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CHRISTINE BURKS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/12/79)

decided: December 12, 1979.

CHRISTINE BURKS, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of Christine Burks, No. 50 808 C, dated May 19, 1978.

COUNSEL

Susan Wood, for petitioner.

Catherine Stewart, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.

Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Rogers and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr.

Author: Wilkinson

[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 7]

Petitioner (claimant) appeals from an order of the Department of Public Welfare (Department) which discontinued Aid to Families with Dependent Children for her and her children due to claimant's failure to prove that her husband was absent from the household. His income was therefore considered available to her under 55 Pa. Code § 183.44(a), (b).

Claimant had applied for assistance on July 1, 1976, alleging that her husband had left the household on June 14, 1976. Assistance was authorized, and the grant remained unchanged until May 19, 1978, when the Executive Director of the Department's Hearing and Appeals Unit (Executive Director) ordered the grant's termination. His decision was based upon results of an investigation begun after an anonymous complaint in February 1978, which informed the County Assistance Office (Office) that the claimant's husband lived in the household. The Office's investigation revealed inconsistencies with the information previously obtained from the claimant. Specifically, the Office discovered that the husband had listed his address with his most recent employer as the household, had been receiving unemployment compensation checks at that address for several months, and had never

[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 8]

    changed the address on his car registration or driver's license. Additionally, the lease to the house in which claimant lived was in both names, claimant and her husband had co-signed loans at two finance companies since the alleged separation, and the husband had received mail from the Domestic Relations Office at the household address. The Office then advised the claimant that assistance would be discontinued unless she could provide substantial evidence to refute the inconsistencies which the investigation had revealed. A fair hearing was held, and the hearing examiner concluded that the Office's evidence showed merely that the husband used the household address and not that he lived there. However, the Executive Director reversed, stating that the claimant had offered no documentary evidence to refute the Office's evidence. An appeal was taken to this Court.

Our scope of review of final orders of the Department is limited. We must reverse the final order if it is not in accordance with the law, if it is in violation of the claimant's constitutional rights, or if it is not supported by substantial evidence. Skehan v. Department of Public Welfare, 30 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 419, 373 A.2d 1364 (1977). Claimant alleges that all three of these conditions apply here. We shall deal with her arguments seriatim.

First, claimant alleges that the Executive Director's reversal of the hearing examiner violated departmental regulations in 55 Pa. Code § 201.1(1).*fn1 It states as follows:

[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 9]

(1) The client will be the primary source of information in establishing eligibility for financial assistance. As a condition of eligibility the client will be required, to the extent that he is able, to substantiate the information he has provided by documentary evidence or ...


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