Appeals from the Orders of the Department of Public Welfare in cases of In Re: Appeal of Daisy Castleberry; Appeal of Victoria Freeman; Appeal of Diane Cook; and Appeal of Sheila Thomas.
Richard Weishaupt, for appellants.
Linda M. Gunn, Assistant Attorney General, with her Robert E. Kelly, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers, Blatt and DiSalle. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 482]
We have before us the consolidated appeals of four recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) from the decision of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW/Department) terminating their assistance. The action was taken because the recipients refused to comply with the Department's regulations by executing liens in favor of the Department on real property which they held in trust for their minor children. We affirm.
The regulations*fn1 require applicants for or recipients of public assistance who own or acquire certain specified real or personal property to acknowledge, as a condition to receiving or continuing to receive assistance, that the property is liable for the repayment to the Commonwealth of public assistance they receive, and give the Commonwealth a lien on the property as security. The lien on real estate is created by the signing of DPW's Form PA-9, "Reimbursement Agreement." In it, the recipient confesses judgment in favor of the Commonwealth; however, the agreement provides that if property is the recipient's home, it shall not be the subject of execution during his lifetime or the lifetimes of his spouse or dependent children.
All of the appellants had been receiving AFDC assistance for themselves and their minor children when they purchased the homes in which they and the children had been living. They continue to live in those homes.
In the cases of appellants Castleberry, Cook and Thomas, title was transferred through deeds, each of which named as grantee the respective recipient as trustee for specifically named minor children; all
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 483]
three had executed separate trust instruments in which the trustee agreed to manage and maintain the property for the benefit of the children. Appellant Freeman purchased the property by installment sales agreement, which recites that the purchaser is "Victoria E. Freeman, Trustee," but does not name the beneficiaries; a separate unsigned trust agreement stating that the property was held "for the benefit of the children or grandchildren by right of representation of Victoria Freeman" was produced at the hearing before the Department's hearing examiner. When DPW became aware of these transfers, it proceeded to redetermine the appellants' eligibility for assistance*fn2 and, as part of that procedure, required appellants to sign PA-9 forms. Mrs. Castleberry signed the form in her name only, but refused to sign as trustee for her children, despite the instructions from DPW's Bureau of Claims Settlement that the form be signed in exactly the same capacity as the grantee appeared on the deed. Appellants Freeman, Cook and Thomas refused to sign the form at all. DPW notified the appellants, through the Philadelphia County Board of Assistance, of its intention to terminate assistance and informed them of their right to a fair hearing. Separate hearings were held before DPW hearing examiners, at which each appellant was represented by counsel. In Daisy Castleberry's case, the hearing examiner ruled that her five minor children remained eligible for assistance, but that her refusal to sign the PA-9 form in the manner requested by DPW rendered Mrs. Castleberry herself ineligible for assistance. In the other cases, the hearing examiners simply denied the appellants' appeals and sustained the decision by the Philadelphia County Board
[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 484]
of Assistance to discontinue assistance.*fn3 Appellants ...