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HELENE WOHLGEMUTH v. HELEN ARMACOST (04/22/75)

decided: April 22, 1975.

HELENE WOHLGEMUTH, SECRETARY OF PUBLIC WELFARE, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
HELEN ARMACOST, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of Mrs. Helen L. Armacost, No. 53207A.

COUNSEL

Alan Linder, with him Stuart S. Sacks, for appellant.

Harold Dunbar, Assistant Attorney General, with him Marx S. Leopold, Assistant Attorney General, and Israel Packel, Attorney General, for appellee.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Kramer.

Author: Kramer

[ 18 Pa. Commw. Page 395]

This is an appeal by Helen L. Armacost (Armacost) from an order of a hearing examiner of the Department of Public Welfare (Department), dated June 17, 1974, which denied her request for a refund of monies paid by her to the Department.

[ 18 Pa. Commw. Page 396]

From October 8, 1970, until July 25, 1973, Armacost received public assistance. On July 16, 1973, Armacost received a check from the Social Security Administration for $711.60, representing a lump-sum payment of retroactive widow's survivor's benefits. At some point during the time she was receiving public assistance, Armacost signed a "PA176-K" form, described in the record as an "agreement to pay claim." Although this form was not entered into evidence at Armacost's hearing, we gather, from various memoranda which were admitted, that this document obligates the recipient of public assistance to repay the Department for assistance given, if the recipient subsequently acquires money or property.

The record establishes that after receiving the check, Armacost called the local office of the Department and reported the fact of receipt. The record also shows that Armacost "understood" that she "was to pay back that money." The Department's Claims Settlement Division sent a representative to Armacost's home on July 20, 1973, and he accepted her personal check for $330.70, the amount the hearing examiner found was " deemed to be due from her by the cognizant Claims Settlement Division Office." (Emphasis added.) The record is silent as to the approach taken by the official who visited Armacost at home.

On December 10, 1973, personnel of the local office of the Department received a memorandum from one of their superiors advising them that, in light of Philpott v. Essex County Welfare Board, 409 U.S. 413, decided January 10, 1973, the Department was no longer legally entitled to collect lump sum social security payments (such as the one received by Armacost). The memorandum further instructed them to advise clients of the Department of their "right of appeal and request for refund" if reimbursement had been made after January 10, 1973. Pursuant to this memorandum, Armacost was notified of Philpott's possible effect. On December 14,

[ 18 Pa. Commw. Page 3971973]

, Armacost advised the local Department office that she was requesting an appeal to obtain a refund of the $330.70, plus interest from July 20, 1973.

There are two questions presented by this appeal, the first of which is a threshold determination regarding the timeliness of Armacost's initial request for a refund. While it is true that almost five months elapsed between Armacost's payment and the notice of appeal, there are unusual features present in this case which militate in favor of a ...


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