely bar recoupment in many, if not most,  cases  of
overpayment  caused by agency error.  Equitable estoppel  applies
against  the  government  in favor of a  private  party  if  four
elements  are  present  in  a case:  (1)  the  governmental  body
asserts  a  position by conduct or words; (2) the  private  party
acts  in  reasonable  reliance thereon;  (3)  the  private  party
suffers  resulting  prejudice; and (4) the  estoppel  serves  the
interest  of justice so as to limit public injury.39   Most  food
stamp   recipients  receive  and  spend  their  food  stamps   in
reasonable  reliance  on the eligibility  determinations  of  the
          Agency.  While we cannot presume that each of the elements of
equitable estoppel would necessarily be present in every case  in
which  a food stamp overpayment is caused by agency error, it  is
safe to say that they would be satisfied in many of these cases.
          Application  of  equitable  estoppel  would  thus   bar
recoupment  of  many overpayments that federal  law  intends  for
state  agencies to recoup.  As evidenced by the structure of  the
food   stamp  statutes  and  regulations  described  above,   one
congressional  objective with regard to the Food  Stamp  Act  and
PRWORA  is that food stamp overpayments, even those due  entirely
to  agency  error, will be efficiently recouped from  recipients.
The  application of equitable estoppel would pose an obstacle  to
the  accomplishment  of  this  objective.   Accordingly,  Alaskas
doctrine  of equitable estoppel is in conflict with federal  food
stamp law, and is therefore preempted.
          Allen  and  Wallis  urge  that  this  conflict  can  be
avoided.  They point to the catch-all provision wherein the  Food
Stamp  Act,  after  listing several recoupment  options  such  as
allotment  reduction, notes that state agencies may  also  recoup
food  stamp overpayments by any other means.40  Allen and  Wallis
insist  that any other means encompasses the possibility  that  a
state  agency  itself  could  repay the  federal  government  for
overpayments  caused by agency error, rather than recouping  such
overpayments from recipient households.  To decide that  a  state
agency could obey the mandate that it collect any overissuance of
coupons  issued to a household41 by collecting money from  itself
would  require  an improbable stretch of the statutory  language.
Though we are mindful that we must avoid manufacturing a conflict
between  federal and state law where none clearly  exists,42  the
presumption  against  preemption does  not  require  us  to  warp
Congresss  words to create harmony between federal and state  law
where they clearly conflict.
          We are sympathetic to the argument that it is unfair to
require  indigent  food stamp recipients to repay  benefits  that
were  overissued  to  them through no fault  of  their  own,  but
Congress  has already made the policy decision that a ten  dollar
or ten percent cap on monthly allotment reduction,43 coupled with
allowing  state agencies some flexibility to compromise claims,44
is  sufficient to mitigate this unfairness.  Alaskas doctrine  of
equitable  estoppel cannot be used to effectively  override  this
policy decision.
          3.   Our holding is consistent with the position of the
               Federal Food and Nutrition Service.
          In the 1998 preamble to proposed changes to the federal
food   stamp   regulations  that  were  intended  to  incorporate
statutory changes made by PRWORA,45 the Food and Nutrition Service
(FNS)   responded  to  comments,  stating  that  households   are
responsible for all overpayments with no exception for  equitable
estoppel.46   In the 2000 preamble to the final rule implementing
PRWORAs  statutory  changes,  FNS again  responded  to  comments,
reiterating  its  position  that equitable  estoppel  cannot  bar
recoupment.47
          The Allen superior court erroneously referred to two of
these  FNS  statements as [a] 1996 amendment to the [Food  Stamp]
          [A]ct and [a] 2000 amendment to the regulations governing the
Food  Stamp  Act, and thereby found that the Agency had  properly
relied  on  the  language of the Food Stamp Act and  the  federal
regulations  in  making  its decision  to  reject  the  equitable
estoppel  defense.   The  Allen superior  court  thus  mistakenly
accorded more weight to the FNS statements than they are due.
          Because  the FNS has not chosen to encode its  position
regarding equitable estoppel in a binding regulation,48 this court
need  only  defer  to  that position to the  extent  that  it  is
persuasive  (so-called Skidmore deference).49   In  reaching  our
decision  we rely primarily on our own assessment of the  law  as
discussed above, but we note that our holding is consistent  with
the position of the FNS, which we believe to be correct.
          4.   Our  holding  avoids  conflict  with  the  federal
               principle   that  equitable  estoppel  cannot   be
               applied against the government where it results in
               the   payment   of  benefits  not  authorized   by
               Congress.
          In  Office  of  Personnel Management v.  Richmond,  the
United  States  Supreme Court held, based on  the  Appropriations
Clause,50  that  where payments out of the  public  treasury  are
involved,  equitable estoppel cannot be applied  to  require  the
federal  government to pay benefits not otherwise  authorized  by
law.51   While the instant case differs from Richmond in that  it
involves  a cooperative federalstate program in which  the  state
agency  is  given  substantial  authority  and  flexibility,  the
federal  government does provide the funding  behind  food  stamp
benefits.  Just as estopping the Agency from recouping food stamp
overpayments  from  innocent households would create  a  conflict
with  federal  food stamp law as described above, it  could  also
create  a  conflict with federal law regarding equitable estoppel
and  the  use of public funds.  Our holding avoids this potential
conflict.
     B.   The Agencys Notice to Carla Allen Was Inadequate.
          The  Allen  superior court concluded that  the  Agencys
notice  to  Allen  informing  her of its  recoupment  action  was
sufficiently  compliant  with  the requirements  of  the  federal
regulations   and   due   process,   and   Allen   appeals   that
determination.  This issue arises in the Allen appeal and not the
Wallis  appeal because the Wallis superior court found  that  the
Agencys notice to Wallis was insufficient, and the Agency has not
appealed  that decision.  We conclude that the Agencys notice  to
Allen did not adequately comply with 7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)(iv).
          Under 7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3) a state agency seeking  to
collect an overpayment claim against a food stamp recipient  must
first  give  written  notification to the  affected  household.52
Subsection  (iv)  of  the  regulation  lists  fifteen  pieces  of
information  that  every such notice must  provide,53  and  Allen
argues  that the Agencys notice to her fails to provide three  of
them:  (E)  How the claim was calculated, (H) The opportunity  to
inspect  and copy records related to the claim, and (M) That  the
State  agency  may  reduce any part of the claim  if  the  agency
believes  that  the  household is not able to  repay  the  claim.
Allen  argues  that  in  failing  to  provide  these  pieces   of
information,  the  Agencys  notice  violated  both  the   federal
regulations and her right to due process.  The Agency argues that
its notice was adequate, and that even if it were inadequate,  it
would  not  matter because Allen did in fact receive  notice  and
assert her rights.
          Where the regulations are unclear as to precisely  what
information  a notice must contain, due process requirements  may
be  used to fill in the gaps.54  Food stamps, like various  other
forms of government benefits, are property interests protected by
due  process.55  Due process requires that benefit recipients  be
given  timely  and adequate notice detailing the  reasons  for  a
proposed  termination,  and an effective  opportunity  to  defend
before  their  benefits are reduced or terminated,  in  order  to
afford them protection from agency error and arbitrariness.56  The
Mathews v. Eldridge57 due process balancing test instructs courts
to  consider what burden can reasonably be placed on an agency to
eliminate  the risk of erroneously depriving an individual  of  a
benefit in light of the value of that benefit to the individual.58
Where  the recipient has a brutal need for the benefit at  issue,
as  is  the  case  with  food stamps, courts  have  traditionally
required  that  agencies go to greater lengths  incurring  higher
costs and accepting inconveniences  to reduce the risk of error.59
Further, [i]n the context of notice, such effort might amount  to
erring  on  the side of providing too much detail respecting  the
basis for the agencys decision rather than too little.60
          1.   The   Agencys  notice  did  not  comply  with  the
               requirement that it include language stating . . .
               (E) How the claim was calculated.
          The  Agencys notice to Allen contained some information
about  how the $304 overpayment claim against her was calculated.
A  chart at the bottom of the notice showed, for each of the  two
months  of  overpayment, (1) the amount Allen actually  received,
(2)  the amount she had been entitled to, and (3) the overpayment
amount for that month, which was the difference between the first
two  figures.  If added together, the overpayment amounts for the
two  months totaled $304, the overpayment figure provided at  the
beginning of the notice.  The Agency argues that this information
was  sufficient to inform Allen of how the claim was  calculated,
as  required by 7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)(iv)(E).  Allen argues that
the  notice  should  have included information  showing  how  the
amount  of  her  basic  food stamp entitlement  (i.e.,  the  $119
figure) was calculated, not simply how that amount differed  from
the  amount  she received.  Without that additional  information,
Allen  argues, she would have no way of determining  whether  the
calculations were accurate.
          Allen   relies  on  several  cases,  and  though   none
addresses food stamp recoupment notices specifically, each  holds
          a notice of benefit denial, termination, or reduction inadequate
because  due  process  required a more  detailed  explanation  of
agency calculations.61  Due-process-compliant notices are designed
to  protect recipients from erroneous deprivation of benefits  by
allowing  them to assess whether or not the agencys  calculations
are  accurate.62   As  evidenced  by  this  case,  agencies  make
mistakes.  If a major purpose served by benefit change or  denial
notices  is protecting recipients from agency mistakes,  then  it
stands  to  reason  that such notices should  provide  sufficient
information to allow recipients to detect and challenge mistakes.
While the calculations shown in the Agencys notice to Allen would
allow  her  to  detect  a simple mistake such  as  the  top-level
arithmetic  error  in calculating the amount of overpayment  that
was  made in the notice to Wallis,63 they would not allow her  to
detect the type of mistake that caused her overpayment problem in
the  first place, that is, an error in determining the amount  of
her  true  entitlement.  Food stamp recipients  should  be  given
detailed  information throughout their involvement with the  food
stamp program so that they can help prevent errors from occurring
in the first place.  But detailed information must be supplied at
the  post-error stage when the agency is attempting to recoup  an
overpayment; otherwise, the affected recipient is being  told  to
accept   an  allotment  reduction  in  blind  reliance   on   the
calculations  of  an agency that has admittedly  already  made  a
calculation  error  to that recipients detriment.   It  would  be
unfair  for  the Agency to hold Allen liable for the Agencys  own
calculation  errors, without in turn supplying  her  with  enough
information to enable her to double-check its calculations.
          The  risk  of  erroneous  deprivation  of  benefits  is
substantial, the importance of those benefits to Allen is  clear,
and  the  Agency does not argue here, as agencies have argued  in
other  similar  cases,  that providing more detailed  information
regarding   its  calculations  would  be  such  an   unreasonable
administrative burden that the Mathews due process balancing test
would favor not requiring it.  Courts in similar cases have found
that   the  administrative  burden  involved  in  providing  more
detailed  calculations was not unreasonable as  compared  to  the
risk   of   erroneous  deprivation  of  much  needed  benefits.64
Accordingly, we hold that the Agencys notice did not comply  with
7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)(iv)(E).
          2.   The   Agencys  notice  did  not  comply  with  the
               requirement that it include language stating . . .
               (H)  The  opportunity to inspect and copy  records
               related to the claim.
          The  Agencys  notice stated If you . . . disagree  with
this  action and want to review our records of the claim,  please
contact [your caseworker].  The Agency asserts that this language
is  sufficient  to  provide an opportunity to  inspect  and  copy
records  related  to  the  claim  so  as  to  satisfy  7   C.F.R.
273.18(e)(3)(iv)(H), while Allen argues that it was  insufficient
because  it did not inform Allen that she had the right  to  copy
documents.
          The  language of 7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)(iv)(H) is quite
clear  in requiring that a recoupment notice must state that  the
          recipient will have the opportunity to inspect and copy records
related  to  the claim (emphasis added).  The Agencys notice  did
not  mention  the right to copy records.  Therefore, the  Agencys
notice  did  not  comply with the regulation.  The administrative
hearing  officer in Wallis found that [t]he ability  to  copy  is
implicit  in  the right to review, but this is simply  incorrect.
And  specific  awareness of a right to copy records  may  make  a
difference  to  a  food stamp recipient who is trying  to  assess
whether   it  is  worth  it  to  appeal  a  potentially  mistaken
recoupment action.  For instance, having that awareness, he could
choose  to  make  copies  of the records and  then  consult  with
somebody who could help him review them.
          3.   The  Agencys  notice may have  complied  with  the
               requirement that it include language stating . . .
               (M)  That the State agency may reduce any part  of
               the   claim  if  the  agency  believes  that   the
               household is not able to repay the claim.
          The  Agencys  notice  to Allen contained  the  language
[t]he  agency  can  adjust  the claim  if  full  payment  is  not
possible.   The Agency asserts that this language was  sufficient
to  inform Allen [t]hat the State agency may reduce any  part  of
the  claim if the agency believes that the household is not  able
to repay the claim, as required by 7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)(iv)(M).
This  notice requirement was added to the regulations in 2000  in
response  to  the  1997 Bliek v. Palmer decision,  in  which  the
Eighth  Circuit held that a food stamp recoupment notice violated
due  process  because  it did not inform  the  recipient  of  the
agencys  ability to compromise claims.65   Because  the  language
used by the Agency conveys the basic information required by  the
regulation, we cannot say that the language used by the Agency is
insufficient to satisfy 7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)(iv)(M).   But,  as
the Wallis court noted, the Agency would be on safer ground if it
wanted  to avoid future arguments like the one that was  made  in
this case and in other cases if it simply used notices containing
the  specific language provided in the regulations, thus avoiding
needless semantic debate over whether the words adjust and reduce
convey the same information.
          4.   The notice defects were not cured.
          The  Agency argues that Allen was not deprived  of  due
process because she availed herself of the right to challenge the
[Agencys] demand, making any notice deficiencies irrelevant.  The
Agency also asserts that language in two later notices it sent to
Allen after she requested an administrative hearing apprised  her
of  her  right  to copy documents, thereby curing that  potential
defect in the original notice.
          Though  Allen is certainly aware at this point  of  the
fact that she may inspect and copy Agency records and of the fact
that the Agency may reduce the claim against her, the Agency  has
not  shown  that Allen has received actual notice  of  [h]ow  the
claim  [against her] was calculated.66  More importantly,  giving
notice  that  complies with the regulations is a prerequisite  to
bringing a recoupment action.67  The Agency provides no authority
for its assertion that failure to comply with an explicit federal
regulation  notice  requirement can  be  cured  if  a  recipient,
          through her own initiative, challenges an Agency action and
eventually  obtains  the information that the federal  regulation
specifically requires the Agencys initial notice to contain.68
          Accordingly,  if  the  Agency  wishes  to  pursue   its
recoupment  claims against Allen and Wallis, it must  issue  them
notices  that  comply  with the federal regulation  requirements.
The  Agency  should  then consider exercising its  discretion  to
compromise  its claims against Allen and Wallis if  reduction  of
their  monthly  food stamp allotments would pose  a  hardship  to
them.69
V.   CONCLUSION
          For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the superior court
decisions to uphold the administrative determination that Alaskas
equitable  estoppel  doctrine  is not  an  available  defense  to
recoupment  of food stamp overpayments.  We REVERSE the  superior
courts  decision to uphold the administrative determination  that
the   Agencys  notice  to  Carla  Allen  complied  with   federal
regulation requirements.
_______________________________
     1     7 U.S.C.  2011 et seq. (2006); 7 C.F.R.  271.1 et seq.
(2008).   On October 1, 2008, the Food Stamp Act was renamed  the
Food  and  Nutrition  Act  of 2008, the food  stamp  program  was
renamed  the  supplemental  nutrition  assistance  program,   and
instances  of  the  word  coupons were  replaced  with  the  word
benefits  in  the statutes.  Pub. L. No. 110-234, 122  Stat  923,
1092  (May  22, 2008).  This opinion uses the pre-2008 names  and
terminology.

     2     The chart on the notice received by Wallis contained a
small   subtraction  error  for  the  month  of  September  2004,
recording  the  amount  of overpayment as $89  rather  than  $72,
meaning  that his total overpayment should have been $431  rather
than $448.

     3     63 Fed. Reg. 29304, 29307 (May 28, 1998); 65 Fed. Reg.
41752, 41765 (July 6, 2000).

     4    63 Fed. Reg. at 29307.

     5     Cook  Inlet Pipe Line Co. v. Alaska Pub. Utils. Commn,
836 P.2d 343, 348 (Alaska 1992).

     6     See  Lopez v. Admr, Pub. Employees Ret. Sys., 20  P.3d
568,  570 (Alaska 2001); see also State, Pub. Employees Ret.  Bd.
v. Morton, 123 P.3d 986, 988 (Alaska 2005).

     7     Cook  Inlet, 836 P.2d at 348 (citing Guin v.  Ha,  591
P.2d 1281, 1284 n.6 (Alaska 1979)).

     8     See State v. Arnariak, 941 P.2d 154, 158 (Alaska 1997)
(recognizing  presumption against finding federal  preemption  in
areas  traditionally regulated by the states); see also New  York
State  Dept  of Soc. Servs. v. Dublino, 413 U.S. 405, 413  (1973)
(It  will not be presumed that a federal statute was intended  to
supersede the exercise of the power of the state unless there  is
a  clear  manifestation of intention to do so.  The  exercise  of
federal  supremacy  is  not  lightly to  be  presumed.  (internal
citation omitted)); Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul,
373 U.S. 132, 142 (1963) (stating that, with respect to commerce,
preemption  is  not  appropriate in  the  absence  of  persuasive
reasons   either that the nature of the regulated subject  matter
permits   no   other  conclusion,  or  that  the   Congress   has
unmistakably so ordained).

     9     Exxon Corp. v. Governor of Maryland, 437 U.S. 117, 130
(1978)  (quoting Huron Cement Co. v. Detroit, 362 U.S.  440,  446
(1960)).

     10    Dublino, 413 U.S. at 421.

     11    U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2.

     12    See State v. Dupier, 118 P.3d 1039, 1049 (Alaska 2005)
(Under  the  Supremacy Clause of the federal constitution,  state
laws that interfere with federal laws are invalid.).

     13    See id.

     14    For example, 29 U.S.C.  1144 (2006), the ERISA statute,
states  in  its  first  section  that  the  provisions  of   this
subchapter and subchapter III of this chapter shall supersede any
and all State laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to
any  employee benefit plan described in section 1003(a)  of  this
title and not exempt under section 1003(b) of this title.

     15    For example, the Home Owners Loan Act (12 U.S.C.  1461
(2006))  gave  the  Federal  Home  Loan  Bank  Board  such  broad
regulatory  authority as to wholly preempt any  state  regulation
over  federal  savings and loan associations.  See Conference  of
Federal  Sav. & Loan Assocs. v. Stein, 604 F.2d 1256,  1260  (9th
Cir.  1979),  affd,  445 U.S. 921 (1980)  (In  our  judgment  the
regulatory  control  of the Bank Board over federal  savings  and
loan  associations is so pervasive as to leave no room for  state
regulatory control.).

     16    Dupier, 118 P.3d at 1050.

     17     See,  e.g.,  7 U.S.C.  2020 (2006); 7  C.F.R.   271.4
(2008).

     18     See  7 C.F.R.  271.4(b) (2008) (FNS delegates to  the
State  agency, subject to the standards in  273.18, the authority
to  determine  the amount of, and settle, adjust,  compromise  or
deny  all  or part of any claim which results from fraudulent  or
nonfraudulent overissuances to participating households.).

     19    See, e.g., 7 U.S.C.  2020 et seq.; 7 C.F.R.  271.4; see
also Reynolds v. Giuliani, 506 F.3d 183, 187 (2d. Cir. 2007) (The
Food  Stamp Act, 7 U.S.C.  2011 (2006) et seq., and the  Medicaid
Act,   42  U.S.C.   1396  (2006)  et  seq.,  created  cooperative
federalstate programs aiming, respectively, to raise  nutritional
levels and furnish medical care to needy individuals.).

     20    See Pharm. Research & Mfrs. of Am. v. Meadows, 304 F.3d
1197,  1206  (11th  Cir. 2002) ([The] federal  government  cannot
occupy  the  field  [of  Medicaid] when  no  Medicaid  relief  is
available unless a state designs and implements its own  Medicaid
program.).

     21    Roberts v. State, Dept of Revenue, 162 P.3d 1214, 1223
(Alaska  2007)  (internal citation omitted);  see  also  Catalina
Yachts v. Pierce, 105 P.3d 125, 128-29 (Alaska 2005).

     22    7 U.S.C.  2022(a)(4).

     23    7 U.S.C.  2022(b)(1) (emphasis added).

     24    7 U.S.C.  2022(b)(4) (emphasis added).

     25    7 U.S.C.  2022(b)(2).

     26      7   U.S.C.    2022(b)(3)   (distinguishing   between
overpayments involving recipient fraud and those made to innocent
households by providing a cap on possible allotment reduction for
overpayments not involving recipient fraud).

     27     Pub. L. No. 104-193  844, 110 Stat. 2105, 2332  (Aug.
22, 1996).

     28     See  Stone v. Hamilton, 308 F.3d 751, 756  (7th  Cir.
2002)  ([P]rior to the amendments, for all intents and  purposes,
there were no legal consequences to the overissuance because  the
indigent  recipients  were judgment proof or  had  no  state  tax
refunds  to intercept. . . .  Since the enactment, collection  is
almost guaranteed. . . .  By changing the remedies for collecting
for  overpayments  from ineffective and discretionary  to  highly
effective   and  mandatory,  the  amendment  has  increased   the
recipients liability . . . .).

     29    See 7 U.S.C.  2022(b)(2) (1995); Stone, 308 F.3d at 752-
53.

     30     See Stone, 308 F.3d at 753 (Suddenly the states  were
not  only required to collect for their errors, but they also had
an effective means of doing so.).

     31    7 C.F.R.  273.18(a)(2) (2008) (emphasis added).

     32    7 C.F.R.  273.18(a)(3).

     33    7 C.F.R.  273.18(a)(4)(i).

     34    7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(2), (e)(8)(ii)(D).

     35    7 C.F.R.  273.18(b).

     36       See,    e.g.,    7   C.F.R.    273.18(c)(1)(ii)(B),
(g)(1)(ii)(iii), (k)(1).

     37    7 C.F.R.  273.18(f)(1), (g)(1).

     38    7 C.F.R.  273.18(g)(1)(i).

     39     Crum v. Stalnaker, 936 P.2d 1254, 1256 (Alaska 1997);
Municipality of Anchorage v. Schneider, 685 P.2d 94,  97  (Alaska
1984);  see also Nelson v. State of Alaska, Commercial  Fisheries
Entry Commn, 186 P.3d 582, 585 (2008).

     40    7 U.S.C.  2022(b)(1) (2006) states:

          [A]    State   agency   shall   collect   any
          overissuance of coupons issued to a household
          by
          
          (A)  reducing the allotment of the household;
          
          (B)   withholding  amounts from  unemployment
          compensation  from a member of the  household
          under subsection (c) of this section;
          
          (C)  recovering from Federal pay or a Federal
          income  tax  refund under subsection  (d)  of
          this section; or
          
          (D)  any other means.
          
     41    7 U.S.C.  2022(b)(1).

     42    See Exxon Corp. v. Governor of Maryland, 437 U.S. 117,
130 (1978).

     43    7 U.S.C.  2022(b)(3).

     44    See 7 U.S.C.  2022(a)(1).

     45     Pub.  L. No. 104-193  844, 110 Stat. 2105  (Aug.  22,
1996).

     46     63  Fed.  Reg.  29,307 (May 28,  1998)  (Some  groups
maintain that, since the reason for the overissuance resulting in
the  [Agency  Error] claim was an error by the State agency,  the
household  should  not be responsible for the overissuance  under
laws  in  a number of States under the legal concept of equitable
estoppel.   The Department disagrees with this position.  .  .  .
Federal  law permits no exception for equitable estoppel  in  the
case of an overissuance caused by State agency error.).

     47     65  Fed.  Reg. 41,765 (July 6, 2000)  (Two  recipient
interest  groups  disagreed with our position on  [Agency  Error]
claims and equitable estoppel.  They believe that the [Food Stamp
Act]   does   not   specifically  prohibit  equitable   estoppel,
especially  since this activity is delegated to  State  agencies.
We  disagree.   Section 13(a)(2) of the [Food Stamp Act]  clearly
states that a household . . . shall be . . . liable for the value
of any overissuance of coupons.  This language establishes that a
household must be held accountable for any claim, including those
caused by agency errors. . . . One State agency commented that we
need  to  strengthen the fact that equitable  estoppel  does  not
apply  to  food  stamp  [Agency  Error]  claims.   The  commenter
suggested  that  we  add  specific language  to  the  regulations
indicating  this  position.   We do  not  believe  that  this  is
necessary.   The  discussion above and in  the  preamble  of  the
proposed rule should suffice and no change is needed in the final
rule.).

     48     See  Christensen v. Harris County, 529 U.S. 576,  587
(2000)  (Interpretations such as those in opinion  letters   like
interpretations  contained in policy statements, agency  manuals,
and  enforcement guidelines, all of which lack the force  of  law
do not warrant Chevron-style deference.).

     49    See Vigil v. Leavitt, 381 F.3d 826, 835 (9th Cir. 2004)
(stating   that  EPA  interpretations  contained  in   regulation
preamble   and  addendum  were  entitled  to  so-called  Skidmore
deference  insofar  as they constitute a body of  experience  and
informed  judgment  to  which courts and litigants  may  properly
resort for guidance.  (quoting Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323  U.S.
134, 140 (1944))).

     50    U.S. Const. art. I,  9, cl. 7.

     51    496 U.S. 414, 427 (1990).

     52    7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)  (2008) (Each State agency must
develop  and  mail or otherwise deliver to the household  written
notification to begin collection action on any claim.).

     53    7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)(iv) provides:

          The  initial  demand  letter  or  notice   of
          adverse action must include language stating:
          
          (A)  The amount of the claim.
          
          (B)  The intent to collect from all adults in
          the household when the overpayment occurred.
          
          (C)    The  type  (IPV  [Intentional  Program
          Violation],   IHE   [Inadvertent    Household
          Error],   AE   [Agency  Error]   or   similar
          language) and reason for the claim.
          
          (D)   The  time  period associated  with  the
          claim.
          
          (E)  How the claim was calculated.
          
          (F)   The  phone  number  to  call  for  more
          information about the claim.
          
          (G)   That, if the claim is not paid, it will
          be  sent  to  other collection agencies,  who
          will   use  various  collection  methods   to
          collect the claim.
          
          (H)   The  opportunity to  inspect  and  copy
          records related to the claim.
          
          (I)   Unless  the  amount of  the  claim  was
          established at a hearing, the opportunity for
          a fair hearing on the decision related to the
          claim.  The  household will have 90  days  to
          request a fair hearing.
          
          (J)   That,  if not paid, the claim  will  be
          referred   to  the  Federal  government   for
          federal collection action.
          
          (K)   That  the household can make a  written
          agreement  to repay the amount of  the  claim
          prior   to  it  being  referred  for  Federal
          collection action.
          
          (L)   That,  if the claim becomes delinquent,
          the  household  may be subject to  additional
          processing charges.
          
          (M)   That  the State agency may  reduce  any
          part of the claim if the agency believes that
          the household is not able to repay the claim.
          
          (N)  A due date or time frame to either repay
          or  make  arrangements to  repay  the  claim,
          unless   the  State  agency  is   to   impose
          allotment reduction.
          
          (O)  If allotment reduction is to be imposed,
          the  percentage to be used and the  effective
          date.
          
     54     See, e.g., Ortiz v. Eichler, 794 F.2d 889, 892-93 (3d
Cir.  1986)  (Although [the federal] regulations do  not  specify
precisely  the  information required  for  adequate  notice,  the
district  court properly looked to requirements mandated  by  the
due  process  clause  to  flesh out the details.);  Schroeder  v.
Hegstrom,  590  F. Supp. 121, 127 (D. Or. 1984)  (In  determining
whether  the  notice at issue is adequate, I  am  guided  by  the
language  of the regulations. The language of the regulations  is
not   sufficiently   specific  to  be   determinative,   however.
Therefore,  as other courts have done, I construe the regulations
as mandating compliance with the requirements of due process.).

     55    Atkins v. Parker, 472 U.S. 115, 128 (1985).

     56    Baker v. State, Dept of Health & Soc. Servs., 191 P.3d
1005,  1009  (Alaska 2008) (quoting Goldberg v. Kelly,  397  U.S.
254, 267 (1970)).

     57    424 U.S. 319 (1976).

     58     Baker, 191 P.3d at 1010 (citing Mathews, 424 U.S.  at
334-35).

     59    Id.

     60    Id. at 1010-11.

     61    See Ortiz v. Eichler, 794 F.2d 889, 895 (3d Cir. 1986)
(affirming  lower  court order that notices  of  benefit  denial,
termination,  and  reduction  must contain  detailed  calculation
information  in  class action by food stamp, Medicaid,  and  AFDC
applicants and recipients); Dilda v. Quern, 612 F.2d 1055,  1056-
57   (7th   Cir.  1980)  (holding  that  benefit  reduction   and
termination  notices  to AFDC recipient class  after  rebudgeting
violated  due process because they did not reveal what deductions
were relied upon in calculating adjusted net amount of recipients
income);  Banks  v. Trainor, 525 F.2d 837, 842  (7th  Cir.  1975)
(affirming preliminary injunction requiring notice with breakdown
of  income  and  deductions  so that recipients  could  determine
accuracy  of  new computations before class members  food  stamps
could  be  reduced  after  mass  change  in  benefit  calculation
method);  Ford  v.  Shalala, 87 F. Supp. 2d. 163,  186  (E.D.N.Y.
1999)  (holding  that  SSI benefit notices violated  due  process
because  they  did not provide enough calculation information  to
allow recipients to determine whether their benefit amounts  were
correct).

     62     See  Ortiz,  794  F.2d  at 893  ([Proper]  notice  is
necessary  to  protect claimants against proposed  agency  action
resting  on  incorrect  or  misleading  factual  premises  or  on
misapplication  of rules or policies to the facts  of  particular
cases.   (quoting Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 268  (1970)));
Dilda, 612 F.2d at 1057 ([W]ithout these calculations, plaintiffs
have little protection against errors committed by the Department
in  determining the amount of their grants.); Banks, 525 F.2d  at
842  (Both Goldberg and Vargas require detailed notice of adverse
action  as a protection against agency error and arbitrariness.);
Vargas v. Trainor, 508 F.2d 485, 490 (7th Cir. 1974) (Unless  the
welfare  recipients are told why their benefits are being reduced
or  terminated, many of the mistakes that will inevitably be made
will  stand  uncorrected . . . .); Ford, 87 F. Supp. 2d.  at  178
(Without  this  information, claimants cannot check  the  factual
much less the mathematical accuracy of [the Departments] intended
action.).

     63    See supra note 2.

     64     See,  e.g.,  Dilda, 612 F.2d at 1057 ([T]he  risk  of
erroneous  calculations  by  the  Department  far  outweighs  the
increased  burden on the administration . . . .  Due Process  can
be satisfied by simply photocopying the work papers and enclosing
them  with  the notice . . . .); Ford, 87 F. Supp. 2d. at  182-85
(finding  that requiring more detailed notice was in  the  public
interest  despite the administrative burden of developing  a  new
computer  program  to  produce budget worksheets  to  include  in
notices to SSI recipients).

     65    See 65 Fed. Reg. 41761 (July 6, 2000); Bliek v. Palmer,
102 F.3d 1472, 1476 (8th Cir. 1997).

     66    7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)(iv)(E) (2008).

     67    7 C.F.R.  273.18(e)(3)(i).

     68     See Vargas v. Trainor, 508 F.2d 485, 489-90 (7th Cir.
1974)  (holding  that  benefit reduction and termination  notices
that did not provide reasons for the agencys action violated  due
process  despite fact that recipients could call  caseworkers  to
learn the reasons and stating that [u]nder such a procedure  only
the  aggressive receive their due process right to be advised  of
the  reasons for the proposed action); Ortiz v. Eichler,  616  F.
Supp. 1046, 1062 (D. Del. 1985) (Defendants cite no authority for
the . . . argument . . . that plaintiffs must show that they were
actually harmed by inadequate notice  and the Court finds  it  to
be without merit.), affd, 794 F.2d 889 (3d Cir. 1986).

     69     As  the Agencys counsel stated at oral argument,  the
Agencys  recoupment notices provide [recipients] the  opportunity
to  give a call to their caseworker and say you know what, I just
cant  do  that, theres no way that I can feed my family if  youre
going  to take that money, reduce my allotment, and so lets  work
on  it.  Thats where the compromise authority that was granted to
the  state division from the Secretary of Agriculture comes  into
play.

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