65 Op. Att'y Gen. 142 (1976)
 
65 OAG 142  143  144  145

Wisconsin Attorney General Opinions

Opinion # OAG 53-76

10 August 1976.

Anti-Secrecy; Public Welfare;
Health And Social Services,
Department Of; Public Records;

Section 47.40(13), Stats., precludes the
release of vocational rehabilitation
information for the purpose of determining
legal settlement of a dependent person.

ROBERT P. RUSSELL, Corporation Counsel,
Milwaukee County

You ask whether Section 47.40(13), Stats.,
prohibits the release of information
concerning Division of Vocational
Rehabilitation activity to county public
welfare departments for the purpose of
determining the legal settlement of a
dependent person.

I am of the opinion that it does.

65 OAG 142  143  144  145

Section 47.40(13), Stats., forbids any person
from soliciting, disclosing, receiving,
making use of, authorizing, knowingly
permitting, participating in or acquiescing
in the use of any information concerning
persons receiving vocational rehabilitation.

There is one exception to the prohibition
the above acts may be done "for purposes
directly connected with the administration of
the vocational rehabilitation program."

Criminal penalties are provided for violation
of Section 47.40(13), Stats.

The language of the prohibition is broad and
is phrased in a series of alternatives.

The statute applies
to "any person or persons."

Many different actions relating to vocational
rehabilitation activity information including
disclosure, receipt, use, and acquiescence in
use are prohibited.

The prohibition applies if the information
was acquired either directly or indirectly or
if acquired in the course of the performance
of official duties.

The words of the statute cover
a wide range of activities.

The argument is made that the release of
information to a county welfare department is
not a disclosure because counties are
subdivisions of the state and the proscribed
disclosure involves release to the general
public, not to subdivisions of the state.

Whether or not such release would be a
disclosure, it would be clearly an
authorization of use, permission for use or
acquiescence in use.

The statute provides an exception
for "purposes directly connected
with the administration of the
vocational rehabilitation program."

The federal rules contain the same
requirement that use of information and
records be limited to purposes directly
connected with the administration of the
vocational rehabilitation program.

39 Fed. Reg. 42484, Section 401.47.

Legal settlement is a concept used
to determine liability for
general relief charges.

Section 49.11, Stats.

A determination of legal settlement is not a
function of the vocational rehabilitation
program, nor is it a factor of eligibility
for vocational rehabilitation services.

Therefore, a determination of legal
settlement by counties is not directly
connected with the administration of the
vocational rehabilitation program and it does
not fall within the exception permitted under
the statutes.

65 OAG 142  143  144  145

Neither Section 47.40(6)(g), nor Section
47.40(9), Stats., creates exceptions which
permit release of Division of Vocational
Rehabilitation information to counties.

Section 47.40(6)(g) provides that the
Department of Health and Social Services
shall cooperate with counties in providing
services relating to vocational
rehabilitation under Section 47.40, Stats.

The directive that the department cooperate
with counties does not mean that the Division
of Vocational Rehabilitation may release
vocational rehabilitation activity
information to the counties.

The language of Section 47.40(6)(g) is
qualified by the specific language
of Section 47.40(13).

The very general language of Section 47.40(9)
must also be read in light of the very
specific, prohibitory language of
Section 47.40(13), Stats.

If the non-availability of Division of
Vocational Rehabilitation activity
information severely handicaps a county in
making legal settlement decisions, the
Department of Health, Education and Welfare
should be asked to modify the federal
regulation and the Wisconsin legislature
should be asked to modify Section 47.40(13),
Stats.

BCL:WLJ

65 OAG 142  143  144  145