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decided: December 6, 1979.


Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of Patrick J. Schofield, dated April 24, 1978.


Thomas M. Ballaron, for appellant.

Linda M. Gunn, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Judges Mencer, DiSalle and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.

Author: Mencer

[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 551]

Patrick J. Schofield (petitioner) received unemployment compensation benefits subsequent to his application for, and receipt of, public assistance and failed to report, as required,*fn1 these benefits to the Department of Public Welfare (Department).*fn2 The Department, upon discovering petitioner's receipt of unemployment compensation, determined that petitioner had received a nonfault public assistance overpayment and sought restitution.*fn3 Petitioner challenged the Department's right to restitution on the ground that he was exempt from restitution under 55 Pa. Code ยง 255.3(e)(1), which provides:

[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 552]

(e) EXEMPTIONS FROM RESTITUTION. Restitution will be waived on overpayments that are as follows:

(1) Due solely to administrative error. The overpayment will be due to administrative error only if all of the following conditions exist:

(i) The County Office failed to get, interpret, or apply appropriately the facts about the situation of the client.

(ii) The client fulfilled his obligation for reporting to the best of his ability.

(iii) The client could not have been expected to know that his grant was more than he was eligible to receive.

Petitioner appeals the Department's denial of this exemption.

Petitioner argues that the overpayment resulted solely from administrative error and that the conditions necessary to establish administrative error exist in this case. Specifically, he argues that, by failing to promptly ascertain petitioner's receipt of unemployment compensation when it had knowledge that petitioner's claim was pending and when it should have known of petitioner's inability to understand and comply with his obligation to report this additional income, the Department failed to get and apply appropriately the facts about petitioner's situation. We disagree.

The hearing examiner concluded that petitioner did not sufficiently establish his inability to understand and comply with the Department's plan for reporting changes in income. This conclusion is supported by the evidence. The record indicates that Department personnel specifically discussed with petitioner his obligation to report the receipt of unemployment compensation benefits if granted.

[ 47 Pa. Commw. Page 553]

Petitioner testified that he knew he was required to report the income and, in fact, attempted to do so, though unsuccessfully. While a clinical psychologist testified that petitioner's ability to make rational decisions and take reasonable action when faced with complex situations is limited, he also concluded that petitioner is capable of performing simple tasks.

Given the determination that petitioner was capable of reporting this income and was obligated to do so, we cannot say that the Department erred in not promptly investigating, for itself, petitioner's pending unemployment compensation claim.*fn4 Moreover, even if the hearing examiner had concluded that petitioner was unable to fulfill his obligation, the record does not show that the Department had any reason to suspect this until some time after the overpayment was discovered. Therefore, it cannot be concluded that the Department inappropriately applied information about petitioner's situation. Because the first condition to establish administrative error was not shown to exist, the Department properly concluded that the exemption from restitution was not justified.*fn5


And Now, this 6th day of December, 1979, the order of the Department of Public Welfare, dated April 24, 1978, denying the appeal of Patrick J. Schofield, is affirmed.



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