Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Caroline Tartaglia v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare, March 6, 1979.
Chester B. Smith, for petitioner.
Howard Ulan, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.
Judges Mencer, Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 580]
Caroline Tartaglia has appealed from an order of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) upholding the decision of a hearing examiner refusing her request
[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 581]
for abatement or modification of liability for the cost of her care and maintenance from May 1, 1975 to June 20, 1976 while she was a resident of Hamburg Center.
Ms. Tartaglia is severely mentally retarded due to a glandular hypothroidism known as cretinism. She has an I.Q. of 25. She has been a resident of various state institutions from 1930 to 1976. From 1960 until 1976, Ms. Tartaglia was a resident of Hamburg Center. In June 1976, Ms. Tartaglia was discharged from Hamburg Center to a community group home. She is represented in this appeal by Northwestern Legal Services whose services in her behalf, we were told at argument, were solicited by the person or persons in charge of the community group home where she now lives. The arguments made in this appeal are, of course, those of her conscientious lawyers thus obtained.
In 1960, Ms. Tartaglia became the recipient of Social Security benefits, and in 1965 she became the recipient of Railroad Retirement benefits. These benefits totaled approximately $178.00 a month. At or about the time each of these benefits were first received, the State's revenue agent at Hamburg Center was appointed her representative payee. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 266.5, 404.1601. During the period here at issue -- May 1, 1975 to June 20, 1976 -- the revenue agent, acting pursuant to Section 501 of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, Act of October 20, 1966, Special Sess. No. 3, P.L. 96, as amended, 50 P.S. § 4501, and DPW regulations, 55 Pa. Code § 5404.4,*fn1 charged part of the cost of her care and maintenance against her benefits. Under the assessment procedures then in effect, the revenue agent
[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 582]
assessed fifty percent (50%) of a resident's benefits for the cost of his or her care and maintenance. Id. This money, however, was not actually paid over to the Commonwealth; it was placed in an interest bearing so-called guardian account and a notation of charges for costs was made by the revenue agent.*fn2 The remaining fifty percent (50%) of the benefits was placed in a fund to be used for such of her personal needs as might be unmet by Hamburg Center, such as additional clothing, trips and special services. Id. Whenever the personal fund had a balance of $500*fn3 the revenue agent placed the entire amount of benefits thereafter in the guardian account and he assessed this entire amount for the costs of care and maintenance. When the balance of the personal fund was $400 or less, the revenue agent resumed depositing 50% of the resident's benefits in the personal fund until the balance was again $500, and thereafter all benefits would again be assessed for the cost of care and maintenance. Upon certain conditions obtaining, including separation from the state facility, the guardian fund and the unused personal funds would be turned over to the resident and at this time the Commonwealth could bill the former resident for the assessed costs of care and maintenance.
When Ms. Tartaglia was discharged from Hamburg Center to a community group home in June 1975, the Commonwealth sent ...