Appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County from the decision of the Department of Welfare denying certain benefits to appellant under the Public Welfare Code. Appeal transferred September 1, 1970, to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
Tom M. Lytton, with him Neighborhood Legal Services Association, for appellant.
Sidney V. Blecker, Assistant Attorney General, with him Marx S. Leopold, General Counsel, and J. Shane Creamer, Attorney General, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Manderino, and Mencer, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer. Concurring Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Manderino.
Annie Bell Travis and her six children reside at 344 Violet Way, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1966, after her husband passed away, she applied for Social Security survivor's benefits for her children. In September, 1966, the children were found eligible and received a Social Security lump sum benefit. From that date to the present the children receive monthly Social Security benefits. The entire family, including Annie Bell Travis, also receives a welfare supplementary grant.
At or about the time the Social Security lump sum benefit was paid, Annie Bell Travis and her caseworker discussed the possibility of retaining this lump sum benefit and placing it in trust, to be applied toward the future educational costs of one or more of her children. By letter dated September 19, 1966, the caseworker wrote Mrs. Travis the following: "I spoke with my supervisor about saving some of the money for the children's high school. This can only be done for schooling after high school. You must give a certain school on the forms, it must be recommended by the high school, and approved by the State."
Nothing further was done by anyone until three years later when Mrs. Travis went to the Allegheny County Board of Assistance and requested a written explanation of her assistance grant. This request was fulfilled by a letter dated September 10, 1969. Two days later Mrs. Travis filed an appeal from the determination of her assistance grant, asserting that the Department of Public Assistance had made a mistake in determining the amount of the cash grant to which she was entitled. Mrs. Travis requested a State Hearing which was held on December 16, 1969.
On March 26, 1970, Mr. Stanley A. Miller, Secretary of Public Welfare for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,
notified Mrs. Travis by letter of the decision of his department relative to her appeal of September 10, 1969. The letter indicated a rejection of Mrs. Travis's contention and constituted a dismissal of her appeal. The reasons for this decision were stated in the letter to be: "Those [Departmental] regulations provided for the setting aside of funds for future educational needs only if certain conditions were met, for example, the existence of a specific plan for the child's future education and a plan for setting aside the funds. The evidence presented at the hearing indicates that there had been some discussion with the County Assistance Office about reserving income for future education needs of your children, but there was no evidence introduced to indicate that you presented a plan for the future educational needs of your daughters or a plan for setting aside income to meet such needs. In regard to the second issue the major premise on which the reserve of income for education is no longer permitted is that it is not the proper function of the Department of Welfare to make provision for future educational needs because there are other established agencies to help persons get education and training." Mrs. Travis has appealed from this decision.
In September, 1966, the Department of Public Welfare had in effect Regulation 3231.1, entitled "Income and Personal Property Reserved for Education or Training". The provisions of this regulation were as follows: "With prior approval from State Office, a client may retain certain resources for identified future needs of a child under 21 years of age, provided that: (a) There is a well-defined and specific plan for the child's education or training which for implementation requires a current or future expenditure of funds not available from other sources. (b) The plan is financially feasible in terms of the stability of the resource
and the likelihood of its continuation. (c) The plan for the child's education or training is realistic in terms of his abilities and is recommended or endorsed by an appropriate school or training authority. (d) The amount of the actual or proposed expenditure is reasonable in relation to the intended purpose. (e) The parent(s) or other relative(s) responsible for the child's care and control has the ability to follow the plan. (f) The County Office's casework plan includes a review at least every three months to determine whether or not the plan is being followed. (g) The appropriate conditions for reserving the resource(s) are met." This regulation was discontinued by the Department of Public Welfare on December 4, 1968, which was more than ten months before Mrs. Travis filed her appeal on September 12, 1969.
Mrs. Travis did not submit a plan in accordance with the regulation and naturally the State office did not approve or disapprove the retention of any resources for the education or training of her children. However, it is her contention, and the basis of her appeal, that it was the duty and obligation of the County Board of Assistance to bring forth a specific educational plan for her children. Mrs. Travis asserts that the obligation to identify family needs, and provide each client with the services he is eligible for, rests primarily on the County Board and not the recipient. This assertion implies that once the County Board knew of Mrs. Travis's interest to consider the provisions of Regulation 3231.1, it became its obligation to maximize assistance. Mrs. Travis contends that this is inherent from ...